How to review designs – according to our packaging designer

5 min reading time

When designing packaging, the devil’s usually in the details. Take a cereal box, for example. Your customer is used to opening it from the top and then finding a plastic bag. Now, imagine the following scenario:

You decide to aid your customer and eliminate the bag, integrating a simple side-opening. Super-convenient and cheaper too! Except, you’ve forgotten one thing: to provide clear instructions on top of the box, redirecting them to the side opening.

The result? Your time-strapped customer struggles to open the box from the top, ends up angrily ripping it and … after an unusually hasty breakfast still sees the doors of his train close right before his eyes. Do you think he will buy your cereal again?

Just to say: keeping your end-consumer in mind is absolutely vital when designing packaging. Sadly, in my extensive experience as a designer, it’s something a lot of my clients seem to forget, favouring whatever option is more economical – a strategy that will cost you in the end.

Want to avoid similar scenarios? After delivering a perfectly clear design brief and letting us do our work, a thorough review of your packaging concepts is essential. I would highly recommend (a combination of) the following methods:

  1. Internal screening
  2. Consumer panel
  3. A/B testing

1. Start with a structured internal screening

First of all: take stock of the different types of packaging you’re currently using. Is there anything you can do to improve them? For example, you could make packaging more cost-efficient by eliminating empty space.

If you offer e-commerce services, test the sturdiness of the material to avoid returns. And does your packaging comply to Amazon’s new, stricter guidelines?

Are you developing new packaging? Even if your customer is already familiar with the product, an internal screening is in order. Set up a meeting with everyone involved (from marketing to designers) and make sure you can :

  • Is your packaging easy to open and (re-)use?
  • Is your packaging easy to spot in-store?
  • Is your packaging easy to dispose of or recycle?
  • Is your packaging as eco-friendly as possible?
  • Is your packaging scalable (i.e. can you use it for similar products, for example)?
  • Is your packaging adapted to the market (e.g. packaging for the UK market will be vastly different from packaging for the Chinese market)?
  • Does your packaging clearly communicate your brand message?
  • Does your packaging respect the brand identity (i.e. does it use traditional brand colours and fonts)?
  • Does your packaging provide clear information about its contents?

In retail, clearly communicating on outer packaging, as well as point-of-sale (POS) and shelf-ready-packaging (SRP) is a must, for two main reasons:

  1. Providing clear information saves time in warehouses and stockrooms. If a store clerk can’t find a product he or she needs to re-stock quickly enough, vital seconds are lost where shelves might be sitting empty and no product is sold.
  2. Visual cues on POS and SRP-packaging draw your customers in and help them to identify your product faster in-store. In retail, it’s all about being seen. If you’re selling crisps, make sure your secondary packaging states the flavour (salt and vinegar? paprika?) and type (waffled or regular?). Baby food? Highlight the age-group it’s targeting.

2. The value of an objective consumer panel

Getting together a consumer panel is a great way to find out if your packaging doesn’t send the wrong message, or fails to do what it should do.

The important thing to keep in mind here, however, is that a survey like this could be rather subjective. Be mindful not to ‘prompt’ consumers by asking them suggestive questions.

For example, asking consumers about a certain colour could make them focus specifically on that and steer them away from having a spontaneous reaction to the overall design. A better question would be: “Is it clear what this packaging is for?”

3. Testing – if you don’t know, now you know

In my view, A/B testing is the best possible way to review your packaging. I can’t stress it enough: if you’re launching a new product, considering a rebranding or having trouble with a product that’s not selling as it should be, A/B testing is the first thing you should do.

After all, it’s no because you and your designer feel like your slick new packaging is the bee’s knees, your customers will too. The truth is: even a minor change in the position of the logo might result in either a major drop or a significant increase in sales.

Take fruit juice brand Tropicana, for example. In 2009, they lost about 50 million dollars due to a packaging redesign that took a more ‘modern’ approach:

Tropicana’s packaging redesign

Image source: The Branding Journal

Just to say – monitoring sales of different types of packaging is the only way to objectively find out which works best. Doing your research, will reward you in the end: numbers speak louder than words!

The good news is that now, with digital printing, it’s easier than ever. Whereas with traditional printing start-up costs are high and setting plates can be time-consuming, digital printing is quick and flexible ­– making it perfect for short runs. That means you actually don’t need to limit yourself to A and B, but can easily test from A to Z.

My recommendation? Focus on consumers first

Remember that these days, it’s all about offering an enhanced user experience. Think of your packaging as an extension of your brand, a canvas to play around with and discover new ways to connect, engage and convince your customer.

To recap, 3 important things to consider when reviewing packaging concepts:

  1. Do your homework before launching any new packaging.
  2. Always, always keep the customer in mind.
  3. Use trustworthy testing methods to find out what works (and what doesn’t).

Curious to see how we can transform your packaging to make it more sustainable?

Book a visit at our Impact Centre to see what’s possible.

Carlos Díaz
Carlos Díaz Concept Designer

About the expert

Carlos deals with packaging in several different levels, from running co-creation workshops with multidisciplinary groups, to developing packs that tackle today’s (and tomorrow’s) challenges. Sustainability, eCommerce, brand DNA, user experience, and shelf impact, are some of the fields that make his day to day design practice.