With the millions of different products now available to consumers, great packaging design is becoming ever more crucial to ensure that your product stands out from the crowd.

Consumers do not often consider packaging in a particularly deep and meaningful way. For a consumer, packaging needs to be functional, communicate what is inside the pack and transport the product from A to B without any spillage. However, brands know packaging is an element of their products that can really delight consumers, and can be what makes — or breaks — the product at home and in a retail setting.

Your pack is also one of the key touchpoints between your brand and the consumer. Whether the consumer realizes it or not, the pack is a tool that communicates your brand values and creates the essential emotional connection needed in order to create a sense of brand loyalty.


It is becoming clear that consumers are feeling overwhelmed by choice. Marketing and sales messages are everywhere we look, and we no longer have to visit a physical store in order to purchase goods or services. Traditional advertising media such as TV advertising, billboards, in-store POS and print ads are now augmented by messaging on social media, in online retail and on our news feeds. Achieving cut-through in all of these media, as well as at store level is a huge challenge.

In a world where a consumer can choose from 50 different types of biscuit, simplicity is essential: Your initial pack design may be beautiful and conceptual, but to sell the product it also needs to be easy to spot, while enabling the shopper to understand the product and make an informed purchase. Simple, clear messaging, clear branding and solid functionality will always stand out in a bewilderingly complex marketplace. Simplicity is also crucial when consumers are using images on social media to share their likes and dislikes. Simple pack designs and clear messaging will come across well on-screen as well as in a store environment, communicating your brand values and product attributes to the digital audience and to the shopper.


However, what might not be so simple are the hoops that your smart, simple design has to jump through in order to eventually end up in store.

In an increasingly brand-centric world, product packaging has become a key part of the marketing and sales armoury. In practice, this means that a large number of stakeholders will have a say in the eventual pack design. In large organizations, this means that the pack design process involves collaboration between a variety of teams, and globalization means that these teams might be based in different international locations.

Given the number of interested parties is increasing, it is becoming more challenging for pack designers to create visibility of prototype designs across teams. Each stakeholder will need to assess different pack design options, providing comment and critique from their own perspective, before a final concept can be agreed. So how can savvy packaging designers stay ahead of the “pack” in this type of collaboration without blowing the design budget on expensive prototypes and multi-country design consultations?


More and more design teams are turning towards 3D digital images as the answer to the collaboration question. In order to ensure real buy-in for a design, the concept materials need to create a real wow factor and an emotional connection. Using a 2D picture to achieve this aim can often leave the concept seeming flat and lifeless, while prototyping a design can be expensive, and therefore only an option for shortlisted concepts.

3D dynamic visuals can bring life to your design without the added expense. Many designers are discovering that 3D rendered comps are the next best thing to physical comps, with the added advantage that 3D animations can be adapted to showcase how packaging will look under different lighting or shelving conditions.

Rather than having to prototype your product in different materials, 3D interactive designs are already able to mimic the finish and colour of different substrates. Recent innovations have also featured 3D animations of a liquid being poured from a container, to enable the viewer to assess the functionality of the pack design, as well as experience the tint and viscosity of the liquid product.

3D digital animations allow design teams to share concepts with multi-country, specialist teams at the click of a mouse. Animation software add-ons such as interactive tagging promote dynamic discussion around specific design features: stakeholders can mark features of interest on a design and tag them with comments, inviting other collaborators to respond.
An extra benefit of creating a 3D mock-up of a design concept is that it can be assessed in different situations, meaning that the design team have a clear view of how the pack concept performs in all of the different contexts in which a consumer is likely to find it: in-store, in-home and on-screen.


The challenges: A traditional packaging design process can involve creating mock-ups of new concepts for face-to-face research with consumers. Such research can be expensive, especially if conducted across several markets, as can creating the comps required.

The digital solution: Using 3D visual software means that much of the packaging research process can now be conducted online. This can be cost-effective for brands when they need to understand how different concepts perform on core consumer metrics, including likelihood to buy, stand-out at fixture and visual appeal. An added advantage is that multi-country studies or consultations can be completed quickly and easily, with no need for complicated logistics. 3D visual software companies such as ConceptSauce offer solutions that are easy and quick to deploy and simple to adapt to different markets. ConceptSauce’s software is cloud-based and runs in a browser, with no plugins required.

Sophisticated 3D product animations can now help to bring a product to life on screen, allowing consumers a more authentic experience of the pack design. The viewer can rotate and spin the packs, to view them from all angles and it is even possible to simulate practical pack features, such as the open/ close mechanism. Recent work has even included rendering the actual product in 3D, including how liquids would “pour” out of bottles. Participants really enjoy being able to “play” with the 3D visuals, which can also create some positive energy around your brand.

Using digital imaging to display new concepts to consumers has the added advantage of “heat map” functionality. Consumers can click on elements that they like or dislike and the software creates a visual output to show which areas of your concept appeal to the consumer, and which could let your design down. Consumers can also tag and comment on those elements in more detail to give you valuable insights into the “why” behind their likes and dislikes. This allows the design teams to drill down deeper into specific elements of the pack design, and can also help brand teams to assess whether the pack design is communicating their brand values in the right way.

3D visuals can also be used as part of a virtual retail environment, such as ConceptSauce’s Liveplano software. Tasking consumers to “walk through” a virtual store and “shop” a specific category gives insights into how a pack design works in situ, without needing in-store research. Using a virtual tool allows researchers to time how long it takes for consumers spot your pack on shelf, to give you a measure for how well it performs on stand-out in a retail environment. Advanced API technology means that accessing individual respondents’ data is quick and easy, so that we can track each consumer’s actions at the virtual shelf fixture.

Main benefits: Using 3D tools for packaging research lets design teams benefit from real-time reporting and instant feedback. Multi-country research can be conducted simultaneously.


3D visuals and animations are a cost-effective alternative to creating numerous mock-ups of pack concepts, and the agility of digital tools means that brands and designers can benefit from faster turnaround from pack concept to final design. The speed and cost-effectiveness of these technologies may eventually lead to changes in the way that the pack design process works, allowing for more dynamic collaboration internally as well as shorter, faster bursts of consumer research from the outset, rather than a large expensive research programme research nearer the end of the design cycle.