Most graphic designers are familiar with the daunting reality that a product in a grocery store has less than one second to grab a consumer’s attention. Of course, factor in that the average shopper devotes 53 hours a year to groceries and that Americans collectively spend more than $6 billion annually stocking their kitchens, and, well, the task starts to look a little less scary. And a lot more like an exciting branding opportunity. To design food packaging with maximum shelf appeal, you need to start thinking outside of the box – quite literally.
1. Think in 3D.
When designing food packaging, you typically have four panels to work with instead of one. Consider how these panels will work together to tell a story, as well as how they can work side by side on the shelf. Can you “billboard” a design element to create an overall effect? You should also explore alternative shapes like octagons or triangles… just don’t get carried away. Your package design still needs to be practical (aka stackable or easily stored). Finally, remember to account for those nitty-gritty details of how your package works, including any holes or die lines.
2. Do your homework.
Researching competitors goes without saying, but food packaging gives you a unique opportunity. Go to the grocery store, and check out the environment where your packaging will live. Go to multiple grocery stores and take note of the different shelving and display scenarios. Pick up competitor packages and hold them in your hands. This perspective can be invaluable.
3. Keep it simple.
You know what’s cool? NASCAR! You know what really isn’t cool? Food packaging that looks like a race car plastered with logos and sponsors. With nanoseconds to hook a consumer, you must ensure that the contents of the package are instantly identifiable. Say it. Or show it. Or both. Period. You should also consider the hierarchy of your messaging. Limit your principle display panel (PDP) to one message and use your other panels for secondary ideas.
4. Design for the future.
No, I’m not talking about space-friendly food for when we figure out this whole life on Mars deal. I mean the future of the product. If the brand is new, you may only be designing packaging for one product now, but you should think about the ways the line may expand. For example, when WhiteSpace developed the identity and packaging for Ajoyo™ Almondmilk, we knew that the brand could potentially grow to include other plant-based products. We featured burlap and a natural color palette for a “farm fresh” vibe, but we were careful not to make almonds the cornerstone of the design.
5. Know the FDA regulations.
I hate to break it to you, but you’re going to have to do math. The FDA has fairly extensive guidelines for food labeling and nutrition facts. Did you know there is a set ratio between the size of the product description and the largest type? Or, that the net weight must be a certain height? Or, that there is required type size and prominence (not to mention set information!) that must appear on the PDP? Familiarize yourself with these requirements before you start designing to save yourself a lot of heartbreak, hassle and cost in the long run.
Is eCommerce changing package design?
The short answer is… not yet. Shopping online alters the way consumers view products, of course. Perhaps the biggest difference is that they are seeing your product somewhat in isolation, probably as a thumbnail that can expand to a larger image. Yes, your thumbnail is sitting in a grid of competitor thumbnails, but it’s not the same as seeing those items side by side on a shelf. You also lose the opportunity to create any cool interactions between your own products. But, for now, the same basic tenets hold true. Great design and clear, concise information win out… and end up in the shopping cart.
Need to apply some design expertise to your delicious food product? Get in touch. We’re happy to help!
How do you think online grocery shopping will impact food packaging design, and when will we see the effects? Let us know in the comments!
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