Dow Design’s Donna McCort walks you through the process of creating effective packaging designs.
Whether you’re about exclusivity, value or have a unique story to tell, packaging for your product is a vital part of your marketing mix. It is a key visual and tangible part of the purchase and it often stays around as long as the product is being consumed or is in use.
If you’re selling online, exporting or selling via a third party, packaging is the only tangible part of your customer’s engagement with your brand. They take it into their homes, their pantries, their private lives – so much so that in an increasingly digital world there is real value in the physical and emotional impact of your pack.
Dow Design is an Auckland-based branding and packaging design agency. Donna McCort has 20 years experience as Dow Design’s creative director and below shares insights into the seven-step process of creating effective packaging designs:
1: Searching for the truth behind the product
So vital in the social media age, where consumers contribute to stories around your brand and products; we need to strip back any hype or exaggerated qualities to ensure the messages we chose to highlight are the rock solid transparent truth.
We ask questions (including but not limited to):
• How and where is it made, by whom?
• What is it made from and what are the qualities of its ingredients?
• Is it ethical, environmentally friendly?
• What are its primary benefits to the end user?
• Packaging is not a communications campaign, it really must have a direct line to the brand, not least because you don’t want to change packaging again in three months when the user has picked holes in your messages.
It’s not uncommon that a client provides a brief overflowing with superlatives, but we really need to get past that to the core of what differentiates their product – is it price, source, quality or history?
2: Considering the customer
Research is very important. Don’t rely solely on feedback from your loyal customers and brand champions; often it’s more important to talk to people who don’t buy your products. Understand why they don’t and you might find what’s confusing, misleading or frustrating about your current offering. Packaging design is obviously only part of the picture here.
For a new product or brand you have a harder job to achieve this, but perhaps your market opportunity comes from what others aren’t doing. Hopefully you’ve done your research and are clear on this in your business plan.
In a recent product rebrand and packaging refresh we quickly established from research that customers didn’t realise the brand was even from New Zealand. A product with a long history, the client had held on to design cues from a time when imported products were viewed as more exclusive. It proved to be a terrible misperception because for this food product its location spoke directly to its core ingredients.
3: Getting the picture on brand strategy
Words like ‘passion’ and ‘quality’ should be banned from strategy documents. Like your sales and customer service teams we need to understand how you demonstrate passion and quality in order for it to be meaningful.
We need to interrogate what you do that substantiates your claims; sometimes there are some amazing honest stories beneath the buzzwords that can lead to a perfect design cue.
Be prepared to sacrifice. It’s best if we can pick one idea and work on one message you want to get across. Storytelling is much more powerful that way. That’s also why research and planning are preferred, so that you can be confident this message hits the mark.
4: Considering the packaging real estate
Now that we have a message, we understand what your customers think and what you want to achieve, what about your packaging medium?
Is it eye-catching, aesthetically-appealing and still practical?
Can we see your product?
Does it leave enough space for your brand and message to stand out?
Think long and hard about using the latest wraps and containers. They may be good if you’re a company renowned for innovation; otherwise ask yourself, are they really practical for your distributors and customers? Do they need to be lightweight and recyclable or sturdy and stackable?
Don’t compromise this valuable opportunity to engage your customer by filling space with tricky ‘effects’ on the container that won’t have the same visual impact as a strong, simple label with a clear message.
5: Designing an innovative solution for your strategy
Researching and creating solutions is where the magic happens. We have a challenge and now use our design skills to solve it, all the time seeking to creatively answer the brief.
Trust in your design team, let them problem-solve and innovate. Give them time and space to address the issues. Let’s say you’ve expanded your product range; a design team can identify the key cues and update them and apply them across the new designs for the range.
The reason you choose a great design company is that their team has a proven depth of experience to generate creative solutions and will be able to back them with reason and intuition.
6: Applying the design vision
Your designers have cleverly created the vision, now the technical people find the clever way to translate that vision into reality. It is important the technical people who print and produce your pack work with the designers.
If these two groups don’t stay in communication to the very end, the technical person might ‘interpret’ the design in the way that is easiest to produce, thinking they’ve done everyone a favour. Don’t let it happen, you’ve almost reached the end of your packaging design journey, don’t blow it now.
Congratulations, you’re ready to launch your product with an impressive new packaging design. It’s now time to support it with clever campaigns – creating seamless customer experiences.
Design is an enabler; get the most impact from your new design by articulating the same messages and designs across all channels and touch-points – from customer service and social media to point of sale.
Donna McCort is the creative director at brand and packaging design agency Dow Design. For further information see www.dowdesign.co.nz
May 14, 2014