How Do We Choose What We Eat?

The interaction of graphic design and packaging with the subconscious

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Years ago, when I went shopping with my parents, I used to look at everything through the innocent eyes of a child: cookies, milk and even pasta. I enjoyed playing with the most striking products, which had shapes that stood out from the rest. Without realizing it, I started appreciating packaging design without even knowing what it was. Once I became aware of it, I understood why the Happy Meal box was so much fun or why the bottle of wine my parents bought had such an understated look. I became increasingly interested in the packaging and its effect on people, and how it influences consumers to choose products depending on their appearance.

Packaging design has evolved over the years and there are increasingly more firms and designers daring to come up with fresh ideas that haven’t been tried before by experimenting with openings, shapes and seals, as well as new materials.

From the emblematic graphic design and logo that identify Campbell’s soup cans to today’s innovative designs, a framework made up of artistic and technological elements has been constantly developing. Today, a meticulous style—characterized by a neat, impeccable and flawless appearance—is the preferred choice.

Some examples of packaging of food industry in recent years.
Some examples of the food industry packaging design in recent years. Photo Mikechie Esparagoza/Pexels

Clients need information and honesty, always combined with the sensations evoked by the product and its first impression. The design of the packaging—both the formal shape of the container and the graphic design—is responsible for all these emotions being positive and designers are the ones in charge of conceptualizing it.

Designers are the link between the company and the image of the product; they are the ones who turn intangible concepts into a tangible product: the ideas, values and knowledge acquired from the company need to be transformed into products, labels and packaging. That concept requires an approach based on an understanding of the company’s philosophy by designers; they need to delve into the company’s roots and use creativity to achieve their goal.

How to understand the market to enter it

Packaging requires a strategic and creative exercise and designers have graphic tools that help them during the entire process. However, a previous methodology is required in order to  study the users, their tastes and interests.

It is essential not to lose sight of the first image of the product on the shelf, called “facing,” that is, the global image we perceive of the packaging. An example of this would be the La Brava cava bottles of Bulldog Studio, with a predominance of the Mediterranean style, providing an attractive image to the user; and the Caravelle beer can from Hey Studio, which allows for the differentiation of the brand’s six types of beer, recreating the seasons and times of the day.

Graphic design plays a fundamental role in this process. It is possible to connect with the target audience by knowing how to mix colors, shapes and typefaces, among other elements. This search for a connection between consumer and design is what we know as “coolhunting,” the discipline that detects and analyzes current trends, providing designers with the necessary tools to convey these sensations and experiences.

Visual textures, varnishes or photography are some of the resources used in the graphic design of packaging. The combination of these techniques allows for the persuasion of consumers by attracting them according to market trends.

Being aware of health and sustainability

The interests of society have changed over the last few decades. From childhood on, parents are concerned about GMOs in their children’s food or about the sustainability of food and packaging, as well as the recycling of the latter. In recent years, increasingly more people have been concerned about palm oil in many products or glutamate in potato chips, and for this reason we want the packaging to be an extension of food, informing us of the traceability, content and nutritional values of what we eat.

Proximity products are gaining ground in the food industry and since the design of the packaging is the first contact with the consumer, it is an opportunity to communicate the advantages of these natural and ecological products by using biodegradable and recyclable materials.



No packaging for zero waste.
Zero waste and the circular economy, the future of packaging. Photo Ella Olsson/Pexels

Achieving zero waste is a key point of reference, which can be achieved through the circular economy, using food itself or its waste as natural wrapping or raw material. The new, intelligent and edible materials developed today are allowing innovations and research in the sector by focusing the objective on the global sustainability of packaging.

As consumers are becoming increasingly interested in issues related to the environment, the design of packaging plays an important role in guiding people towards products aligned with these values. Technological advances, the expertise of contemporary designers, and their training in observing the needs of users will allow us to enjoy packaging that communicates the concern and complicity between companies and consumers regarding the health of people and the planet, in addition to providing information on food, its protection and conservation.


Main image: The study of consumer tastes and interests is key to understanding the market. Photo Fauxels/Pexels


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