How to Design Effective Packaging

Top view shot of FED boxed delivery meal packaging box, showing textured Concrete Grey folding board from Neenah, embossed and foil stamped with white pigment foil. Inside is citrus mix green salad with salmon.

MATERIALS — Biodegradable food tray, post-consumer recycled sleeve cover, ink free finishing, toxic-free foils. Studio photography and 3D rendering.

VISUAL LOOK - Brutalist, geometric design, combined with natural pressed papers, created a high-end in hand feel for the brands health conscious customers.


1. Branding and visual design must look good.
This is a prerequisite for an effective product. Simply reviewing graphic and packaging design trends in your product category will put you ahead of competition. Take a look at what your competitors are doing in:

1.1 Branding

Two common directions in CPG:
1. Brand families organize an existing product ecosystem under a cohesive and attractive, visual language.
2. Branding a single standout product is a best options even when a larger family exists

1.2 Structural Design

Custom structural forms improve branding and visibility,  signalling quality, experience, and authority to customers compared to similar brands.
Custom structural packaging also reduces production, storage, and shipping costs resulting in increased profit margin.

1.3 Visual Design

Take advantage of graphic design trends in your product category to create a look that is informationally clear, interesting, and new to customers.
Break out of the pattern, a little or a lot. Being a little different catches the eye on the shelf.

1.4 Production

Custom packaging production has endless options and improves quality of branding.
Beyond signalling product category through physical detailing custom production also improves profit margins via tailored manufacturing setups and smart consumable use.

PRODUCTION - Varying grades of corrugated materials optimize structural integrity of these packages. Effect stacks manufactured at scales, leading to substantial budget impact.

Two colorful flexo printed corrugated box packaging standing next to each other

INTEGRATED VISUAL LOOK - Minimal design plays with the properties of the product, stretching the brandmark around. Brilliant, saturated spot colours glow against the black backdrop. Highly impactful on shelf.

Why are we making a guide? Because it helps people and answers 90% of initial questions we get.

Who are we? — Art of Packaging is a team of designers with over a decade of packaging design experience launching and scaling consumer packaged good (CPG) brands in North America.

We produce branding, structural, and visual packaging design, along with in-depth consultation guiding clients though branding and packaging.  

Custom manufacturing and production setup complete most of the projects we take on.

We connect clients with manufacturing specialists across North America, Asia, and Europe.

MATERIALS - Cheese labels in dozens of shapes. Adhesives that actually adhere, don’t get moist or fall apart. Print colors that do not get washed out. Product life extending, breathing cheese paper.

Close up of custom die cut cheese label packaging with elegant typography, branding and cheese photography.

BRANDING — Studio photography, oil painting feel. Elegant typography. Flying heron mark. High end feel next to dairy cheese at the deli.


2. Market demands sustainable packaging.
It makes a major impact on consumer perception of brand and product quality. And your options are endless:

2.1 Papers

A myriad of environmentally conscious paper and cardstock is available for packaging design.
From sustainably sourced raw products that replenish land they grow on, benefit local population, and reduce water use. To fully post-consumer recycled options and everything in between.

2.2 Structurals

Smart structural changes to packaging design have a big impact on environment. More units per same amount of material results in lower costs, and less material use. Selecting correct materials for amount of protection required for product further amplifies this effect.
Such changes to structural forms also optimise storage and shipping costs resulting in increased product profit margin.

2.3 Plastics

Traditional plastic materials are substantially more recyclable and toxin free today.
At the same time new manufacturing technologies are scaling up plant-based biodegradable and compostable options in every packaging category.

2.4 Consumables

Inks, adhesives, various coatings, and finishing techniques that style, help product use, ensure structural integrity and allow for direct-to-food contact cover everyday packaging.
We can help you make these environmentally friendly, or design to reduce and potentially eliminate their use.

MANUFACTURING DESIGN - Do delivery boxes need to be boring? Bleached paper. Impactful type. Stricking logo.No impact on price. Extensive product visibility.

custom printed white corrugated gift box with watercolor illustrations of vegetables — bottom view.

