5 biggest packaging design trends for 2016

The world of packaging is evolving as materials and consumer tastes change, leading to some incredible innovation.

Today's consumer is becoming ever more refined and de-sensitised to marketing messages, which provides both a challenge and an opportunity for brands. Packaging design is arguably as important in terms of product differentiation as logo design, and this hotly contested design space can often foster breakneck innovation.

As with every field of design, there are trends and movements over the years that typify the discipline, and 2016 is no different in that regard. Every business wants to fulfil the needs of their customers, while engaging and exciting them to promote loyalty and growth.

This year's big areas of focus for packaging design centre around the idea of developing relationships with the end consumer, focusing on making the product more personal, appealing on ethical grounds and demonstrating social responsibility.

As well as these feel-good aspects of the consumer:business relationship, packaging also needs to convey quality, establish memorability, provenance and authenticity. All in all, it's a lot to ask of the bits of a product whose principal purpose is to protect the product itself!

Check out our round up of the top trends for 2016 in packaging design, and let us know what you think in the comments below.

01. Simplify!

Original Source packaging

Original Source has long used a typographic approach to its packaging design

It's a theme that's common to many fields of design, but perhaps no more so than packaging, that there's a bent toward the idea of simplification. By reducing elements to their core purpose, a clarity of meaning and intention is conveyed, and the inherent beauty of the medium used can really shine. This tends to translate into text-heavy, bold and straightforward messages that quickly communicate the product's benefits or features.

This approach plays well with the end consumers of products, helping to install trust in a brand, and creating a sense of power especially when viewed against competing products on store shelves.

Trident packaging

Trident has reduced the packaging of its product to a minimal design that tells the entire story of what the product does

Going back to basics doesn't have to mean a lack of creativity, however, as Trident's innovative packaging shows. Here the product itself is used to convey the purpose and meaning that previously text copy was highlighting. It's arresting, and compels the buyer to smile, which is the company's major selling angle!

02. Patterns and shapes

Meld concept packaging

This concept designed by Jeannie Burnside uses a minimalist shape-driven package to convey meaning while being aesthetically pleasing

A huge trend for 2016 is the use of repeating geometric patterns and shapes. Pervading all areas of design from websites to clothing, patterns and geometry are also influencing packaging both in the simple aesthetic treatment of labels, and in the dies themselves, resulting in some interesting and quirky packaging that really stands out on the shelves. Look for bold, simple colours and unusual shapes.

Corinne packaging

Anna Typmpali's designs for Corinne Cosmetics use high-contrast geometric patterns

A great example of this trend is Anna Trympali's work for Corinne Cosmetics. Anna's designs use a series of monochromatic shapes and patterns to identify different products within the range, while achieving familial resemblance across the entire line.

03. Artisanal becomes vintage

Don Papa packaging

Don Papa's label design harks back to a bygone era to cement the provenance and authenticity of the product

The recent trend towards artisan-style packaging will continue further into truly vintage design. It's not a totally unfounded idea: promoting a product based on its heritage, provenance and authenticity is a time-honoured tradition that works, and the associated vintage aesthetic is hot with retail consumers currently, so it's an obvious choice for brands that want to convey their staying power, artisanal qualities and associate themselves with the glory days of a bygone era.

Dr. Feelgood packaging

New Zealand company Dr. Feelgood produce ice pops with good nutritional credentials, highlighted by the retro-vintage packaging approach

A company's products don't have to be old to benefit from this treatment, as Dr. Feelgood's example shows. Here the NZ-based company uses a vintage approach to help sell the health-orientated differentiators of their product, while conveying core brand values and ethics through the use of recyclable materials such as cardboard rather than plastic.

04. Kerb and keep appeal

William Whistle packaging

Created by Horse, The Adventurous Blends of William Whistle has a beautiful retro treatment with a high degree of keep appeal

In a world where we already have to separate out waste into plastic, glass, paper, wood and compostable materials, it's no surprise to see a shift toward the idea of product packaging that can be re-used within the home after the product itself has been consumed.

For this purpose, packaging is moving from having simple kerb appeal – the ability to stand out and sell the product on the shelf – into the realms of keep appeal. Product packaging that is aesthetically pleasing, and can work standalone as a piece of home decor is a potentially very marketable product differentiator, so understandably package designers are exploring this idea with fervour.

Even fully-disposable packaging is competing for a place on cupboard shelves, so designers are increasingly looking to make their products look beautiful in the home.

05. Sustainability and carbon footprint

Coca-Cola bioplastic packaging

Coca-Cola is experimenting with a 100% bioplastic 'plant' bottle to reduce its environmental impact

Along a similar vein to the idea that packaging becomes less disposable, there's a growing need felt by consumers to ensure that the products they use cause the smallest possible impact on the environment.

Businesses are feeling pressure from their customers to meet this need, but it also makes sense to act more sustainably. As a result, packaging that reduces the carbon footprint associated with the production, shipping and retail of a product is becoming ever more popular. This includes the like of reusable packaging, and the use of recycled materials to produce packaging, but also the development of bioplastics to replace traditional oil-based plastics.

Coca-Cola has been introducing bioplastics into their production process for a few years, while rival PepsiCo is currently trialing the idea of edible packaging!

Words: Sam Hampton-Smith

Sam Hampton-Smith is a freelance author and front-end designer/developer based in Scotland.

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