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2018 Holiday Packaging Trend Report

Mackenzie Danho December 14, 2018

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What do you look for when shopping and gifting? Are your purchases driven by store displays, packaging, deals, products, or cheerful clerks? As a designer, I am particularly drawn to beautiful packages (and I enjoy designing them too!). I decided to hit the mall and check out retailers packaging for the 2018 holiday season. I was interested to see what the trends were for holiday gift sets and special edition packaging, and if they aligned with other trends from the year. Keep reading to check out the five trends I saw dominating the stores.

Craft Paper & Cardboard

This trend can communicate a couple of things— sustainability and nature.

The first is a trend we have seen more and more as consumers are increasingly aware of their carbon footprint. Retailers use recycled papers (such as craft paper & corrugate) mixed with seasonal cues to stand out on the shelf. Conscious consumers buy into the idea of sustainability during this traditionally wasteful time of year.

It was surprising to see the number of packages “faking” the recycled look with digitally printed craft paper textures. Some brands, like Origins, use this to communicate the latter, so I suppose they can get away with not using those true recycled materials.

Ornaments Galore

Why put presents under the tree if you can hang them right on it? A decoration, a package, and a gift, all in one! A bunch of stores had small products dangling from a string, ready to be gifted. Most of these items were at a stocking-stuffer price point, which added to their marketability.

Gold Foil

Gifts should feel special and luxurious. A little sparkle and shine not only catches the buyers eye, but makes the gift feel more high-end. Many retailers, especially premium ones, use silver and gold year-round to add a luxe detail, but this holiday season, gold foil is everywhere! Nest (a favorite of mine) and Yankee Candle had gold flocking nearly all of their holiday lines!

Multicolored Patterns & Textures

Snowflakes, stars, gingerbread cookies, nutcrackers, and candy canes galore! We expect to see these scenes in holiday packaging, but this year they are super colorful. Classically, designers stick to color palettes of red, green, and blue during the holiday season. This time around, all colors are out to play. I particularly love The Body Shop’s winter forest scene done in multiple color ways and Kiehl’s collaboration with artist Andrew Bannecker.

Christmas Crackers

After traveling abroad to London just a few weeks ago, I saw these Christmas Crackers everywhere and wanted to make some for my family’s Christmas dinner. I was surprised to notice a few retailers selling crackers filled with everything from candies to beauty items back here in the States! They are too cute to wrap, making a perfect last minute gift. I would love to see this beautiful patterned Tory Burch cracker under my tree this year! 

Before heading out to carefully observe this year’s trends, I thought about what I might see on the shelves. A few things I predicted were missing.

  • 2018 has flaunted a lot of trendy pastel packaging, however I did not see this play out for the holiday season.
  • Although gold accents were everywhere, silver was sparse.
  • Plaid décor is very on trend this winter, even more so than recent years. I was surprised not to see more checked gifts in store.

Ironically, after combing through all of this beautiful packaging and buying a few presents myself, I went home and wrapped them up. The package served its purpose from a marketer’s perspective, but as a designer, this observation saddened me a bit. This year, while opening generous gifts from family and friends, I will have to remember to look past the wrapping paper and appreciate the visual presentation the designer had in mind.

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