jeudi 18 décembre 2008

10 Ways to Improve Your Package Design

1. Understand the Consumer

We design packages for consumers, not for the boss, the legislator or the trade. To find out what the consumer likes or wants, first of all, think of yourself. What would you like? A pack that’s easy to open, a back panel that’s easy to read, a brand you trust, a clear product denomination, a pack easy to hold in your hands and easy to dispose of or recycle? It is not more complicated. Forget buzzwords like insight or focus groups, just use your own intelligence and common sense. With this, you will get at least 80% right and that is more than enough to achieve great packaging.

2. Understand the Meaning of Simplicity

The person who best formulated this was Coco Chanel some 80 years ago when she coined the now famous phrase: “Always reduce, never add,” and the architect Mies van der Rohe, who coined the often repeated, but seldom followed phrase: “Less is more!” Enough said. There is no doubt too much (useless) information on today’s packages.

3. Understand Positioning

Call it what you like: genetic code, DNA, spirit, core value, brand essence, big idea or the like, a package design must strengthen the idea behind a brand (or product). There must be a synergy effect. A package design is always part of something bigger (see below) and has therefore to be in line with the idea mentioned above. And the idea must be big and simple.

4. Understand Hierarchy

There is always something that is more important. It is very rare that two things matter the same, especially in package design. The responsible person for a package, be it the marketing director, the big boss or the technical director, must be able to make a hierarchy list for those who develop the package design to follow. This is very seldom done and therefore the final result becomes “a little of everything,” which is equal to bad packaging.

5. Understand Legislation

This is the area where things often “go wrong” as we do not differentiate between a must (i.e., a legislative decision) and a guideline or rule or best practice. Furthermore, a law can be interpreted in more than one way. For instance, does the front panel on a carton mean only the front or also the side panels? It all depends on at which angle you hold the pack. In order to not fall into the trap of printing “almost everything,” which means small illegible text, ask yourself obvious questions like: Does the consumer really need this information? Does this information help to sell more? Is the information understood?

6. Understand Material

Have you ever held a can of juice in one hand and a carton pack fresh from the fridge in the other? Well, do it once and you will understand why the aluminum or steel can feels colder. One of the first decisions to make when developing a new package is which material or material combination should be chosen to best express the uniqueness of the product inside. It is just common sense that carton packages with transparent windows have today become very popular as most consumers want to see what they buy.

7. Understand Layout

There is a deep-rooted syndrome among most marketing people. It is called “the upper left-hand corner syndrome” as marketing executives believe that a package is seen as a book and that one has to start “up left” with the corporate brand. Nothing could be more wrong. A package can have any layout. It is the product idea that dictates the layout and visual impact that should be achieved.

8. Understand Ecology

Today we are “bombarded” with nutritional messages often too complicated to be understood by the average consumer. At the same time, we learn about global warming, the dangers of CO2 and the depletion of the ozone layer. Would it not be a good idea to use the packages to educate the consumers about ecology (not only recycling) and how we all, by changing our life style, could participate to make this Earth an even better place?

9. Understand Economy

Economy, when it comes to package design, is to not only look at the retail package. In order to understand what a great package design does to promote a product and make it a great success, one has to see the total picture. Only then can one decide where to spend the money. The total picture is a matter of total communication, including retail package, display carton and point-of-sale material, shipping carton, advertising (print, television, etc.) to make the product stand out and be remembered through a great package design.For instance, a thin, corrugated shipper needs a strong, rigid, retail package and vice versa. A great and interesting point-of-sale unit can work wonders even with a rather simple retail package. Before starting a package design project, decide where to put your money!

10. Understand Total Packaging

Until this day, when I am writing these lines, after more than 40 years in package design, I have never been at a meeting where all of the following responsible persons were present: project leader (usually a brand or product manager), package designer, technical packaging engineer, advertising account executive (or even better, the creative director), legal advisor. As mentioned above, total packaging is both a marketing and technical issue. It is a matter of retail package, display unit and shipper, as well as taking the key decision up-front as to what the main visuals should be (form, colors, logotype, etc.) to be communicated through all packaging and media.
To do this is not an easy task. I therefore often say: Do not wish it were easier, wish it were better!

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