If you’re reading this, you deserve some congratulations. You’ve reached an important (and often challenging) step in getting your product into consumers’ hands: figuring out just what your packaging is going to look and feel like.
But before we clink glasses, realize there’s work ahead. We’ve been through this process for many-a-specialty food & beverage brand and decided to put that experience into this Packaging Design 101 series you’re reading now.
This is part one. And as with any successful undertaking, it starts with planning. Wondering where to start with planning and sourcing your packaging design? Here’s a roadmap to follow.
1. Kick off your project
Get everyone related to your project in a room (or virtual room) together. Having all the important people on the same page before the package design process begins saves time down the road. A few things you’ll want to get clear on during this kickoff:
What is the main goal of launching (or relaunching) this product? How does it help achieve the larger business strategy?
Who is the target audience for this product? What do they care about?
How will this product be experienced? e.g. Will it be sold online only? In-stores only? Both? Will it be included in a subscription box format?
What will each SKU retail for?
Answers to these questions affect everything from the quality of the materials used in your packaging, to the information that’s included on the label. Therefore, don’t skip this step. If we could make that line any bolder, trust us, we would.
2. Determine the necessary size, substrate, and materials
With some of the foundational information decided on in step one, you’re ready to start conceptualizing exactly what your packaging will look like. Be forewarned, planning and sourcing materials can be time intensive. It involves making several choices, including size, color, shape, substrate, and even ethics-based decisions like recyclability and labor standards from your selection of manufacturer.
Our suggestion: start by determining a budget per SKU. With that number in mind, you can then decide whether you want to choose a Stock Package or a Custom Package. Below are rundowns for each.
Depending on what you need, there may be stock packaging products such as bottles, jars, tubes, bags, and boxes that can be sourced off-the-shelf. Sourcing a standardized size or configuration of a product typically allows you to solicit pricing and lead times from several vendors, keeping the cost down and delivery time low.
If your product requires a highly specialized design or you want to spend the extra money to make your package stand out from the rest, custom might be the best route. As you might imagine, however, this method can add a significant amount to both your timeline and budget.
3. Determine labeling & certification requirements
Food & beverage products require certain labels and printed information to be eligible for resale. Some are mandatory across all F&B products, and others are more specialized depending on the type of product, industry, or qualified certification. Before laying out any type of design, create a checklist for yourself of all the necessary labels and certifications that need to be accounted for, including exact specifications where applicable for the graphic designer to follow (e.g. The minimum type size on a nutritional facts label is 6pt.)
4. Design your packages
Successful package design is both on-brand and on-strategy. To nail both, it’s best to start by developing a moodboard that demonstrates how the design concept will fit within your brand and achieve your business goals. Once all of the project stakeholders are aligned on a visual direction, then the designer can start putting the pieces together. The designer should be provided all technical requirements and chosen materials/substrates before embarking on bringing the vision to life.
Experience has taught us that you may find yourself wanting to fill every bit of white space on the label with information on your product. Our pro tip: the more information you cram on your package, the less likely consumers will be to read it at all. Think about who your ideal customer is first and what they most care about when planning your content hierarchy.
5. Order samples
Once the design, finishes, dielines, and materials are finalized, it’s time to go to your vendor and request samples of your product. Vendors are familiar with sending package samples, but will often charge a small shipping fee. Because samples are sent via mail, this process can take a few weeks, so plan accordingly. This process can take even longer if the vendor is headquartered overseas for obvious reasons, but you should also be aware of any local cultures, customs, and holidays that may impact delivery.
In a perfect world, your first sample will hit the mark and you’ll be ready to order mass quantities. But don’t lose faith if you decide you need to make adjustments! A good vendor will work with you to discuss options, ideas, and a game plan for making your packaging as glorious as you imagined it would be.
Be on the lookout for part II of this Packaging Design 101 series. We’ll go over the ins and outs of a topic filled with nuance: The Printing Process.
In the meantime, check out some of our latest packaging design projects here.