Your product packaging is one of the most important decisions in marketing your physical products. The design has the power to attract attention, which increases sales. On the flip side, poor product packaging can cause consumers to keep walking or even develop a negative impression. Creating a solid package design that conveys your brand and appeals to your target audience is essential to successful sales. Use these package design tips to make your products stand out.

1. Have a Clear Plan

Having a plan before you jump into the package design makes the process a little easier. Several factors go into the planning and design, so taking some time to work through those ideas is an important first step. Great graphic design for packages requires time and attention to detail.

Your goal for the packaging is one important consideration. What type of reaction do you want customers to have? What do you want them to know about your product just by seeing the container? Do you want to emphasize the eco-friendliness of your item? Are you trying to stir up feelings of nostalgia? Do you want your product to come across as fresh and new? The package design influences those impressions.

Another factor to consider in the initial planning phases is your target audience. Knowing who you’re marketing to and what those people like is essential to creating packaging that draws their attention. A product designed for kids won’t look the same as packaging that targets middle-aged women.

2. Make It Easy to Absorb

A simple package design lets your potential customers know exactly what you’re selling simply by glancing at it. Since most customers move through aisles quickly, you usually only have seconds to catch their attention and convince them to buy your product. In fact, it takes less than 20 seconds for a consumer to decide if a product is appealing or not. Anyone who sees your package should be able to tell what the product is, what it does and what brand it is.

Here are some tips to keep your design simple yet informative:

  • Make the product name and description clear and concise, so customers can easily see what it is.
  • Keep the front of the package uncluttered.
  • Include benefits of the product as a way to sell the item.
  • Add clear, appealing images.
  • Keep any text clear and succinct. Wordiness clutters up the package.
  • Design packaging that reflects the type of product to avoid confusion. A cleaning product in a package that resembles a drink container is confusing and potentially dangerous, for example.
  • Create a cohesive look that’s easy to scan.
  • Avoid too many bold, standout elements, as they compete with one another and make the package overwhelming.

3. Be Accurate and Honest

You want your packaging to highlight the best aspects of your product, but you don’t want to overpromise and under deliver. When creating your design, ensure your product can deliver any promises you incorporate. That honesty comes into play on everything from the graphics to the words you include on the packaging.

For example, if you put an illustration of your product on the packaging, it should actually look like the product. In other words, don’t make the item look way better on the package than it does in real life. The same is true for any claims or descriptions you put on the container. Don’t be afraid to brag about your product, but don’t exaggerate the details.

Stretching the truth on the packaging may encourage lots of initial sales, but that success may not last. Soon enough, your customers will discover the package isn’t quite accurate, and they won’t likely purchase your products again. Even worse, they may warn others not to buy your products. The bottom line: Don’t embellish the truth just to boost sales. Only add things on your packaging that you honestly stand by.

4. Look at the Competition

No matter what product you make, you likely have some competition from other companies. Looking at the packaging they use can be a springboard for your own design. What you don’t want to do is copy what other people are doing. Mimicking a competitor makes your brand less likely to stand out.

Instead, analyze the common packaging among competitors to see how you can do it differently. What are common practices in your product category? Is everyone using plain packaging with neutral colors? Go bold with your packaging color palette. Are the container images primarily illustrations? Use a photographed image to stand out. Essentially, you want to look at what your competitors are doing well and improve upon it or find a way to differentiate yourself.

You can also learn something from poorly performing competitors or packaging that you personally find unappealing. What don’t you like about it? Where does the packaging come up short? The flaws in competitors’ packaging designs can help you avoid the same mistakes.

Remember, your packaging is going head to head with your competition’s. How will your product look sitting on the shelf next to the competitors? Will it stand out or blend in with the crowd?

Packaging from totally different products may also serve as inspiration for your design. You may find inspiration in gourmet candy packaging for your custom bath bombs. Cell phone packaging may inspire your artisan cupcake packaging. Design principles can apply to many different categories of products, so don’t be afraid to look for inspiration in different departments.

5. Consider the Sales Method

The way you sell your product impacts your package design. The main difference is selling in a brick-and-mortar store versus selling online. When you sell in a store, your product needs to stand out from all of the other similar products on the shelves. You should also consider how the customers will interact with the package. For example, an open cutout in the packaging gives the consumer the chance to touch the product to get a better feel for the material and the construction.

When selling online, your customers see an individual photo of a product on its own. The packaging needs to be clear and appealing, while being easy to photograph. Customers also won’t have the option to interact with the product physically, so you need to convey the main features in a visual way.

6. Focus on Creativity

A little creativity goes a long way in setting your product apart. Making your packaging original and showcasing your company’s character helps your product stand out. If your company’s style is playful, fun and laid back, your package should reflect that. Putting thought and creativity into your package design makes a good impression on potential consumers. It shows them you took the time to create a quality package. That packaging quality casts a positive light on the quality of your product in general.

