Packaging Assignment

September 2014

It has been a very long time since my last post...

So to get back on track, I am posting an article I wrote about packaging. It was a requirement for one of my units for the Diploma I am doing. If anyone out there in the universe would like to give me some feedback that would be great!

What is packaging, a vessel/container to put a product in?
For the most part, packaging is about enclosing and/or protecting products for sale or use. If we want to sell a product, one very important part is the design of the packaging. Why is it important? The design of the packaging is important because it needs to inform the consumer and sell the product.

Packaging has become such an integral part of consumerism that the boundaries of designing packaging are becoming endless. The shape, the size and material used are only limited by the designer’s imagination. In a lot of cases, there are limitations with our clients.  They will often choose a bag size or label size or sealing type because it’s cost-effective.  As time goes by, more innovative packaging becomes available.  

So what does the future hold for packaging? According to ARIEL SCHWARTZ from “In the future, you will eat your food packaging and it will be delicious”. Now that’s something to get very excited about. Not only will the consumer save by not spending money on packaging that will ultimately be tossed out, but it will be something they can enjoy as much as the product itself. Since the product won’t be tossed out and will be consumed, it will solve one of the most prominent problems of the 21st century which is waste and landfill. But will this type of packaging become a hygiene issue for the consumer? “There have been edible materials in Japan for years – I remember eating one in about 1990.  The reason it’s not widespread, is because as soon as a shopkeeper touches the material, it’s contaminated and can’t be eaten – hence the use of outer packaging.” said Brad Stock, Director of Brisbane-based packaging designers Creative Passion.

Alan Blake, executive director, PAC NEXT says that “people will actually start appreciating the inherent value of packaging and the pivotal role it plays in promoting, protecting and preserving products.” This would be very exciting news for packaging designers, to know that the future for the packaging industry will not only have a very lengthy lifespan but also a strong one. This statement is backed up by Oliver Campbell, director of procurement, packaging, Dell, who says that “The rapid rate of innovation within packaging will continue and will strengthen. Packaging will be one of the best industries in which to build a career. It's a great place to be!”

Innovation is something companies are going to need to think big about if they want to keep up with the future trends in packaging. Innovations such as Fantastic Forms; this is all about the packaging taking on exciting new and unique forms. These unique shapes will make products stand out from their competition on the shelf, meet the consumer’s needs and help solve problems.

Another large trend will be environmentally friendly packaging. As stated earlier, one possibility is to eat the packaging. Other options include products that could be recycled. Packaging that will be non-toxic to the environment. Manufacturing of the packaging to achieve sustainability, such as transportation, water and energy use and simply reducing material required are some ways is one way to achieve overall sustainability.

Convenience has been and still will be a large influence on packaging. The ability for a consumer to find the product they are looking for quickly is more important than ever. The time conscious 21st century consumer has an abundance of distractions, therefore a product they can select within seconds is very important. 

“Not all manufacturers can afford marketing campaigns including \ TV, radio and print” said Brad Stock, Director of Brisbane-based packaging designers Creative Passion.  “Many of our customers rely on the packaging to help attract and convince consumers that their products are more worthy than their competitors.” 

Affordability like convenience is an important element. To be able to design cost effective packaging will influence the overall price of the product and will be a large deciding factor for the consumer on whether they will buy the product or not.

QR codes are becoming popular due to the digital age. The most fantastic feature about QR codes is the ability for the consumer to have instant access to product information. They are relatively cheap to create and don’t intrude on packaging designs. The QR code could be instrumentally a packaging feature in itself. It has the ability to provide more information/marketing that wasn’t possible to do on the product’s packaging.  “I personally love QR codes.  I don’t think any major brands have included QR scanners as part of their operating systems, so people have to download an App.  The global uptake of QR codes is currently restricted by phone manufacturers.” said Brad Stock, Director of Brisbane-based packaging designers Creative Passion.

Minimalism maybe an aesthetic design appreciated by Gen Y consumers, but it also stands for sustainability. It’s all about reducing the amount of packaging on the product. Minimalism is a trend which is unlikely to go away.

The handmade aesthetic is being seen everywhere, not only in packaging. The reason this appeals so much to the consumer is because it gives them the sense of having bought a one-off handmade item. It also lends itself to being from a time that was much simpler than today, this is something most consumers crave and miss. But this is only likely to appeal in certain industries.

Current innovations include plastics which include compounds which increase the longevity of vitamin bottles.  Hopefully this kind of technology will extend into other packaging. 

Other possible trends could include single servings; products that could be consumed on the go without the use for utensils. Radio-frequency identification chips in food products to determine the use by date of food preventing less waste.

To be able to design wonderful packaging on trend, the designer will need to have at least a degree in graphic design. Studying marketing, sustainability and commerce will be a large benefit also.

Software applications used in packaging design are usually Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. Learning to use most or all of these would be a must. Some companies ask that applicants know how to use other applications such as CAD, Entourage, SAP, Palletisation and Traffic software. Artistic and creative skills are necessary if you want to do well in designing packaging. The ability to produce hand-drawn sketches and to be competent in photography is also must. Working well under tight deadlines is essential for all designers – including packaging designers. Strong interpersonal skills are also important as packaging designers work with accountants and business professionals to ensure they create cost-effective packaging that will meet the consumer’s demands. Packaging designers also work with copywriters, marketing experts and other designers to meet branding requirements.The ability to combine typography, graphics and other design elements is a large part of designing packaging.

So how does someone get these skills to become a packaging designer? First step would be completing a diploma in graphic design. This could be achieved by attending a university or a design school. Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign would be learnt there as too the ability to combine typography, graphics and other design elements. Other applications such as Microsoft Word, Excel, Entourage, SAP, Palletisation and Traffic software could be taken as a small course or learnt from an online tutorial. Another option would be to learn during your first job placement.

Although the word ‘packaging’ maybe a dirty word to some consumers these days, the future looks bright for packaging designers. The exciting prospect of finding new solutions for reducing the amount of packaging and changing the design with complete new concepts has become fully embraced by designers. This has made the packaging industry stronger and will continue for many years to come.

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