As part of studio process we provide environmentally viable options in every product category for businesses to develop from.

There are two common approaches:

You can a. “design in depth” by sourcing and bringing together raw materials, custom structural design, and finishing to create packaging that is environmentally friendly with little impact.

Alternatively you can b. “design with less” and have minimal packaging that is either continuously reused, incorporated to be part of the product, or have an additional, complimentary use.

PRODUCT FAMILY — Artwork and structural design was developed in tandem resulting in a cohesive family with every bend, corner, and tuck considered. Bespoke structural cube was created, prototyped for leaks, foodsafe paper sourced, and custom production setup.

Set of ice cream packaging designed cubes stacked together in a pyramid for packaging product photoshoot.

VISUAL DESIGN — Whimsical, fun look, that did not say typical ice-cream. Looking at the on-shelf options, a system of illustrations was drawn and matched with a dynamic logo, telling a story on every side of the cube.


3. Manufacturing is a highly underutilised stage of packaging design process across multiple product categories.
You can optimize production through structural design, material selection, and bespoke finishing. Improving branding, product protection, visibility, and manufacturing cost effectiveness.

3.1 Dielines

Custom die manufacturing creates uniquely branded labels, packaging boxes, and extensive range of marketing materials.
Cost to impact ratio is great even for small projects, and results one-of-kind packaging designs even without the stacking impact that visual design brings.

3.2 Glass

Addition of branded or visual design elements to your bottle packaging design turns your products into objects of packaging art.
Glassware can be custom produced at very reasonable quantities for most businesses.
At smaller quantities, an extensive portfolio of stock bottles is available to ensure packaging is unique.

3.3 Flexible

Flexible packaging design uses plastic. Vacuum packed, bagged, bottled, protective, temperature controlled, varying thickness.
Applicable to virtually anything from food to luxury goods, it can be styled and printed without limit.
Available in a myriad of options, including eco-friendly, flexible packaging is highly cost-effective.

3.4 Finishing

The most underutilised option in packaging design manufacturing. Ranges from custom print finishes, spot gloss, embossing, debossing, spot inks, metallic options, etc.
Often available at little to no additional cost on every job, it is underused because clients rarely ask, and manufacturers typically don’t suggest.

GRAPHIC DESIGN — Vibrant art, multiple product line family under one system. Look like nothing on the shelf next to it.

Line up of jars of preserves and bottles of kombucha packaging with vibrantly illustrated colourful labels on a white background.

Every project Art of Packaging develops we ensure packaging manufacturing is fully utilised.

To be honest its often one of the most enjoyable parts of each project.

We consult on production and improve costs early on by working directly with manufacturers to create custom structural forms which reduce material use, stacking the effects on budget, and environmental impact.

We creatively approach bottle, plastic, and flexible packaging, utilising structural design to create custom form for branding and visual impact.

And we extract every finishing effect available to our clients through manufacturing. This results in polished work, with hand-made details that capture customer attention and result in better on-shelf performance.

PRODUCTION — Nespresso pod packaging. Spot Pantones. Custom protective inserts. Premium coffee.

nespresso coffee pod packaging with bold logo and illustration

4. Ask a professional for feedback. It is complimentary. We like our work after all :)
Art of Packaging provides consultation and project development services for branding, packaging, and manufacturing. Initial advice is complimentary, and is sufficient to get most clients started:

4.1 Advice

We provide complimentary feedback and advice for all incoming packaging design, branding and production projects.

4.2 Consultation

For packaging design projects in initial development stage we offer in-depth strategy and production consultation which results in actionably creative direction options that you can execute on your own, with your team, or commission with Art of Packaging.

4.3 Proposal

For packaging design projects ready for creative stage we help clients review and assess project scope, scale and intent prior to start. This helps focus and improves results.

4.4 Optimization

We can answer specific questions regarding everything discussed here. Studio advice improves process, project structure, delivery time, cost and quality of results.


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