One way to display your item creatively is by incorporating your product into the design of the package. For example:

  • Note earphones use a simple cardboard package with the earphones and cord forming the shape of a music note.
  • Poilu paintbrushes have a cardboard package that wraps around them, leaving the bristles and handle showing. The cardboard features the upper portion of a man’s face with the paintbrush bristles forming a beard.
  • Scanwood wooden utensils have a cardboard backing with an image of dirt and grass. Root images extend from the handle of each wooden utensil, so the utensil looks like a tree.

These designs are creative and memorable.

7. Make It Practical

In some cases, your packaging is a functional part of the product. A shampoo bottle, for instance, serves as the packaging on the store shelf, but it is also the container that holds the product. In other words, it isn’t an outer packaging that gets removed and thrown away after the purchase.

For these types of products, functionality is very important. A bottle or container may look great, but those looks don’t matter if the product doesn’t come out well or the container doesn’t hold up over time.

Even if you’re designing packaging that gets removed and tossed, you want it to be functional packaging that is easy to use. Choose a design that is easy to handle and open. Test how well the packaging sits on a shelf or hangs on a display. You want the packaging to look professional while being easy to see and access on the shelf. Using minimal packaging is a selling point if your target audience values green products.

8. Consider All of the Design Elements

Several elements go into the design, including the type of packaging, shape of the package, color, graphics and typography used for any text on the container. Each element is important and goes together to create the overall look. All of the elements you choose should fit with the overall style you want and the goals you’re going for to create a cohesive look.

The elements also need to work together to create packaging that is easy to read. Your text is the biggest factor in that legibility. It’s okay to pick a font that matches your company’s branding or the feeling you’re trying to achieve, but it needs to be easy to read. Consumers won’t spend a lot of time trying to decipher what your package says if the font is obscure. The same goes for font that is too small — consumers will simply move on to a different product.

Color plays a role in how easy your packaging is to read, too. Contrast between the text and the background makes the words easier to see, but the text color also needs to work with the overall packaging. Color can also be a great way to grab attention. A bold color palette stands out on the shelf and may get more attention than a neutral package.

9. Factor in Your Branding

Branding is an important part of your company’s overall image. Your branding includes things such as your logo, fonts you use in print materials, images and the types of words you use. The branding creates a particular feel that reflects the essence of your business.

Take your established branding into consideration when developing your package design. Pulling colors, fonts and design elements from your existing materials helps create consistency in that brand. It also ensures your packaging reflects your company’s style and goals. If your branding is already distinct and easily recognizable by your customers, that makes your products stand out to them. They easily connect the product to your brand because of the similarities.

10. Coordinate Multiple Product Packaging

Does your line include more than one product? Are you planning to expand your line? You don’t have to use identical packaging, but having a similar look to create a recognizable brand identity is important. If you want to expand in the future, having versatile packaging you can adapt to the new product saves you time and money on the design. Products that go into bottles are the perfect example. Products like sauces, condiments, pickles, salad dressings, sunscreen, lotion and shampoo often have the same packaging with different labels.

Choosing a versatile universal design lets you easily package different products without several different types of containers. It also makes those additional products stand out to your customers. If they notice a similar package in a different product and they already like your brand, they may be more likely to try the new product.

When choosing that core package design, consider the longevity of the design. A trendy design may capture consumers’ attention today, but will it quickly become outdated? Choosing a package design that lasts is important because customers come to rely on recognizing your packaging. If you constantly change the design to match the latest short-lived trend, it’s difficult for customers to keep up.

Final Thoughts on Package Design

Keeping these 10 tips in mind when creating your packaging keeps you on the right track. Here are a few additional things to do when designing your packaging:

  • Get feedback: Hearing what others think about your packaging can help you tighten up your design or make it better suited to your audience. Don’t be afraid to ask for honest feedback on the packaging. Another option is to create more than one version of the packaging to get feedback on which style consumers prefer.
  • Balance form and function: Creating ideal packaging is often a balancing act between how it looks and how well it functions.
  • Consider proportions: The size of your packaging, labels, images and font play a role in the overall appearance. The design elements should fit the size of the packaging well to create a sense of balance. For example, a small package is overwhelmed by huge font, and a huge image next to tiny print seems mismatched.
  • Rely on the pros: As a small business owner, it’s tempting to tackle all aspects of the business yourself. That’s fine for certain tasks, but your package design is a huge element in marketing your product and one you want to get right. If you don’t have experience in designing packaging, it’s worth the investment to have a professional design company help you.

Your product packaging design can make all the difference in your sales. With our custom package design tips, you’re well on your way to having cohesive, attractive packaging that fits your product and your brand. Contact us to design packaging that stands out, works for your product and captures the essence of your brand. Our experienced in-house designers work with you throughout the process to create a design you love.