Your Checklist to Design the Perfect Product Packaging.
Whoever said good things come in small packages probably never received one of these.
But the commonly used saying proves that product packaging is an important part of the customer experience. The packaging and its design are the first thing customers interact with. Just like the contents inside, the packaging has its own set of visual, textural, and even olfactory (think Scratch-n-Sniff) characteristics that impact how customers experience your brand.
I Need Packaging for My Product
So you need packaging for your product. Where to start? We’ve broken down the process into three phases.
Phase I: Gather all the important details to pick the best packaging material based on budget and logistics.
Phase II: Integrate branding and packaging together to create positive customer experiences.
Phase III: Order all the materials and assemble the packaging!
We created this checklist to cover the logistical and creative questions that will help you create the best packaging. And we even walk you through the full process so you know what to expect.
So let’s get started!
PHASE I: GATHERING THE DETAILS
Picking your product packaging is kind of like a choose-your-own-adventure. There are lots of factors that influence what options are available to you. Once you’ve gone through the questions below, you’ll have a better idea of what you need.
1) What’s your budget?
Your budget will quickly make clear what options are available to you. Start by figuring out how much you can roughly spend per box or bottle. Take your starting budget and divide it by a few different quantities to gauge what you can afford. That’s a good number to start with, but know that the factors below will change your per box price. So let’s continue, shall we?
2) What kind of product packaging do you need?
There are lots of packaging options and variations. Which best suits your product?
Sometimes the answer is obvious (creams ≠ boxes, creams = jars). If the answer is less obvious, you might want to spend some time learning about the most popular product packing options out there.
It’s important to note that different types of packaging are not priced the same. Plastic packaging tends to be pricier than cardboard. And certain cardboards are more expensive than others.
Rigid paperboard Apple boxes, for example, are more expensive than flimsy paperboard to-go containers. So anticipate your budget changing depending on your packaging type.
3) What size product packaging do you need?
The size of your box or container should be proportional to the size of the product. This sounds obvious, but there’s nothing more disappointing than opening a huge box and finding a small trinket inside.
Also, the proper size will protect your product from knocking around the inside of the package. Dollar Shave Club addresses this exact problem by using customized molded inserts that keep their products in place during shipping.
Another important question: What else is going inside the package? Paper inserts? Tissue paper? Product samples?
Plan for enough space to include these extras so they don’t end up scrunched in the corner. Better yet, plan for enough space so the packaging closes easily!
4) What purpose does your packaging serve?
Every package has a purpose. Some, like this Juicy Couture Perfume box, have it easy. Their only job is to encase products. The lighter material used to make this Juicy Couture box is common for packages that encase products, typically found on retail shelves.
Blue Apron boxes, however, work a little harder. To prevent the arrival of broken eggs, they have two jobs: to protect and ship the product. The product box must be big and sturdy enough to hold heavy icepacks, thermal linings, and padding.
Some packages act as safeguards, like press-and-turn bottle tops. Others serve their purpose more than once, like resealable shipping bags customers use to mail returns.
The point is that different purposes require different product packaging materials. So ask yourself, what do you need your packaging to accomplish? Knowing your packaging needs will help narrow down your options. And, it will change your budget since features like thicker materials and resealable strips cost extra.
5) What quantity do you need?
If you plan on distributing large quantities of product, you may need to use a cost-effective packaging option to meet the demand. Amazon ships millions of boxes a day so it makes sense to use cardboard, an efficient, cost-effective option.
On the flip side, if you anticipate selling smaller quantities, you can likely afford a higher quality packaging material.
Most packaging wholesalers have minimum order requirements. While that number varies, it’s usually at least 100. Anyone who shops at Costco knows the power of buying in bulk. The same principle applies here. The larger your packaging quantity, the smaller your price per unit. That’s why we encourage clients to find that sweet spot of getting the cheapest per unit price that they can afford.
Now, we’re just about ready to move onto some of the more creative questions that go into product packaging. But before we do, we can’t stress enough how important it is to answer questions 1-5. This will tell you how much budget you have left to spend on creating the right brand experience.
PHASE II: DEFINING YOUR BRAND EXPERIENCE
Creating custom packaging is equal parts logistics and aesthetics.
You want to find a solution that does what it’s supposed to do (i.e. safely ship products to customers), but you also want it to stay on-brand.
As we mentioned earlier, the product box is the first thing customers interact with. Whatever your brand promise is, packaging helps you deliver that to customers.
