4 packaging design trends for 2015

It's safe to say I see a lot more packaging than most people ever do. In 2007, I created The Dieline to document and define what I believe to be the world's best examples of this exciting field of design and branding.

Seven years later we've become the leading packaging design resource online, receive over 5,000 package design submissions a year, have produced seven thought-provoking packaging design conferences and held six annual awards competitions.

Seeing so much packaging design on a daily and yearly basis puts me in a very unique position to identify emerging trends amongst a sea of sameness. To ensure they do indeed exist, we make sure they are backed up by analytical data from The Dieline.

Toward the end of each year, our team of editors begin an internal process to distil our insights into the emerging trends that every designer needs to know.

For 2015, I've identified four key emerging trends that I believe are, or will be, extremely prevalent in packaging design and consumer products in the next year…

01. Visual authenticity

Anagrama created simple, honest, and direct branding for Santa Cruz, a quick-service Mexican BBQ restaurant based in Monterry

Trend characteristics:

  • Handwritten, raw, freeform, or sketchy typography
  • May include vintage inspired references or type
  • Hand drawn, simple illustrations
  • Natural colour palettes

Visual authenticity is a trend that marks a significant departure from the mainstream, yet is quickly becoming the mainstream itself. Visually, it marks a complete rejection of established corporate brand design and is a response to the shifting consumer base, with a majority of consumers no longer wanting to heavily rely on, or trust, established brands.

Consumers' appetites are shifting towards more authentic, real, quality, honest products. Products that are uncomplicated, yet crafted, even vintage inspired. It's about products that illustrate trust and an inadvertent human connection.

The digital age has fostered a lack of human connection with a new generation of Gen Z consumers. Because of this, these shoppers are not responding to traditional established corporate brands. They want more. They demand more. They desire a real, trusted, human connection to the products and the brands that they consume.

Indicate Design Groupe redesigned wild fragrance company Juniper Ridge's packaging using wilderness paintings and wooden caps

For many of the brands choosing to go for a visually authentic style, they do so with the goal of reconnecting themselves to consumers.

They do this by showcasing the craft, quality, and skill in both the product and the packaging design. As this trend has evolved, it has moved beyond small artisan brands and is starting to become more mainstream itself.

02. Luxury of less

Luxury headwear branding and packaging for Paris+Hendzel Handcrafted Goods designed by the Polish branding studio of the same name

Trend characteristics:

  • Subtle, understated design cues
  • Tactile textures
  • Soft, understated colour palettes
  • Hand-drawn iconography, icons, or graphic elements

Luxury of less is a trend that represents a new generation of luxury goods that are less reliant on brands names and ostentatious, flashy, over-design. In this post-recession era, a new wave of luxury branding is emerging in Western cultures where packaging design and luxury branding are being designed to whisper, rather than shout.

It's the era where the overall brand experience is valued almost as much as the actual product itself. Often times, more.

RoAndCo Studio took an understated approach to the branding and packaging for high-end women’s fashion brand Honor

Although the economic climate has changed for luxury brands, there is still a strong need for their brands to express quality, heritage, provenance, and luxury values. Gone are the days of excess, over-done and unapproachable branding.

This new wave is all about brands that exude class, rather than attempt to be flash. Subtle cues in the packaging are the most important aspect of the brand. It is a return to a well-crafted and well-considered notion of luxury.

03. Ultra-pure

Mousegraphics' branding for The Basics has a clean, pharmaceutical feel, with pure white packaging and a focus on the essential

Trend characteristics:

  • Straightforward and stark design
  • No traditional logos, generally a minimal word mark
  • Abstract elements, geometric shapes and patterns
  • Monochromatic or dichromatic, generally no more 
than two or three colours

Ultra-pure is a trend where brands are looking to create pure, stark, highly minimal stripped-back brands, packaging systems and brand environments. This trend is a reaction to growing consumer appreciation and desire for minimally designed brands and products.

Ultra-pure takes brand minimalism a step further: it's the process of reducing a brand’s essence into the purest, simplest abstract form. It's the opposite of excess and the ultimate expression of brand purity.

Anagrama's minimal branding for factory footwear store Redberry features an abstract shape that's reminiscent of a raspberry

The brand is typically expressed through simple abstract shapes, usually representing some aspect of the product itself. It relies on an absence of branding: there are usually no traditional logos. Rather, brands following this trend typically use simple sans-serif style typography for both the brand's logo and the packaging typography. Ultra-Pure is a bold brand statement, usually with monochromatic or dichromatic colour schemes.

04. Biobased

One of three sustainable biobased packaging concepts designed by Tomorrow Machine

Trend characteristics:

  • Innovative substrates made from natural materials
  • Inspired by the biology of nature
  • Edible packaging substrates
  • Carbon neutral processes

Biobased packaging is not necessarily a new trend per se. Rather, it's a next-generation technological evolution of sustainable packaging as we know it. Consumers are increasingly demanding pure, honest, and environmentally responsible products and packaging.

There has been a recent surge of new Bio-Tech substrate innovations inspired by nature, with the goal of reducing our carbon footprint. Packaging designers themselves have become much more aware and hyper-vigilant about the problem of packaging waste and its impact on our planet, and how it will affect the next generation of humanity.

Stonyfield worked with WikiFoods’ WikiPearl yoghurt technology to create package-free edible food pearls

We're beginning to feel a real obligation to push the boundaries of packaging substrates in order to protect the future of our the planet. That’s no easy task.

Luckily, these new sustainable packaging innovations are on the horizon, and designers and companies are beginning to experiment with them.

Words: Andrew Gibbs

Andrew Gibbs is CEO and editor-in-chief of The Dieline, where he shares his passion for packaging design with millions of readers. For more information on the packaging trends of 2015, visit The Dieline.

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