Opinion Series: Top 10 Luxury Packaging Cues
Evelio Mattos, Creative Director of Design Packaging, Inc., defines 10 luxury packaging cues to declutter visual noise, and to create long lasting impressions through sensory primers.
It’s easy to know luxury or prestige retail packaging when you see it, but what exactly are you looking at? What sensory cues are being activated that trigger a luxe response in the mind of the consumer? As the leading firm in luxury packaging we asked ourselves to list the design and sensory cues we most often utilize. Here are the top 10 in no particular order.
Delaying instant gratification, through user initiated discovery of the details and functionality behind a layered unveiling process can lead to stronger brand impressions by creating a memorable sense of heightened suspense, in an otherwise mundane experience. Pop-up constructions, pull tabs, unexpected uses of materials; plush suedes, smooth tyveks, ribbon closures, box toppers, or tissues are standard ways in which you can create interactive points for the consumer. How you visually guide the consumer to interact with each component at the appropriate moment in the unveiling is fundamental to the process, making it intuitive is critical.
Consider every sound your packaging makes, each sound provides you the opportunity to fine tune the perceived value of your packaging design, and therefore the brand. Hinges creak, cellophane crinkles (high pitched), two piece rigid boxes slide (low pitch if heavy weight board is used), blister packs crack (high pitched), and shopping bags open to name a few audible opportunities. Each of these can be adjusted through material selection or manufacturing processes to increase (or decrease) the pitch of any audible sounds to deliver the brand-appropriate pitch. Thinner materials will provide a higher pitch than heavier weight materials, compare the sound cellophane makes to a heavy weight paper shopping bag, the heavier the weight the deeper the tone.
The fragrant frontier is currently being employed to provide layered brand identification and recognition across many retail environments. Yet the majority of products purchased online continue arrive with warehouse-scented packaging, creating an olfactive disconnect for end-users. Packaging designed with a thoughtful unveiling process cognizant of powerful sensory cues, can transport users and create memorable signature olfactive moments regardless of environment.
Luxury can be recognized through both touch and the number of hand positions required to interact with packaging. The sharply folded 90º angles on boxes or bags, the smooth bevel of a perfume bottle, all communicate something at every touch point. Product accessibility is a study that is best done with eyes closed, can the consumer easily remove the product in a dimly lit romantic setting, or will they need pliers? Sharp folds and ease of use speak to quality and craftsmanship, both virtues of luxury.
Allow your fingers to do the walking. You will discover that tactile design features are able to create brand-defining cues. A classic tactile cue to luxury is pairing an all-over embossed uncoated paper with a sculpted metallic or high-gloss hot-stamp. The finish and tactile contrast presented by many top prestige retailers follow this classic rule. Can you name a few?
Satin ribbon closures as the point of entry create a luxe in-home product unveiling experience. Custom moulded snap closures can also add visual weight to differentiate keepsake from throw-away packaging. Commodity products are packed with a secure, in-store, and on-shelf at-a-glance experience. Luxury products require the exact opposite, a well designed layered unveiling process to build suspense up to the final reveal in the user’s personal environment.
Light interacts with materials and finishes differently. Always insure that your stock is smooth and crisp, consistent in color, and evenly distributes light across the sheet without imperfections regardless of texture. Contrast matte sheets with gloss UV, or foil hot stamps to make a crisp impression to reflect lighting in any given environment.
From custom papers, and fabrics, to stock materials with custom processes, luxury and prestige is a matter of restraint, not excess. The current trend of minimalist design and discreet luxury began prior to the recession and became the go to luxury brand strategy post-recession. The complete opposite of flaunting logos, prestige brands instead focus on projecting a look and feel rooted in the brand’s heritage visually communicating their story.
Creating mystery, romance, and elevating suspense utilizing a well orchestrated unveiling process walks the fine line between luxury, and over-packaging. The idea of opening a box and revealing the final product immediately, leaves much to be desired. As a standard practice we prefer to add a moment of pause once the pack is opened, to create a sense of anticip - - - - -ation followed by a translucent layer to softly reveal the product below prior to delivering that final a-ha moment.
Poorly designed unveiling processes have been know to increase buyer’s remorse and product return rates by providing an opportunity for end-user’s to reevaluate their purchases, and the value put upon the products by the brand in question.
No matter how well your design communicates luxury on screen or in photographs, the tangible mass produced package is what has to deliver the goods. Understanding how climate impacts materials and print processes at every stage of production through final user interaction is critical to understanding luxury packaging. Humidity is the most often overlooked element in packaging design. Are materials from a humid environment being imported to a dry climate or vice versa, have you considered grain direction, or taken corrective measures to avoid warping, bubbling, mold growth, or glue separation? This critical understanding of quality control at every stage is what can make or break the sense of luxury as presented by packaging.
About Evelio Mattos
Creative Director of Design Packaging Inc. Evelio Mattos leads his team in the iterative development of both visual and structural packaging designs. The design team integrates mass production experience, industrial design, substrates, and process into every design. His innovative production-driven design system has garnered recognition for Design Packaging's luxury retail clients spanning industries from fashion & beauty to wine & spirits by bridging the gap between creative and procurement through balance of vision, budget, and logistics to find the sweet spot given the new realities of packaging.