Updated: Jul 20, 2020
In order to understand packaging design, there must first exist an understanding of packaging and the purpose of packaging as well as its function in the real world. Packaging is meant to do several things: contain something, protect what it is containing, inform the consumer of the contents within, serve as means for transportation and storage, and be able to display and market the product. Packaging is used to contain and protect; there are factors outside of the product itself that could negatively affect the product including temperature, compression, vibration, etc. Therefore, having a package that is durable enough to withstand extraneous variables should be taken into consideration.
Packaging is used to inform
Packages have food labels with nutrition facts, expiration dates, brands, and some information that is required by governments and all of this is important to the consumer who might potentially be interested in purchasing the product. Good packaging will have thoughtful placement of this information so that the consumer wants to buy the product. For example, food labels have different tactics to catch someone’s attention and there is also a lot of thought that goes into a specified target audience.
Packaging is directly related to marketing
Marketing is defined as the process of communicating the value of a product or service to customers. Packaging design requires designers to follow market trends and use those trends within the products design. Packaging must also be eye-catching so that it stands out from its competitors especially if these products are found on shelves. Marketing to people can be best understood by first having an understanding of Maslow's hierarchy of needs.
Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is a theory in psychology that is a description of the needs that motivate human behavior. Maslow's proposed five categories organized in a pyramid structure that begins at the bottom indicating that these needs must be met before moving up the pyramid. The categories are as follows: Psychological, Safety, Love and Belonging, Esteem, and Self-Actualization. The higher up the pyramid the more complex our needs are and one cannot focus on needs that are higher up without first satisfying the bottom. New research made by Brain & Company published by the Harvard Business Review furthers Maslow's theory by correlating consumer decision making and identifies four major categories that explain the inward and outward facing needs consumers seek to have met. The categories are Functional, emotional, life-changing, and social impact.
Packaging should be convenient
With transportation and storage in mind, packages should have features that are convenient in the way they are distributed, handled, displayed, sold, used, reused, recycled, and disposed. Thinking about packaging and the materials needed to make a package should be considered; using recyclable materials can have an impact on the consumer’s decision to purchase the product and if it is too much of an inconvenience then it would affect the product’s ability to be purchased again. In my opinion, if I purchased a product that was not convenient and would be hard to open or the handles break upon transporting back to my residence I would highly consider not buying the product a second time and question the overall brand. For example, having a water bottle that can increase its volume from 8 oz to 20 oz gives the consumer some variety and makes it so they have the option to have a smaller or larger bottle based on their personal preference; creating this convenience for the consumer is a tactic that can make a target audience stay.
Overall, there is a lot of research that goes into packaging and package design due the importance of preservation and display. It is natural for people to make an initial impression of a product at first glance and when shopping, products on display have a brief moment to catch a customer’s attention and do so in a way that it seals the deal. Therefore, to say never to judge a book by its cover is not true in the world of package design where first impression is everything.