From big-box retailers to corner stores, arresting package design has always had its place. Package design that connects with the audience can be an incredibly rewarding experience for designers. It means that superb research was executed and that the hours of hard work has paid off.
From the course, Consumer Packaging Strategy, instructor Jennifer Tausch delivers outside-the-box research lessons that take you away from the computer screen to help you generate alluring package design ideas. In the process of developing a design strategy, Tausch asks her students to go out to stores, browse the aisles and study the packaging design and the competition’s placement.
See an excerpt from the Consumer Packaging Strategy course below for the exact instruction and objective. I’ve also included photos from my package redesign process following the course’s instruction.
Starting Your Redesign
Choose an existing product/brand that intrigues you or that will provide a good case study in your portfolio (I chose L’Oréal Revitalift.) You will be selecting a product or a line of products from one of the categories below to deconstruct and redesign. Look for a brand/package that you have passion for or that you have knowledge of as well as one that has an opportunity to be better. After you have selected it, you will deep dive by collecting all information, visuals, history of the product/brand you have chosen.
Go to a mass channel store such as Target and observe the area where the product you’ve selected lives. Capture the shopping experience of consumers interacting with the packages at the shelf in the category. Note: Most stores don’t like people taking pictures, so be discreet!
Consumer packaged goods is one of the most competitive landscapes there is. The mass channel stores pose an additional challenge to the designer because most consumers purchase quickly instead of lingering in the aisles. The choices are many and can be overwhelming. Most packages are disposable and tend to not get the attention designers hope for. The environment also drives much of the lack of focused time at shelf, so it’s important to visit the store environment and fully embrace the situation that you observe.
Consider: A trip to the market is often stressful. Some obstacles might be: the store is loud, cluttered or disorganized, the store is crowded or has crying babies, the shopper lacks time, the shopper is embarrassed by the purchase, the lights are too bright, the aisles are too small, etc. How can you take this into consideration with your packaging?
You will need to audit the category to understand the competition. Gather all relevant brands or packages within the category. Get images of the packages both at the shelf as well as individually. (You can also grab current package images from the company websites.) Note: Most stores don’t like people taking pictures, so be discreet!
For the Audit:
Organize the competitive packages, one brand per page. Decide the tier first then by design principles and any other information you decide is relevant to aid in the differentiation. Audit your brand and at least two competitors.
Observe what each brand “owns.” These are things you must be thoughtful about keeping as a part of your design system or leaving behind. What are the ramifications to the brand and consumer if you leave elements behind? Will it help or hurt?
You will now determine the opportunity in the category by mapping out your brand and the competition to identify where the redesign should live. This is a quick way to understand where your competition is visually showing up to the consumer. This is a soft strategy mapping tool that will help you create a unique proposition and be disruptive at shelf. It will also validate the choices that you make with your design directions to stay competitive in market. As we move into Lesson 3, we will use this mapping tool to help tell the story and evoke an emotionally relevant story for our consumer.
Your matrix should have four quadrants and two axes (horizontal and vertical). For now, keep the axis titles as they are on the example below. Once you have created the matrix and collected the packaging shots, plot the competition in addition to the brand you have selected into the quadrants. It will become clear where there is an opportunity to drive your redesign to truly differentiate from competition.
Create a matrix with competition and your defined whitespace opportunity area.
Anti-Aging Cream Matrix:
Here’s my work of creating a matrix based off of my observations of the anti-aging aisle.
With this knowledge, I know to steer my redesign into the natural and professional quardrant.
After compiling competition into the matrix, redesigning a product’s packaging is now a step closer to completion. Use these steps and templates to start brainstorming how to make your product standout. If you need further guidance, expand your understanding of the package redesign process by completing Tausch’s course. You can register at HOW Design University.
Another reliable resource for package design guidance is the well-written book, Best Practices for Graphic Designers, Packaging. It guides you through the entire packaging process from strategy and concept development, through selecting suitable materials, naming systems, considering the competition, assessing the shelf landscape and more. Gather strategic insights on all facets of package design. This helpful guide utilizes a range of case studies and examples, including practical real-world information about client and vendor relationships.