Whenever I am working on a packaging design project I’m focussed on one thing, how can I add value. How can I by research, writing, developing messaging and design elements add value? What strategy can I develop that will make the WorkPace breaks and exercises software brand better and stronger? What can I develop that will help create engaging packaging design concepts that appeal to office workers and their managers?
Visual interpretation of the brief
Visualising design ideas with digital renderings conveys how a packaging design will work as well as how each package will relate to itself, in the round, and any other sales collateral while on display. Digital renderings are also a low-cost option in comparison to physical prototypes when working on the early package concepts.
Amazing possibilities arise out of digital renderings, seeing concepts fully realised allows decision makers to immerse themselves in their choices.
The WorkPace Ergonomic breaks & exercises software packaging project
The concept and material for the packaging redesign was a straightforward one. Feature image, typography, colours, brand look were all a given. Among the value I added to this project was the illustrated selling message on the reverse, the new set of colour exercise illustrations and other illustrative design elements.
Developing a small set of draft packaging solutions that meet and stretch expectations
With this project I also took the opportunity to explore a number of concepts with the client for future creative direction. I was concerned that the brand needed to stay ahead of trends, as the received look appeared to be becoming out of date, not least due to advances in the computer hardware and office attire. The dark heavy, overall sombre, almost oppressive mood of the feature image, and the split focus between computer operator in the foreground and her male colleague or manager in the back, while a credible office vignette, the first impression lacks impact and single-minded focus. The blue and yellow colours of the brand are a bright, fresh and youthful colour combination, the legacy packaging look relegated colour to play no part in the impression created by it. My strategy developed around the observation that colour was a significant brand asset that was completely overlooked.
Hundreds of brand equity studies confirm that consumers recall the colour of a package first, the shape or structure second, and the style of a brand’s logo third. This proves the most recognized components of a brand are design-related, first and foremost colour.
I refined a couple of fresh creative directions upon this strategy and presented mockups to the client that you see in the gallery.
The goal was to have a visually informed discussion with the client regarding my strategic idea that the package needed to be able to convey three powerful points;
- the manner in which the software behaves in such a way as to actively care for computer users,
- the comfort of knowing that something is installed on your computer by your employer which is actively looking out for you, and
- the feeling of WorkPace being as essential to highly productive computer users as the office chair that they sit upon.
I was aiming for the affect that when you look at the package you say,
“Yes it does look like this product is good, easy to use, technologically advanced, and it will keep me safe from repetitive strain injury in the workplace.”
The packaging design process
A simplified overview of the steps which a package goes through from concept to completion. This process is a model modified to suit each project. The factors that affect the flow and order of the steps are:
- Market research and client research,
- Brainstorming & ideation of draft strategies and thumbnail visual ideas,
- Establish the messaging & communication hierarchy,
- Competitive product, retail environment boards, style/mood boards,
- Explore form & structure,
- Prephotography, preillustration,
- Concept development,
- Presentation of designs.
Testing the concepts rendered in 3D context provides insights very difficult to grasp by just creating a flat design in 2D on a page. Adapting the design based on the client’s review of renderings can improve the chances of success without diluting the original concept.
The brand personality must come to life and deliver its largest impression the moment someone picks up your package. From this point, it helps to think of the brand personality in terms an actual person. Now, who is this individual, they have to appeal to millions of people. Shrewd consumers who spend time with brands can feel the inconsistencies between a brand and its packaging. And how they feel is the operative word. They may not see it, or articulate it, but they know when something is right.
It’s about being true to that brand personality. That consistency is where brand strength is built.
Knowing the personality requires clear definition of the creative brief before conception and then continuing to research as the brand matures.
Because the brand does not live in a vacuum, and because the cultural context around it is constantly emerging, it requires gaining additional knowledge and a process of continuous refinement. As a person matures so does a brand. Once it has been defined, how far you push the personality depends on your place in the history of the product or service category. If you’re first to market, you have a greater obligation to identify the optimal brand personality in the category and lead from the front.
Visual interpretation of the creative brief
Concerns to be addressed;
Strategic alignment. Designers and clients must be clear on the objectives. If any doubts exist, ask, discuss, challenge if necessary. Better to probe sooner than argue later. Also, loose ideations and conceptual approaches can be helpful if offered by the creative team to tactically zero in on the client’s goals and expectations.
Going too far off-brand in the name of creativity and violating the brand’s personality.
Design iterations rather than multiple designs. Designers are sensitive to small tweaks and confuse such possibilities with creativity. This is especially the case with digital design. Be sure to show the agreed number of designs/concepts in the form of truly different designs. Iterations should be justified only in terms of the strategy and not just presentation filler.
Too many design options tends to backfire. An agreed number of designs/comps for first exploration takes into account not only budget considerations but also the client’s appetite for creative choices. Presenting significantly more than the agreed upon number of comps can:
- Upset client confidence that you’re sure of the goals and objectives,
- Make the firm appear overzealous and not budget conscious,
- Take too long to present and be overwhelming to absorb.
Creating consumer preferences through package design
Research shows that well over two-thirds of consumer product purchase decisions are made at point of sale. In some categories, impulse purchasing at shelf accounts for 85% of sales. It is evident that brand identity and package design drive this important dynamic. In terms of recall, also known as “brand equity” cross-category studies show that in unaided awareness tests consumers remember more about the package than they do about advertising or promotions. Hundreds of equity studies confirm that consumers recall the colour of a package first, the shape or structure second, and the style of a brand’s logo third. This proves the most recognized components are design-related.
Don’t settle for parity in your packaging design
Many packages are overlooked on the shelf; in fact over 30% are not even seen by consumers. Achieving shelf impact doesn’t just consist of shouting louder than the products next to you, it means understanding what will draw your consumer to your package. The target consumer may be lured by packages featuring clean simplicity, a photographic style, certain shapes and colors, or certain kinds of typography. Whatever the design specifics, a package must become the only one a target buyer sees.
Design easy differentiation, don’t drown in a sea of sameness
Unfortunately, too often, consumers find lots of similar-looking packages that form a sea of sameness. There is parity, or seemingly equal value, in packaging and products. Many companies start out with a hiss and a roar but fail to keep pace with how consumer and cultural trends work in packaging.
Designers and marketers must observe a product’s position in relationship to its competition by determining where it falls on the parity line. Is the brand taking risks and standing out by being above the line? Or is it playing it safe, blending in with competitors, and staying below the line?
Fighting parity within your category is worth working through being uncomfortable. Great brands stand out.
Design studio: Surface Active graphic design
Copywriter: Client, Surface Active
Font credits: Akzidenz Grotesk, Handel Gothic, Compacta