How to Design Product Packaging: 15+ Expert Product Packaging Design Tips

Want to design product packaging that jumps off the shelf? These industry experts share their top product packaging design tips, tricks & advice.

How to Design Product Packaging: 15+ Expert Product Packaging Design Tips
Portrait for Kelsie RimmerBy Kelsie Rimmer  |  Updated September 5, 2022

hanks to the increase in ecommerce driven by the COVID 19 pandemic, the product packaging industry is experiencing a creative boom. With today’s customization tools and digital printing solutions, brands now have endless product packaging options to choose from. And with packaging design trends including everything from gradients and holographic colors to pack-vertising and sustainable packaging, the sky’s the limit. But how do you choose the perfect packaging design for your product? 

With 70% of consumers forming their impression of a brand based on its packaging, there’s no denying that your product packaging choices can have a big impact on customer experience and satisfaction. Whether you’re designing your packaging for functionality and practicality or creativity and innovation, it’s super important to know your audience’s preferences, needs and values, and design your packaging accordingly. 

Ready to learn how to wrap your products up in the perfect package? We’ve called on a range of industry experts to share their top product packaging design tips, tricks and advice. Enjoy!

Kristy Campbell

CEO of Pink Pony Creative

Kristy Campbell - CEO of Pink Pony Creative

1. Think about the whole package

Great packaging design is about combining beautiful colors, typography and photography. When you’re creating packaging for a specific audience, everything needs to have a purpose. It’s also crucial to think about how that product will look on a shelf (if it’s being sold in store) or how it will look online and stand out from its competitors. Maybe it’s through the use of bold typography or daring color choices. Think, “Why am I making these choices and what’s their purpose?” 

2. Do a test print

This is KEY when it comes to packaging design. Before printing thousands, test the print, mock it up, and make sure all of your design choices are right, e.g. ensure the font size is correct, the colors are well thought-out, etc. Also think about additional printing techniques that could make the packaging come alive. Maybe it’s a holographic foil, embossed wording or spot UV –  this can make your design go from good to excellent.

It’s a really proud moment to see your packaging design come to life and hold the end result in your hands as a physical product. It’s even better when it’s mass produced and you get to see thousands of them!

Morice Kastoun

Freelance Product Packaging Designer

Morice Kastouun - Freelance Product Packaging Designer

3. Think of packaging as problem solving

There’s an expectation to come up with a packaging solution that is both unique and appeals to the market or category you’re designing for. This is also the most rewarding part – it’s satisfying finding the solution to the ‘problem’. Simply determine what problem you want the packaging to solve, then design it to execute this. 

4. Know your category 

I can’t stress enough how important it is to know the category you’re working in. Do an audit of your competitors to determine what they’re doing and why. What brand assets, such as colors, shapes, or image styles, do they use? This will help you understand what to stay away from and highlight opportunities not already being capitalized on within your category to ensure that the product stands out.

Packaging design is so different and liberating. It enables me to utilize strengths, such as illustration and drawing, and gives my work a lot more exposure. It’s amazing seeing my work in pubs or on supermarket shelves.

James Tait

Print Production Manager at The Sticker Company

James Tait - Print Production Manager at The Sticker Company

5. Keep a tight brief

My top packaging design tip is to keep a tight brief. Whether it’s coming from a client or not, make sure you ask as many questions as you can to establish exactly what they want and make it more fun. At least for me, a tight brief is where the magic happens.

6. Catch your customers’ attention

To catch your customers’ attention, you need to make sure that your packaging stands out against the rest. You have more than color schemes and a square box at your disposal – think about printing techniques, laminates, embossing, white print, and textures. If a competing product uses a glossy laminate, go for a matte laminate. These small things will differentiate your product and redirect your customer’s focus when shopping in highly saturated markets.

I love the problem-solving aspect of package design. Not only is it an opportunity to flex ideas and come up with creative solutions, but it’s also an opportunity to create and manufacture something that no one else has made before.

Phil Forbes

Senior Marketer at Packhelp

Phil Forbes - Senior Marketer at Packhelp

7. Make the most of your packaging

Packaging is more than a box – you can also use mailer bags, inserts, cardboard tubes, jiffy bags, stand up pouches, envelopes. Don’t default to a box. The type of packaging you use says as much about your brand as the design you put on it. 

Also, use all the surfaces of your packaging. When someone opens a box to see the product, that’s an intimate moment. Print info on the inside of your packaging to make your brand part of that initial experience between product and consumer. 

8. Stay consistent

Consistency is key. Your packaging has to fit in the language of your website, stationery and branding – it’s simply another medium to help create a consistent branding experience

It’s mind-blowing to see how our customers can take something as simple as a cardboard box, and use colors, patterns, shapes and text to create such a wide variety of designs. That’s what I love about packaging design – it’s an overlooked medium that can be used as a blank canvas.

