Designing Inspired Packages for the Masses
Creating packaging is an art. The package must be beautiful, functional and represent a brand’s identity. Satisfying these three needs is a major part of package design. The missing piece is actually manufacturing this nice-looking, functional image of your brand. We see packages every day that are attractive yet completely unable to be manufactured on a large scale.
As designers, it is our goal to bring innovation to the masses. We do this by marrying creativity and functionality, so consumers can enjoy inspired products that make life better or easier. Designing for the masses often comes with the challenge to please everyone. We know that locating the sweet spot between what is imaginable and what is manufacturable can be a challenging place to find, but it is where really spectacular things happen.
What inspires us? Everything. We are creatives — we can draw inspiration from pretty much anything. The sky shows us shapes and light, and the ground provides deeper hues and texture. Travel introduces new smells and sounds. For us, routine trips to the grocery store can be a true adventure. We are always on the lookout for new solutions to the unmet needs in our lives. How we channel that creativity toward the line that dances between concept and feasibility is what separates us. We filter all those ideas with our experience in delivering designs for manufacturing.
What is a successful package design? A product that includes design elements, functionality, incorporates ease of production and moves seamlessly through the supply chain is the ideal. For starters, packaging must accurately represent its brand. Efficiency does not rule all package design; if it did, every package would be a metal can. If the package of the product does not reflect the brand, consumers may become confused, and the brand could experience damage. Similarly, without functionality, packaging would be difficult to use by consumers and could cause frustration. Packaging also has to work for the manufacturer, aligning with its equipment to run millions of parts efficiently and effectively.
A package has to make it through the supply chain without major hiccups, something mindful designers have spent years perfecting. Believe it or not, trimming an orifice by millimeters can often cut valuable time off manufacturing speeds. Removing mere ounces from a finished product can allow manufacturers to move their products out the door faster while using less energy and resources in production. The little things can often make a big difference.
BRINGING IT TO LIFE
Bringing innovation to the masses isn’t easy, but it is possible with the right mix of creativity and packaging expertise.
The pie-in-the-sky designs are easy to spot. It’s human nature to crave beautiful things, pleasing to the eye and senses. Successful design blends beauty and utility in a way that your next walk down the grocery aisle leaves you free to try new, exciting products instead of spotting a $50 container of dishwashing liquid that might be attractive but will never leave the shelf. It is important to not only consider the cost of the item, but the way it functions after the consumer takes it home. Just as a package cannot be too expensive, it also cannot have poor function. These examples seem like no-brainers but are often overlooked when trying to design the perfect package.
Now that the imperfections of packaging have been brought to the surface, it is important to identify the packaging successes. The industry was abuzz with the introductions of products like Heinz’s Dip & Squeeze ketchup packaging, Target’s ClearRx prescription vials and K-Cups. These were all deemed “out of-the-box innovations” when they launched. However, if you try to find the commonality among them all, it is simple — each of these packages is solving a basic consumer pain point. Ketchup packets were hard to dispense; prescription bottles were difficult to open, offered little room for labeling and were often confusing; and, making a pot of coffee was a lot of work for just one cup. We have found that simple is good, and sometimes the best solutions were right in front of you the whole time.
A PACKAGING SUCCESS
So how do we start? We start at the beginning, of course — with dozens of ideas, ranging from close-in to a little crazy. The beginning is rough and undefined, but with a little imagination and a targeted approach, these ideas go from concepts to reality.
A great example of packaging done right is Skippy Singles. The package is used to enhance shelf presence with its premium decoration, but it also fits into existing filling equipment, utilizes existing manufacturing technologies and enhances the user experience. Packaging is so much more than just protecting the product and looking nice on the shelf. Throughout the design process, Skippy experimented with several concepts for its new Singles product — some were too simple, others over-engineered. Finding the balance between boring and overdone is where Skippy Singles succeeds. How can we take a favorite snack and make it transportable? You make it smaller but still easy to use. Skippy has used this package to get into lunch boxes, backpacks, desk drawers and diaper bags. What a simple solution: The user experience is truly unique and enhanced through the ability to take his or her snack of choice on the go.
The high-quality in-mold label provides a premium look and still allows shoppers to see through the canister to the individual packets inside. Though in-mold label technology is not necessarily new, the decoration is a perfect fit for the Skippy Singles package. By using in-mold label technology, the brand was able to decorate nearly every inch of the packaging while still providing shoppers a viewing window on the front and side. Remember, packaging should be both beautiful and functional. Skippy Singles excels at these attributes.
A second example of great packaging is Yum! Brands’ KFC Go Cup. The cup gives people who snack in cars the freedom to put their food safely in the cup holder. Food eaten in the car has frequently been limited to burgers and sandwiches, but this package allows KFC-goers to snack on hot foods on the go. Like the Skippy package, the KFC Go Cup utilizes existing manufacturing technologies and satisfies the yearning for more innovation in the category. This patented design has done well for KFC and even received the social media hashtag of #GoCupGo, where Instagram users posted photos of their KFC Go Cups online. This cup has created a new campaign for KFC that otherwise would not have existed without the package.
Few know the challenge to produce one perfect package, and even fewer understand the struggle to manufacture it perfectly millions of times. Designing to lessen this struggle is where industrial design for packaging plays a critical role. Consumers might not realize how great design and efficiencies go hand-in-hand, but one simply cannot survive without the other. Today’s consumers expect more than ever from their packaging. When it comes to designing for the masses, it’s all about finding balance to satisfy the needs of the consumer and the client.