Design Effective Packaging, A Six Step Guide

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Shelf space is competitive and even online shelf space calls for clear and appealing packaging. Packaging is a great opportunity to get creative and can also help you reduce costs and be more environmentally friendly. In this guide, we give you the 6 steps to follow to avoid common pitfalls and create packaging that helps you sell more.

Step 1. Start with Functionality

This includes a material that will keep your product safe and in good condition as well as a design that makes your product easy to transport. If you have a product with an expiration date, such as food or cosmetics, consider material that can help keep your product from overheating or getting too cold. If you have fragile components, making sure everything is safely secured and with maximal insulation is key. We also want to weigh this against the weight of the packaging. Heavier packaging will cost more to ship and put more strain on the environment. You also want your packaging to stack well and avoid any material that could easily fall off or sticks out. This is because stores want to maximise the amount of product they can store on the shelves and any material that can get caught in transport could make your product appear broken or of low quality.

Joco (below) is a great example of using minimal, environmentally friendly packaging that still protects their product. Their reusable glass cups are protected from breaking by a recyclable paper box that is just the right size to avoid the cup moving around.

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For ideas and prices of common packaging, check out these companies:

Eco Craft


London Bio Packaging

If you have special requirements such as unique sizes, you can go with companies who do custom orders such as Packlane (below) or GoCustomBoxes.

Step 2. Key Packaging Information

Shoppers make a decision in 0.6 – 1 second as they browse the shelves according to Innventia. That means that your packaging not only needs to stand out but it must be clear why it is the best choice. Make

sure shoppers can see these key facts right away:

– Product name (Make it appealing and descriptive such as “chunky cherry cookies”

– A short description

– Your logo or company name

– Main selling points such as “no added sugar” or “cruelty free”

Every product is different but in general, the order listed above is from most important to least important. This means that customers should see the name of the product first rather than for example your logo. Take a moment and think about what you look for when you shop. For food, it might be the flavour. For \ detergent it might be more important that it does not contain allergens. Use this information to prioritise information and if in doubt, create a focus group and show them different versions of your packaging.A great example of clear design is Essential Living Foods Ecological treats

Step 3. Packaging Requirements

This is the most technical part but is hugely important to avoid legal problems or stores not accepting your products. requirements generally fall in to two categories, necessary information and legibility. To make sure you comply, the government has a great guide that works as a great starting point. It also directs you to further information where needed. Examples of things to think about is the size of fonts, barcodes and colour contrast. For food and cosmetic products, there are also rules regarding allergens and which information needs to be in the same field of vision.

Step 4. Design & Illustrations

Perhaps the most exciting part is creating an eye-catching and memorable design. This is where you can give your packaging great personality and get your message across. For some eye-candy, check out The Dieline and Bpando.

LoLa is doing a great job of standing out on the shelves.

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Start by thinking of the emotions you would like to invoke. Many products try to tell a story such as using imagery that reminds customers of the countries where the ingredients are sourced or maybe a summer picknick. Anything that helps create a positive association is helpful. Secondly, you need to consider what you are competing against. Have a look at the shelves where you are planning on selling your products and look at what stands out. Is the shelf dominated by a certain colour? Are the designs minimal or very elaborate? You want to strike a nice balance between looking like the right product category but stand out on the shelf. This can be done with colour, texture, shape of packaging and level of detail to name a few. A great example of a product that stands apart in a highly competitive category is Scottish brand Eden Mill.

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Step 5. Going the Extra Mile

Gold foil, cut outs or maybe packaging that looks like a bunny for easter? If you feel like going that extra mile, there are plenty of small details that can make all the difference without breaking the bank. For some quick ideas, check out this post we did about updating the humble print to something magical. Depending on the impression you want to make, the right material can make or break your impression. For a high end product with a bigger price tag, customers are expecting more expensive materials such as a wooden lid or printing on the glass rather than using a sticker. On the contrary, making a lower end product look expensive could deter people from buying it, thinking it is out of their price range. Coffee Bird (below) is a great example of how a small detail such as making your titles in foil can create a very high-end impression.

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Not to forget, being that extra bit environmentally friendly is always a plus. If you can make your product or packaging have a second use it can act as another selling point. If you buy hard candy in a beautiful tin box, you might keep it to store little treasures. The same can go for larger packaging, transforming them in to vases, storage boxes or whatever your imagination can come up with. For some fun examples have a look at this post from earlier this year.

Step 6. Print prep

As a disclaimer, most packaging artwork is created using an Adobe program such as Photoshop or InDesign. These programs are available for a subscription fee and are very well developed to help you prepare good packaging. They do however have quite a steep learning curve so if you do not have the time or money to use these programs, find someone who does or ask the printer to prepare the printable files for you. Most printers can do this for a small fee if you have the pieces ready for them, such as your logo and any imagery you would like to add. Every printer is a little different but a good rule of thumb is preparing your document as a pdf. If you are handing over ready artwork rather than asking them to prepare the file for you, you will need to add bleed. Bleed is a border around each side of your packaging that acts as a safety zone when the packaging gets cut. This zone needs to be free of any important information but should have other design elements such as background colours.

If it is your first time preparing artwork for print, this video is a great guide for understanding the different bleeds and dielines (where the packaging will be cut). We hope this was helpful, happy designing! For more information about package design, click here.


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