Packaging as a Channel of Communication

Three principles of the best packaging for the food industry

Article image

When we choose from two identical products at the same price, we will usually choose the one with the best packaging. But what does “the best” mean? To answer this question, our studio engaged in a series of interviews of some 600 people in order to understand their responses to product packaging and to find innovative solutions that would improve the experience for the consumer.

For the purpose of this article, I will use examples related to the food industry to illustrate what we found that people were most bothered by: inconvenience in opening the product, a lack of information, poor design and bad materials.

As a consequence, this research project led us to the development of three basic principles, which guide us in our work for the design of product packaging.

The first principal is convenience

If the product needs to be tested before purchase, it should be visible as well as able to be handled. For example, if you are interested in buying a new skillet for your kitchen, you want to be able to hold it in your hands in order to see whether it will be convenient to use. But manufacturers often make the mistake of over-packaging these kinds of products in layers of unnecessary materials, which make them impossible to see and touch. You need to break open the package to get to what’s inside, and you may lose the desire to buy it in the process.

Thus, the tactile experience is very important and in this sense a certain minimalism with respect to how the product is packaged is essential.

In addition, convenience also implies reusability. For instance, a chocolate bar should be able to be opened and closed several times. To do this, you can use locks or tabs, which should be functional and correctly labeled.

The second principle is clear communication

A competent, concise layout is an important component and implies that you can easily see the logo and in the case of food packaging be able to read the ingredients.

The front of  the best packaging of food products should not include too much information—it is better to specify only the most important aspects—and on the back side there should be specific information that is succinctly formulated to convey the benefits of the product as well as more technical information, such as nutritional qualities, calorie content, tables with energy values, and so on.

The design creates a certain image and honesty is very relevant to the principle of clear communication. The image must match what’s inside.

The third principle is form and composition

The overall form is a priority that plays a significant role in how the product is positioned in the consumer’s mind. Shapes and colors create associations and therefore must be carefully considered. However, the composition is even more important because the balance of elements creates a framework for the design solution.

Thinking on the best design for kitchen utensils.
Visual and tactile experiences are vital when buying kitchen utensils. Photo Karolina Grabowska/Pexels

Finally, the other determining issue is related to the production and the cost of production. Clients are often concerned about the amount of investment in R & D: how quickly this will pay off, what is the minimum batch when ordering packaging, the timing of its production, and what is the proportion of its cost in the overall price of the product.

They are also beginning to track the life cycle of packaging—the life of their product in the package—in terms of logistics and sales. They monitor whether there is damage or loss and think about how to avoid it or how to fix it. Moreover, they are sensitive to the concerns of consumers with respect to the environment meaning that in addition to eschewing over-packaging they must be mindful of the use of sustainable materials.

The most advanced manufacturers study how consumers interact with packaging and what goals it will help them achieve. Research and design practices are already being used here, such as Jobs-to-be-Done (an approach that helps you understand what motivates customers to buy a product), design thinking, and others.

Let’s go back to the thesis we started with: we will choose the product that has the best packaging, all other things being equal. In the food industry, better product packaging means that it has more useful features or these have been implemented at a higher level; that it has a more convenient design, is more attractive, and that manages to better communicate its qualities over other similar products, resulting in a deeper connection with the consumer.

Main image: A detailed study of product design and packaging can result in a deep connection with the consumer. Photo Starpup Stock Photos /Pexels

Highlighted articles in Eye on Design

Subscribe to our newsletter