So how do you create a brand experience with packaging? You can start by answering these questions.
1) What are your packaging design options?
The FabFitFun boxes are a great example of how you can elevate your product packaging to create a unique brand experience.
Each quarter, FabFitFun ships an assortment of full-size goodies to subscribers. This requires the sturdy support of a cardboard shipping box.
But brown cardboard couldn’t be further from the glam brand experience FabFitFun promised customers. So the company uses colorful box designs to give each shipment that “Wow!” factor.
The FabFitFun brand promise continues with the opening of the box. Inside, items are wrapped in tissue paper and sealed with a sticker the way high-end presents are wrapped. Fun, crinkled paper confetti also adds a decorative pop.
As FabFitFun has shown, you can take a plain brown corrugated box and convert it into something glamorous. You can create memorable on-brand experiences even with lower-cost packaging materials.
Once you’ve identified your packaging type (e.g. corrugated box, glass jar), explore all of its customizable options.
Can you print a full-color design on the entire package? If that’s not in your budget, can you print in one-color? Or, can you print on just a few sides?
If you have enough budget, think about the experience of opening your package. What kind of tape or seal do you want to use? How do you want to present the products inside?
We should note that your brand experience may not require all the bells and whistles. The plain ol’ brown shipping box works really well for Amazon. The company’s brand promise to Prime members is product delivery within two-days. The cost-effective brown box helps them keep that brand promise. They’ve decided to simply customize the packaging tape they use.
2) What are the content requirements for your packaging?
Content is essential to the user experience.
Customer-facing content, like images, text, and logos (e.g. Certified Organic), tell the story about your products and how to use them.
Internal-facing content, like shipping labels and barcodes, help your team get the product to the customer seamlessly.
Another thing about content: It has a BIG impact on packaging design. Knowing up-front what content must be on your packaging is essential.
When designing HK’s 180 Skincare packaging, we knew we needed to highlight the active ingredients in each product. This content helped the user know when and how to use each product.
In our custom design, we incorporated a green accent to highlight the active ingredient. When used across the entire skincare line, it unified the collection. We wouldn’t have been able to think up this creative and functional design element if we didn’t have all the required text at the start of the project.
3) What brand elements do you need to incorporate?
The test of good packaging design is if a person can identify your company and the general use of your product just by looking at the packaging.
It’s a given that your packaging design should include your logo. But what else?
Consider your brand fonts and colors, or perhaps even your tagline.
Whatever branding elements you decide on, you’ll need to share them with the designer creating your packaging. (Preferably high-res logos and images!) They’ll be able to use your brand elements in a creative way that maximizes the space of the package.
PHASE III: PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
The final phase of your product packaging includes production, fulfillment, and shipping.
This means ordering all the materials (product box, tissue paper, etc.), printing any inserts, creating mailing lists, and coordinating the arrival of everything to the fulfillment center where the packages will be assembled.
A lot of clients will ask us to manage this phase because it can be a bit of a pain.
A tip we like to share is to always order 1-2% extra boxes. That way if a box arrives damaged or your mailing list grows, you have extra boxes to cover you.
Working With a Product Packaging Design Agency
Remember when we called the packaging design process a choose-your-own-adventure?
Well, working with an agency or graphic designer can make the entire process go a lot smoother.
When searching for the best packaging material and shape, an agency isn’t intimidated by the endless selection of boxes, bottles, and tins. We let our experience guide us and help us narrow a list of endless options down to 3-5.
We also know how to gauge the actual price per unit of product packaging. We know which design and print options can drive prices up and how to determine if there are minimum quantity requirements.
Knowing your budget upfront, an agency like Moonlight can find the customizable options that work best within your desired quantity.
Agencies are experts at branding and we know how to make your product packaging a positive brand experience.
We take the time to order packaging samples and test how your product fits inside. We can see whether you need details like tissue paper or paper inserts to enhance the experience.
When designing the packaging, we provide you with 3-5 different options that many clients appreciate. Our goal is to test out variations of color schemes and layouts and see which the client likes best.
We know we’ve said this before. But it’s so important, so we’re going to say it again.
Product packaging design is the first thing customers interact with.
If you want to make a good first impression, start with the packaging. It plays an important supporting role in your brand experience. So, it’s worth the time and energy to get it right.
Good news is that you can make the process a lot easier if you spend a little bit of time answering the questions we listed above. Your customers will be able to tell whether you made an effort or not!
If you want to continue the conversation, drop us a line!
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