Advice from the Pros: Brian Adducci, Capsule


Packaging as an Experience

As a design student creating a packaging piece, it’s tempting to jump right into its aesthetics. What should first be considered, however, is how you can cultivate memorably emotional responses with it. It’s these emotional responses that are at the core of the emerging discipline of experience design.

 Experience design is concerned with the creation of moments of engagement between the consumer and the brand, and the emotions and associations these moments foster. Every designed experience is enhanced through the fusion of human senses: sight, sound, smell, taste and touch.

At an essential level, we package to protect, contain and identify the product. However, packaging itself presents an opportunity to enhance emotional response and should never be overlooked as just informative branded trade dress.

You’d be hard pressed to find a creative not familiar with Apple Computers, a prime example of experience design at its finest. To quote Steve Jobs himself, “Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like. People think it’s this veneer — that the designers are handed this box and told, ‘Make it look good!’ That’s not what we think design is. It’s not just what it looks like. Design is how it works.” 

At Apple, how it works is simple: every moment of engagement is deliberately designed down to the most minute detail. From the exterior of the storefront, to the warm and inviting layout of the store, to the casually smiling greeter at the entrance, to the sleek Genius Bar, to the usability of the interfaces, to the artistic detail of the product design and to the very deliberate presentation of the packaging (exterior and interior). Each and every designed moment creates an emotional experience that is truly Apple. This continues to foster the desire for the brand that you’re probably familiar with too. Think through the last time you purchased your iPod, iPhone or computer. How were you feeling and what were you thinking as you purchased the item, opened the packaging to reveal the product, and commenced using the product? We should never underestimate the importance of what’s happening during this time.

Identify Touch Points

So how can you use this knowledge to inform your work? Before you even open the design software, think of yourself as a guide, leading the consumer through each moment of engagement. Identify each touch point and continue the process of questioning and inquiry throughout the process. The touch points are endless: When the consumer first walks up to the display, when they pick up the product, when they turn the packaging over, when they open it, when they dispose of it and when they use the product.

The Four Criteria of Successful Packaging Experience

Once all the touch points are identified and explored, use them as the foundation of your package design. Building from here, keep in mind the four criteria of successful packaging experience, which are set according to the strategy agreed upon by the brand management team. These are: identification, functionality, personality and navigation. Identification speaks to how well the consumer can identify the product from the packaging at the shelf, when shopping the category. Functionality relates to the usability of the package and increasing the product's purpose and efficacy. Personality is how the brand’s story and character comes to life on the packaging. And finally, navigation refers to how the consumer finds and uses the category and specifically, your selection of packaging.

Experience design as a discipline may be in its infancy to the corporate world. However, as a designer, you already have this mindset in place because you create emotional touch points everyday. Your tools can be found in the personality of typography, the sensation of textures, the mood of color and the simplicity of clear hierarchy. Now, get your guide hat on and design that package with the experience in mind!

About Brian Adducci

Brian Adducci is a founding partner and the Creative Principal at Capsule, a Minneapolis brand identity and design agency offering research, naming, branding, packaging, experience design, identity and strategic consulting services. He has more than 20 years of design experience with national and international clients. 

He has authored two books on the subjects of packaging and logo design, "Design Matters: Logos", and "Design Matters: Packaging". Both have become national best sellers in design.

 Brian’s work has been recognized internationally in Graphis, ID magazine, HOW, PRINT magazine, STEP magazine, IDEA, Art Directors Club, The Show, PIA Awards, BusinessWeek, Financial World, American Institute of Graphic Arts, and is featured in more than a dozen books on international design for corporate identity and packaging. 

Brian has worked with: Caribou Coffee, Schwinn, HoMedics, Target Stores, 7-Eleven, Virgin, Cargill, Steinway & Sons, General Mills, Sanyo, 3M, American Express, Northwest Airlines, Double Cross Vodka, Herman Miller, and Royal Caribbean International.

Tips + AdviceYael Miller