The pro’s guide to packaging design

As any student of packaging design would say, I feel like we are finally in a golden age for this area. Designers today are focusing on issues beyond the protective qualities of packaging, to incorporate sustainability, interactivity, second life and beauty in a way that has never been done before.

Yes, there have been periods responsible for beautiful packaging. Vintage Coca-Cola crates, Ladurée macaron boxes, mid-century Westinghouse bulb containers – these are all timeless examples of packaging. But nothing is as beautiful and harmonious as what is being created today, and with the incorporation of smart tech into the industry, I can’t wait to see what will happen in the future.

At Design Packaging, our focus is luxury and prestige retail packaging, where the packaging is secondary to the product. The aim of our work is to infuse a brand’s DNA into the product unboxing process, sometimes by creating suspense, mystery, or even humour.

Media support

At the moment, consumers are bombarded with marketing in every waking moment, in every possible area of their lives. There are no longer quiet spaces for the mind to rest. Sales are no longer made in the mind of the consumer through adverts and slogans, but instead, on-shelf through direct or digital interaction. Media today has to support the packaging on shelf, not the other way around.

This approach works well because packaging is the last touchpoint a brand has with a potential consumer. You have three seconds to make that sale: this is where brand-defining packaging has to really shine.

Jun Mitani

Though not a packaging designer by trade, Jun Mitani’s explorative works in origamic structure directly translate to packaging and the current needs of mass-market clients. So many packaging designs available on-shelf today share the same exact structure and rely on graphic differentiation for a competitive advantage.

Incorporating origamic folds into the packaging structure allows you to alter your design’s environment by playing with light and shadows. For us as packaging designers, Mitani’s work shows that light, shadows and tactile impact can be as important to the effectiveness of a design as colour and graphics.

Juicy Couture men’s bible box

Our own design for the Juicy Couture men’s product packaging will always be dear to me. It is heavily layered with production processes, CMYK print on natural kraft papers, crisp debossed logo, with an out-of-register distressed logo hot-stamped into the deboss, silver hot-stamped page edges and worn leather gloss varnish texture. together, these processes complete the look of an old, distressed bible in which is hidden a silver liquor flask, encased in velvet interior lining.

The project was developed in the infancy of the JC’s men’s line and was so well received that it served as the visual inspiration for several other products.

Barneys New York invitations

Lady Gaga has been invited by Barneys New York to create Gaga’s Workshop, an avant-garde interpretation of a Santa’s workshop and a wonderland of eccentricities.

Though all are invited to see the spectacle, only a select few will be granted VIP admittance with the coveted golden ticket. Design Packaging sketched a series of concepts for the invitation, which emulated Gaga’s Workshop in its most basic form – an iconic Barneys’ facade literally exploding with an unexpected Gaga visual spectacular.

Within hours of receiving direction from Barneys New York, these illustrations were turned into three-dimensional, mock-up samples complete with functioning pop-up details. It exemplifies the best practices of our creative development process.

Quiksilver gift card carrier

The Quiksilver gift card carrier concept, developed with our then-intern John Turner as a creative exercise in the perfect intersection of visual and structural design, was very well received by the design community.

As a team, we continue to develop new ideas where we see a fit for packaging to provide a solution to stale creative. We have very few days of down time, but when we do, we play. A lot. This beautiful design is the result of creative play.

Chanel No.5 fragrance sampler

This Chanel sample fragrance box incorporates pop-up, beautiful materials and fine production techniques - and is definitely an inspiration for our team.

Designed as a drop-down runway with curved mirrors and pop-up chairs, Chanel’s packaging achieves a balance between commerce and art that we try to develop into every one of our creative designs. Beautiful packaging transcends its original purpose of transporting and marketing a product; packaging can be art.

  • Words: Evelio Mattos

Since 2006, Evelio has led Design Packaging’s creative team in the evolutionary development of both visual and structural packaging designs. The studio’s production-driven design system has garnered recognition from luxury retail clients including American Eagle, Barneys New York and Bulgari.

This article originally appeared in Computer Arts issue 218

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