The Elements Of Design


by Greg Kishbaugh

The packaging supply chain is a delicate balancing act, each component hopefully coming together in a unified whole to provide one seamless process. But just as every journey begins with a single step, the packaging process begins with the vital concept of design. It’s the key element upon which the success of everything else depends.
     Andy Spriggs, a strategy consultant with Interact OnShelf, recently shared eight principles to consider in effective package design with Packaging World. Strong evidence still shows the majority of consumer purchase decisions are made at the store shelf. Every day the effectiveness of thousands of CPG brands hang in the balance, the deciding factor being how well the design of the packaging entices and motivates the consumer.
     Spriggs begins with an obvious strategy but one he sees many packaging designers and brand managers failing to do, which is to make certain the packaging stands out. With tens of thousands of products to compete against for the consumers’ attention, being bold isn’t enough, he argues. A package’s primary objective is to get noticed. Every design decision should be based upon that principle. Simple as that.
     Next to consider should be the degree to which the packaging displays the information most important to consumers and the brand. Briggs describes it as the ‘hierarchy of information’, knowing how best to display, without clutter or excessive use of font styles, product claims and logos, product information that will compel shoppers to put the product in their cart.
     The shelves of grocery stores and retail chains should be viewed as a competition, Briggs argues, and packaging design should reflect that reality. How is a CPGs product different than that of its competitors? If the packaging cannot quickly and effectively deliver that message to the consumer, the competition has effectively been lost.
     Packaging should also have a strong sense of identity and should express the viewpoint and ethos of the CPG. Briggs argues that we are currently experiencing a ‘counter-corporate movement.’ “Today, shoppers buy based on what a brand will reveal about them and their worldview almost as much as how the actual product performs functionally,” he said.
     As such, Briggs argues that use of stock photography and generic taglines are a death knell for the success of a product. The packaging must be used to convey the personality of the company. Instead of the typical corporate platitudes, the packaging should express the company’s interests, causes and attitudes.
     Briggs also feels that the packaging should clarify the product’s value proposition. Whether it’s a value brand or a premium product, the shopper has to understand how the product is being positioned.
     Effective design means getting into the mind of the consumer. What makes a consumer purchase one similar product over that of another? What drives their decisions? Briggs argues that knowledge researching the reasons behind shopping preferences is the key to unlocking an effective package design.
     Briggs also believes a package should do everything in its power to define the product within. Unless the product category or segment is represented in at least 50 percent of the consumers’ refrigerators and pantries, then the designer should assume the shopper knows nothing. 
     Finally, a designer must understand the real-world elements that might impact how the package is perceived in the store. Will frosted-over freezer doors obscure a clear view of the package? Will hang-tags block important information on shelves below them?
     The critical importance of a package’s design simply cannot be stressed enough. No matter how much thought and consideration have gone into the product itself, the package must operate as the consummate salesman.
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