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Guide to Product Packaging

Product packaging is essential to the success of your physical product. It not only keeps your product protected, but it’s an important part of your brand image and should be an integral part of your overall marketing plan. A package that speaks for itself is highly valuable in retail marketing and eCommerce.

Since product packaging is often the first impression a customer will have of your brand, it is important to be recognizable and consistent with other marketing. You want to create a package that will catch attention and encourage the customer to pick up your product over another.

This guide will walk you through some of the top considerations you should have when creating your packaging, plus how to create your package design and source materials.

Considerations

There are numerous items to consider when creating your packaging design. Be sure to go beyond just putting your product in a box, and think about these factors:

  • Product protection: Your product packaging needs to safely hold the product and keep it from breaking, fading or experiencing wear and tear through shipping, storage and handling. It should also keep the product clean and fresh and be airtight and/or watertight if necessary. Even if they are not meant to, some packages may inadvertently come in contact with water during delivery; some level of water resistance provides an extra measure of security. Customers don’t want to receive or purchase an item that is broken or worn; the best packaging will ensure that your product stays safe and your customers stay happy.
  • Appealing appearance: Whether you choose something unique to catch attention or something simple and clean to remain classic, you will need to create a product that is appealing in design. Customers will likely pass up your product on the shelves if they find it unattractive, boring or distasteful.
  • Materials and cost: You should also consider the materials that will be used, including the quality of your choices and the availability of these materials. Cost is another consideration, including the price of printing, manufacturing, materials and quantity ordered. The cost of packaging will need to be considered as a part of your overall manufacturing/production budget, not simply an add-on.
  • Ease of use: Your packaging should also be easy for the customer to understand. This includes a description of what it is and how to use it, especially if it isn’t a common product. Your product packaging should also be easy to open. A complicated design may cause customer frustration or even cause the product to break.

How to Create Design

When considering the appearance of your product, follow these tips for design:

  • Keep it simple. A minimal design looks elegant and timeless. This means an attractive product for your consumers and ensures you avoid redesigning as frequently as trends change. Visuals and images should also be simple and should not overwhelm. While text is important, too much can be overwhelming and can cause people to pass over your product.
  • Follow the company style guide. The style guide ensures consistency across all aspects of marketing and will outline what fonts, logos, colors and copy you should use. Consult with your design team, or if you don’t have one, consider hiring a designer to make sure you are being clean and consistent.
  • Be unique. To stand out among competitors, your product should encourage brand recognition. Try to make a statement while playing off your brand theme. For example, this packaging is evocative of their product itself, while this eyeglasses container for Prism Eyewear plays off the name of the company itself.
  • Learn from competitors. Research your competitors, and consider what elements of their packaging you might want to emulate (maybe they’ve come up with a flattering way to display the product, for example) and how you can differentiate your packaging (perhaps there is a smoother way to open the box or a more creative use of imagery).
  • Keep it legible and understandable. Simple fonts will make it easy for customers to read and understand. If the purpose isn’t clear, or if the name of your product is difficult to read, customers may lose interest or get frustrated.
  • Include any mandatory labeling, such as a barcode, pricing, ingredients and/or any necessary symbols. The government has specific requirements for food, chemical, medical and other products. While all of these conditions may not apply to your product, they are very common in retail and are required for products that are hazardous, can be recycled (see the list of codes here), have expiration dates, etc. You should check with the Federal Register or Food and Drug Administration to see what symbol and ingredient regulations concern your product.
  • Have descriptive copy. List some of the most important product benefits or differentiators (like “Fat Free,” “2.3GHz” or “Batteries included”) on the front of the package. This will help you grab undecided shoppers as they compare labels in the store.
  • Get feedback from others. Ask friends, families, management and employees to give feedback on the design. Is it easy to understand and read? Is it durable and easy to open? Use this feedback to refine your packaging. If you have the funds, show them several designs and ask them which they prefer.
  • Check out this course. The free Design for Entrepreneurs course can provide further guidance on creating and developing design elements. This video also provides tips on developing packaging that reflects your brand image.

Resources

To find and order materials for product packaging and shipping, check out these recommended sites:

For inspiration for creating your packaging, check out these curated packaging design websites:

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