Packages are like people, the better looking they are and the more functional, the more successful they will be. It’s a simple formula.
Many feel that design is a subjective art, but it is pretty much a scientific process, and creating powerful and effective brand value assets taps into emotion, psychology, and yes, even math. Truly great packages are the ones that a) captivate a browsing consumer with show-stopping design b) persuade the consumer to take the package home with strong promises or benefits and c) add value to the consumer’s daily life through intuitive functionality that makes life a little easier or more interesting.
But don’t get carried away with functionality. As packaging designers, we want to take every opportunity to wow consumers and create a really unique package. However, there is a lot to be said for consistency. The human brain uses patterns as a coping mechanism for interpreting the millions of messages it receives everyday. When we break patterns, the brain has difficulty deciphering messages. If you are creating a line of packaging or custom shipping boxes, define which features will be held constant and which will be variable and stick to packaging design strategy. It makes it easier for consumers to select between packages, and studies suggest actually minimizes store returns.
And while the world marvels at all things beautiful, if there is no substance behind them, people lose interest very quickly. Beauty and functionality are the ultimate tag team because one lures in the consumers and the other marvels them and keeps them interested. Take Puma’s “Clever Little Bag” for example. It is the 21st century replacement for the traditional shoebox that combines a low carbon footprint with its reusable shopping bag, with a cardboard box, to keep shoes protected, store-able and portable. It looks great, serves many purposes, considers not only the end user, but also logistics. Simply put, it’s a gorgeous genius. Who said that was an oxymoron?!
Then there is the Pacific Perfume packaging. Another award winning gem that blew up the blogosphere for its clever use of materials, but also because of its commitment to sustainability. For every tree the company uses for its packaging, another one is planted in its place.
The point is, the best packaging designs are the ones that consult standards for beauty, function and emotion to forge strong and meaningful connections beyond the visceral. Good packaging isn’t just well-designed, good packaging solves life’s daily challenges. Good packaging should be able to carry your products, plant a tree and maybe even do your laundry.
Amina AlTai is the Marketing Director at Imagemme, a New York-based packaging design and branding agency.