How to Achieve Elegant Looks For Less
A dozen ways to make your packaging look upscale while not breaking the bank.
Everyone likes to look rich, but no one likes to waste money.
Giving your packaging an “upscale” look doesn’t have to break your budget. Here are a dozen hints to look like you’ve spent a lot on packaging without actually doing so.
1. Less is more. From the pyramids to Bauhaus architecture, minimalism has been associated with affluence. “The more upscale you try to be, the less you do, because simple equals elegant,” says packaging designer Robert Wilkes. An uncluttered design with a lot of blank space conveys the message that you don’t have to shout about how good your product is.
2. Soften it. Soft-focus photography, where the product is in sharp focus but the surrounding elements are blurred, looks sophisticated and keeps the consumer’s attention, well, focused. “And the budget aspect of that is, you’re probably going to have to do photography anyway, so if you spend a little extra time focusing on the technique, you can get that luxury look within your budget,” says Lee Sucharda, president of Design North.
3. Show your mettle with metal. Foil- or hot-stamping is one of the most common ways to give packaging an upscale look. A good way to achieve that effect without paying through the nose is to ask your printer to throw in a process tint-an ink that supplements the standard four colors-with a metallic hue.
4. All for one, and one for all. If your product comes in multiple flavors, using a common package and varying the label establishes brand identity, exudes confidence and saves money. “If you have truffles that are in a tray, and the tray itself is common, so your maple-flavored truffles and your fudge-flavored truffles are all in the same tray, but you print a sleeve that wraps around that tray that indicates your flavor, you can even reduce the number of plates you use to print that sleeve by just having the flavor reverse out of one color,” Sucharda says.
5. Know your printing options. Digital printing is often a good alternative for regional or seasonal packaging. It often turns out more vivid than standard four-color flexo printing and can save money on short runs. Conversely, if you have many long printing runs, look into direct-to-plate technology as a way to slash preprint costs.
6. Use Hexachrome printing. Hexachrome is a six-color process, developed (and trademarked) by Pantone, that adds vivid orange and green to the standard four printing colors (black, blue, yellow and red). “If you print Hexachrome, and your package [contained], let’s say, fruits and vegetables, you’d have very vivid greens, very bright reds and oranges,” says Gwen Granzow, vice president and creative director at Design North.
7. Use a specialty substrate. Part of saving money on a project is spending it judiciously. If you choose packaging with an appealing surface, that’s half the battle for an elegant look. Holographic substrates, for example, are expensive but carry a lot of impact for the dollar. It’s not even necessary in some cases to spend a lot to get a specialty substrate. Kraft paper, for example, can impart a wholesome, “natural” look at very little cost.
8. Use a specialty label. In a 180-degree reversal of the previous tip, using a stock container and concentrating your budget on the label can give maximum shelf impact for minimal expenditure. It’s not even necessary to spend a lot on the label to do something unique with it. Rosemont Wines, for example, tips its labels at a 45-degree angle for an eye-catching graphic presentation.
“You can get cartons that are almost any shape and size, and a lot of different paper stocks as well, and then just print a very small, simple label-have it run over the top or something-kind of like a stamp-so you can save money by not having to print the outer carton at all,” Granzow says.
9. Make things clear. Clear film labels are a good, inexpensive way to mimic more expensive techniques like foil-stamp or silk-screen container decoration. They work especially well when the product is an appealing color. “That one’s pretty much a no-brainer,” Granzow says. “With any category, you name it, it’s there.” It’s especially developed for beverages.
10. Play the match game. Another way to exploit an appealing or vivid color is to match it with label graphics. For example, a ruby shade the same tint as cranberry juice can give the impression of expensive die-cut labeling.
11. Subtlety gets attention. Many premium products use tone-on-tone color schemes, such as robin, sky and navy blue. This establishes brand identity and stands out on shelves crowded with multicolor graphics. Judicious use of specialty finishes like mattes or varnishes can be a great way to get attention, too.
12. Use “fresh” colors. Consumers associate certain colors with freshness. “We’re talking about starting with white as the background and then using bright accent colors like orange, lime green, bright blues,” Granzow says. She cited Nestlé’s Lean Cuisine Spa Meals frozen dinners, which feature white backgrounds, turquoise borders and bright colors, as a good example.
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