Min Ker

Designer at The Key Branding

Min Ker - Designer at The Key Branding

9. Think about how it will look on the shelf

The thing that keeps me excited about packaging is how integrated it is with everyday life – you can see it in almost every aspect of peoples’ lives. With this in mind, it’s super important to think about how your design will look on the shelf. 

10. Keep it succinct, simple and straightforward

To me, successful packaging design should follow the three S’s – Succinct, Simple & Straightforward! It should be succinct in expressing an idea or emotion, simple in the execution of design and messaging, and straightforward in terms of delivering its core proposition.

I love the ideas that form part of the packaging design process. Even though it can be challenging, it’s so satisfying to work with a team and client to solve a problem. It also doesn’t hurt to see your own designs when you go shopping!

Phil Bagdasarian

Founder and CEO at PackWire

Phil Bagdasarian - Founder and CEO at PackWire

11. Determine your packaging’s purpose

A lot of us are rethinking the purpose of packaging. Now that e-commerce is king, customer-initiated touchpoints happen on the screen rather than on the shelf. Often, the first interaction a customer has with a brand’s packaging is after they’ve already made their purchase. 

Because of this we’re pivoting from a “pick me!” philosophy to a design approach that reassures clients that they’ve made the right choice. So, it’s important to ask where precisely on the customer journey your packaging enters the picture and what purpose it’s serving.

12. Know your customers

Your packaging has an intimate connection with the individuals handling it. It can offer moments of anticipation, surprise, and even stick around in consumers’ homes long after the product is out of the box (packaging is often repurposed for storing household supplies). Put yourself inside the mind of the consumer and think about how they’re going to interact with your packaging. 

13. Don’t Overdo It

One of the biggest mistakes I see companies make with their packaging is that they try to cram every selling point, piece of information, design trend and buzzword onto their box. This results in a jumbled message that doesn’t really say anything at all. 

When it comes to effective packaging, whittle your product or brand down to its essentials and showcase them front and center. That isn’t to say that your brand should embrace a minimalist design language, but rather that your messaging should remain focused and serve an actionable purpose. 

Never be afraid to take chances. DIY packaging tools and digital printing are making it easier than ever to experiment with your brand messaging and storytelling. Let your creativity take full reign – when competition is fierce, you want to show that you’re doing things differently.

Asif Muhammad

Co-founder and CEO at Refine Packaging

Asif Muhammad - Co-founder and CEO at Refine Packaging

14. Understand how your packaging will be used

It’s crucial to consider how your packaging will be used. This will help guide what type of packaging your product will need. Ask yourself:

  • What will the logistics process look like? For example, glass or other delicate items will need extra protection during the shipping and fulfillment process. Your design process will have to factor in the extra “padding”, whatever form it may take.
  • Does the outside of the packaging need to include specific instructions? 
  • Are considerations needed for consumables or heat-sensitive products, such as holes for ventilation? 

15. Create a detailed design plan

When making a design plan for your custom product packaging, consider the following:

  • What products are you selling? The size of your boxes and weight of your items will impact your options. Heavy items may need to be put in strong reinforced boxes, while you may get by packing lighter, smaller items into thinner carton boxes.
  • Who are your products for? Consider the ages of your customers, their income level, their geographic location, and what they consider important. Does your audience prefer luxury items or are they bargain shoppers? Your product packaging should appeal to your ideal customer, so knowing your target market will go a long way towards creating an eye-catching packaging design.
  • Where will your products be sold? Your products may be sold online, in large supermarket chains, in small local stores, or a combination of these channels. This will help determine the best way to incorporate unique details into your design that will make your product packaging stand out for each venue.  

16. Match your packaging to your brand identity

Once you’ve determined your packaging’s initial requirements, you can then turn your focus to design ideas, such as patterns, colors, and typography that fit your brand and marketing strategy. Packaging design is a wonderful way to make a strong first impression. Ensure your packaging is consistent with your website, social media channels and other brand touchpoints to further build brand recognition

17. Give your audience an immersive experience

Quality product packaging should enhance the experience of using your product. Consider what your audience will value, and reflect on what your brand stands for. For example, eco-conscious customers might appreciate a 100% recyclable box, with an opportunity to engage in a larger conversation about your product’s mission to heal the environment. The details are everything.

I love helping companies bring their packaging dreams to life. It’s deeply satisfying to help craft a memorable unboxing experience that shares a brand’s unique story in a visual way.

And that’s a wrap! We hope you found some useful tips and advice for your next product packaging design. Don’t forget to check out our Product Packaging Design Trends for 2022, as well as our blogs on Illustration Trends, Graphic Design Trends, Branding Trends, and Web Design Trends for more great tips.

Related Articles