As the world moves in a more sustainable direction and continues to recover post-pandemic, our resident packaging experts—Lianne Coogan, Melissa Ortiz, and Rachel Giralico—collected their thoughts on packaging trends happening right now. From color choices and design, consumer targeting and e-commerce, we break down the best ways to balance practicality with style.
With all the uncertainty in today’s current events, coupled with the massive amounts of data and information at our fingertips, honesty and clarity are going a long way with how consumers are perceiving brands.
Whether it’s presenting information in a clear, concise way, or being completely open about how “clean” a product is, consumers are gravitating towards that honesty in a world filled with gimmicks and false information. Being less about the bottom line and more about authenticity and truth is connecting with today’s consumers.
Colorful & Simple Design
There has been a steady trend of bold and simple packaging design for years and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Bright and colorful, sometimes neon-colored palettes have been on the rise, with an obvious move to grab consumers’ attention
excessiveness in packaging. These days, less is truly more.
Recycled and Sustainable Materials
Although they were introduced a generation ago, with concerns of climate change and global sustainability on all our minds, recycled materials and the green movement have never been more popular. Current consumers are being more intentional about reducing their environmental footprint than in years past, and companies are listening. Brands are converting to more biodegradable materials, and reducing the amount of packaging for each product, which cuts down waste, helps keep prices down, and lowers shipping costs because of the reduced weight. Beneficial for everyone!
We’ve seen a surge in the amount of online shopping due to the pandemic, so it’s no surprise that the strategy and presentation of online orders and packaging have become even more relevant.
Many of the same basic principles as in-store shopping apply to online orders. Product packaging should feel sharp and impactful even when viewed online rather than in person, and messaging still needs to be direct and quick to digest in order to stand out from competitors.
Other considerations for e-commerce include packaging that has a high tolerance for the challenges of shipping, and keeps products fresh through transit (in the case of perishable food products).
Many products typically purchased in brick-and-mortar stores are also now being fulfilled online. Things like refill formats are also on the rise, especially with cleaning and beauty products. Consumers can purchase starter kits, and replacement refills are then ordered once the product runs out, both helping reduce waste and packaging, and adding convenience to the consumers.
Sharing online purchases on social media is also trending. With “unboxing” product reveals on the rise, the presentation of a product and its first impression is bringing customer experience and engagement to a new level.
When we see a package intended for more practical purposes
– —mainly utilized by families – —the trends lean more towards bright colors, eye-catching fonts, various textures and movement within the composition of the principal display panel (PDP) to create interest quickly and effectively, to a wide range of demographics. On the flip side, when products are
A quote from American designer April Greiman has stayed with me since college and became a core mantra: “Design must seduce, shape, and perhaps more importantly, evoke an emotional response.” With packaging, this sentiment still rings true, though the amount of time to “seduce” a customer—from the moment of first sight to the decision to purchase—is short.
The PDP (front of the packaging) is also important. If a product sells itself, it must do it quickly! Consumers will be walking by and only spend 3–5 seconds before they decide to purchase or keep walking.
Hence the “sell” of the package—whether through color, photography, design, or storytelling—should be unique and impactful enough to grab a customer’s attention in an instant, and captivating enough to hold that attention, with the goal of making them feel like they can’t live without it.
Additionally, any positive or healthy benefit being pushed for a product is irrelevant if there are any potential hazards that aren’t being called out directly. Today’s consumers are fatigued by being overly marketed fake benefits; they’ve built up a lot of skepticism. True authenticity, clarity, and honesty should be at the forefront of any good product message and design.
The pandemic, recent supply chain issues, and even bad winter weather in the U.S have led to a large disruption in the packaging industry, where many manufacturers have had to pause operations or work at a lower capacity, all of which trickles down to many retailers.
It’s hit small- to mid-sized businesses significantly, with smaller companies having to fight for access to materials, which are often being snatched up by big-box retailers with large financial reserves, such as Amazon.
With no end in sight to the supply chain issues, many businesses have been forced to think of out-of-the box packaging solutions (no pun intended), sourcing more readily available materials, or designing with smaller packaging footprints.
What are some of the “do nots” in packaging?
DO NOT get too busy or fussy with a design or message. It will only confuse the customer, who will walk away in an instant. Keep messaging clear and direct, and the design easy to absorb. Listing too much information will cause a consumer to overlook, so a better solution would be to call out product attributes in noticeable “bugs” on the PDP or separated with an appropriate amount of spacing or a dividing line.
DO NOT make packaging that is difficult to get into or navigate. Customer experience should always be at the forefront.
DO NOT skimp on using high-quality printers and vendors if it can be helped. If a product looks low-quality, the customer will believe it’s low-quality.
DO NOT play with too many “fun fonts.” While these fonts can help a product stand out, they also need to be easy to read. Font size also comes into play with legibility. You want a consumer to be able to look at a package and understand what it is all about within a matter of seconds. If the font is too small or hard to read, it could be hard for them to understand what the product is and what it has to offer.
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