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Opening Pandora’s Box: The In’s and Out’s of Packaging Design

Liz Rightor May 31, 2017 Branding & Design, Project Management

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Part of why I love working here at Jackrabbit is that, as a Project Manager, I get to dip my toe into lots of different types of projects.

From websites, to animations, to printed pieces, our work runs the gamut, and I am lucky enough to get to witness our design and development wizards work their magic on all of it!

But of all the types of projects I work on, I’ve loved learning all the idiosyncrasies of the beast that is packaging design. As it turns out, you don’t just put pretty pictures on the box / can / bottle / bag / [insert 8,000 other possible dimensional package types here] and it appears on the shelves at Walmart the next day. Say what!?

As a process nerd (all about those spreadsheets!) I’m fascinated by all the factors and players that go into a successful packaging project. This post outlines a few key aspects of a packaging project that you should think about upfront for success.

Content is King

And he rules with an iron fist, especially when it comes to packaging. Taking a content-first approach to these types of design projects is critical given the regulations agencies put in place around product labeling. For example, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau for beer, wine, and spirits, and the Food & Drug Administration for food and beverage, have strict guidelines for what you can (and can’t) say on your packaging, how large or small things need to be, and where you can place certain information—the list goes on.

Given this, packaging is an area where knowing the rules of the game is not only critical, but could also be costly. Not abiding by their rules could mean fines or costly re-prints. Sifting through this information on these agencies’ sites can be daunting, so here are a few of their best resources for versing yourself in the red tape:

Know The Players

Understanding the capabilities of your packaging vendors can open the door to a number of opportunities in packaging design. Hot stamping, cold activation! Embossing, debossing! You’ve likely not even heard of half the things these vendors can do, so ask! Conversely, understanding their limitations can also help you avoid common pitfalls along the way.

On an ideal project, we love to be involved from the very beginning to help you identify the right vendors with the right capabilities to really MAKE IT POP! While there are thousands of packaging vendors out there, here are a few that we’ve crossed paths with:

Label Production

Can Production

Boxes

Glass

Location, Location, Location

Oh, you’ve heard this one before? Well, it’s worth stating again! Thinking about the product setting can be a really helpful exercise in informing design decisions. Let me give you a few for-instances:

  • Are there key competitors that will appear alongside your product? How can we make your product stand out visually?
  • Do you know the angle from which consumers will approach / view your product? Is this something you’ll even have control over? If not, we’ll consider how to present key product information from all possible viewing angles.
  • Will anything restrict how close the consumer can get to your product when making a buying decision, like a counter? If so, we’ll think about readability of key details from a distance.

Hopefully these notes get the gears turning, but there’s plenty more to think about from here! And if you’re looking for some inspiration, check out some of our packaging work here.

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