Forget One-Off Packaging – You Need a Package Design System


This is a topic that I’ve raised and addressed in the past, but it’s clearly in need of further discussion. I’m finding that I’m still being told by some of our clients that “we need a package for this new product”, with no interest in considering how that package design might visually extend across an entire line of product. So, let’s talk about the value of what we refer to as a “package design system”.

Package design should never be approached as a one-off challenge requiring a solution. That approach is certain to fail with regard to achieving any level of consumer recognition. The brand will never stand a chance. When the sale doesn’t happen, this usually means that the packaging wasn’t communicating clearly and concisely to consumers, and therefore didn’t deliver on the brand promise, reinforce consumer trust or build brand loyalty.

As companies strategize, plan and package products, they should be thinking in terms of developing an overall package design strategy – one that leverages a functional, flexible package design system. The last three feet and several seconds at the retail shelf make or break the sale. That’s how crucial packaging is to the consumer in making a final purchase decision. That’s how important it is for manufacturers to get it right.

With increasing pressure on sales during periods of economic downturn, it’s more important than ever to invest in a viable package design system. Are you developing a package design system for your brand? As yourself these questions:

Does our brand identity have a specific and consistent placement within the package design, leading the hierarchy of communication?

Are we leveraging distinctive package design architecture so that consumers can visually identify our packaging immediately from a distance, and across all product categories?

Have we incorporated a clear system of product segmentation using color, iconography or another method that will be easy to understand at a glance?

Are we treating product imagery in a consistent manner across the packaging for our entire line of products?

Is our brand communication concise, easy to read, and consistently located on the primary display panel of every product’s packaging?

By establishing consistency in these areas, and standardizing them within a packaging style guides, package designers and manufacturers give themselves the “blueprint” for package design implementation. The resulting packaging enables consumers to connect with the brand across the entire product line.

Well-executed style guides provide enough flexibility to make provisions for a number of product segments and unique marketing scenarios for individual products within the line without diluting the effectiveness of the system. Product lines that appeal to various consumer demographics, behaviors, attitudes, or combinations of these require packaging variations that should also be addressed in a standardized packaging style guide.

Remember: people are primarily visual, and, as shoppers, they are making purchase decisions in as little as 20 seconds. Few packages on the retail shelf can be scanned in that period of time – experts say that consumers take in five or fewer.

Packaging is often the portal through which consumers come in contact with branded products for the first time. Therefore, packaging is one of the most important parts of the overall brand expression continuum. So why leave it to one-off solutions?

By Ted Mininni

President of Design Force,Inc.,  the leading package and licensing program design consultancy to the consumer product and entertainment industries. He blogs about these topics at Contact him at 856-810-2277.