5 Rules of Packaging Design

(And How to Break Them)

Packaging is no longer a simple means to distribute goods; it’s now a complete marketing tool. Since all products require some form of packaging, you might as well make the design work for you! If you’re new to the process, we have five solid packaging design rules to get you started on your next custom box…and a few loopholes, too.

1. Know Your Priorities

The first thing you should do when starting on a new design is determine the most important goals for said design to accomplish. Do you want to draw in new clients? Show off your goods? Maybe boost your brand? These things will allow you to create a hierarchy for other things within the design.

For example, set a focal point on your package by enlarging or carefully positioning an image and then drawing the eye to it with lines and color. If you set a font hierarchy, too, the eye will automatically categorize larger words as broader/more important and guide the reader from there. Pick what you want to showcase, and let everything else become secondary.

On the other hand…

Sometimes, it’s better to simply play around with things and see where your experimentation takes you! You might discover that leaving out a focal point opens up the entire surface of the package for information, or that hiding the logo in the background (like as a watermark, for example) can ultimately serve your packaging goals better. Even sneaking important things into inside print rather than showing them off with arrows and lights can create a surprise factor with a lasting impact.

2. Keep It Clean

If there’s too much going on, your audience will simply get overwhelmed and not give your packaging the attention it deserves. Fonts should be legible and there should be the right amount of negative space to cut down on the visual clutter. A tidy design means the eye will have to work less, and clients can focus on the quality rather than sorting out what’s going on with the design.

At a certain point, though, cleanliness can get boring. If you fill in white space with texture that is either chunky or fine, you can essentially create a “neutral” background that is fun even if it isn’t necessarily clean. Deliberately adding graphics to appear crooked and misaligning fonts can create focal points or create a more organic “perfectly imperfect” appearance.

3. Keep It Consistent

Consistency is another way to reduce chaos and make sure your customers are seeing what you want them to see. Stick with a font scheme, and research a bit of color theory to set a palette for your brand and your design. Generally speaking, repeating certain elements throughout your design will reinforce the presence of your brand while creating visual patterns that audiences can rely on to cut down on distraction.

Some audiences, however, are easily bored with consistency! You can break this rule by picking one or two elements, say color, to remain consistent while you play with others. Seasonal packaging is another example of how change can serve a bigger pattern. If your audience gets a kick out of the unexpected, cultivate your unpredictability on purpose. We’ve all seen those soda bottles that have different fan-submitted pictures on the label, right? It’s fun! The best way to be inconsistent, after all, is to be…well, consistently inconsistent.

4. Keep It Quality

Whatever graphics, images, fonts, or colors you use, make sure you pick the best quality among your options. High-resolution images and clean lines can make a big difference in how seriously audiences take your design. This extends to materials, too, and customers take note when something comes in an easily-repurposed package versus something that will go regrettably, but instantly, into recycling.

Unless, of course, your audience is the type to take pride in no-frills, lowest-possible cost types of packaging, but you need to be absolutely sure this applies to you. On top of that, deliberately-blurred images and pixelated graphics can be exaggerated to the point of looking artistic and quirky rather than lazy, and blurred/watermark style fonts can essentially fulfill the same role as a pattern when used to texture the background.

5. Keep It Interesting

Whatever your design goals might be, you want to make sure your packaging is engaging your clients on a level they can’t easily dismiss. Textured backgrounds are an easy way to keep your packaging interesting, but the best thing you can do is to know your audience. Understand what they like to look at and let their aesthetic guide your choices, and they’ll keep coming back for more.

On the flip side, sometimes simplicity is the most interesting choice. Monochromatic palettes stand out, and you can always be surprised by how audience’s tastes change. If you want to appeal to a broader audience or simply anticipate changing trends among your current one, embrace change! Sometimes, audiences don’t know they like something until they see it.

Here at BoxUp, we’ve seen almost everything when it comes to packaging, but only almost! Have a great example of how you’ve taken a packaging design rule and broken it successfully? Reach out and let us know! We love to see what you come up with here or via PinterestFacebook or Instagram.

Get started on your next packaging design today!