Clothes and manners do not make the man; but, when he is made, they greatly improve his appearance.

-Henry Ward Beecher

Appearances. A mother will tell their child appearances aren’t everything and that it’s inside what counts the most. A teacher will tell their students you can’t judge a book by its cover. A friend or lover will say you always look beautiful because they love you for who you are inside. But an advertiser…well, they will tell you that appearances are everything.


What is Package Design?

Pack – age (pak-ij)  De – sign (dih-zahyn)


  1. Packaging is the science, art and technology of enclosing or protecting products for distribution, sale and use. Packaging also refers to the process of design, evaluation, and production of packages.

Package Design, in advertising, is practically essential. It’s  a way of expressing the product’s brand identity at a very literal and physical level. Just like some people express themselves through what they wear, by the same token, businesses want the soul of their brand to show through its package design.

Naturally, package design doesn’t make the product. You can buy a beautiful bottle of perfume but that doesn’t mean the scent will also smell just as beautiful. The package design just improved the appearance of the perfume bottle. Hence, the quote from the top of the page.


The Importance of Packaging

Before I start explaining exactly why package design matters so much, please watch the video below. I think it illustrates well what’s about to be discussed:

In the video Pretty Little Package was designed to differentiate herself from other competing products on the shelf, which she managed to do, and for a few years she was the star. She was loved, adored and thought to be cool (mostly in part thanks to expensive print and broadcast advertisements).

But what goes up must be come down.

10 years pass by and she is no longer “in”. Times have changed and the company has failed to keep up with changing interests and lifestyles of its consumers. Thus, Pretty Little package channels her inner Lindsay Lohan as she despairs in her unattractiveness and loss of popularity. That is until a hip, young advertiser rediscovers Pretty Little Package. He notices potential and helps recreate Pretty Little Package’s look to suit contemporary times. The end.

Basically, the moral of this story is to not neglect the changing environment we live in – and things are always changing. Here are some interesting, and very real, facts about package design (Naked, 2009):

  • A package on the shelf has approximately 3 seconds to grab the consumer’s attention
  • For most new products, the store shelf is the first, last and potentially only time to facilitate a purchase decision
  • Packaging creates impulse purchases – POPAI shows that consumers enter a grocery store planning to buy only 10 items and they leave the store having purchased 20
  • A typical package generates about 570 million impressions every year

Look at all the products on the shelf....which one should you buy? Shampoo A or Shampoo B?

Package design is so important because a company can spend millions of dollars in advertising – which serve to bring attention to the product – but that won’t mean a thing if consumers are unsatisfied with how the product looks on the shelf (and go for the competitor’s instead). Just imagine what goes through a typical consumer’s mind when browsing through the shelves. If the package design on product A looks better than product B they’ll assume the company put great effort and care into making the product itself. So regardless of the truth behind this assumption, in the eyes of the consumer product A appears to be better in quality. They’ll trust product A more than product B.

To you it might sound silly. But the truth is, the retail shelf is the make it or break it point. It’s where the consumer makes that last crucial decision of whether to purchase the product or not. Even the greatest campaigning cannot save you at that point.

It’s a battlefield. So many products are fighting for your attention and they all want the same thing – for you to purchase them. That’s why a strategy is needed when designing product packages. Here are some pointers (Minnini, 2009):

  1. Have a pre-packaging strategy: Do your research. You want your package design to reflect the brand’s personality while tapping into your consumers’ lifestyle and needs. Sounds easy? In theory it is, in practice it’s not. When designing your package you may have this excellent idea but it will often clash with other factors – like the company’s budget.
  2. Package Design System Components: They key components are: brand and sub-brand identities, package design architecture, segmentation, imagery and brand communications. You’re going to need consistency in these areas, if not you will not effectively effect with your target audience.
  3. Don’t Overload Your Package Design With Messages: Simplicity is key. While it can work for your product to place a 50% sticker on it now and then, there’s no need to put unnecessary marketing messages on your package (i.e. long product descriptions, reviews, etc).  Actually a good example of this is this video of Microsoft redesigning the Apple Ipod, check it out:

There’s a lot of thinking and research that goes into package design. It’s like a science – but not like the kind you studied in middle school. It’s something funner.


The Technology Behind It All

Creating package designs isn’t it easy. First, you have to do your research. Second, is the process of actually making it. Which also isn’t so easy.

What most companies actually do is pay specialists to design their packages for them. These specialists are usually graphic designers whose knowledge and skills go beyond tinkering with Photoshop. These people know the importance of brand identity and differentiation on the shelves. That’s why they get paid the big bucks to come up with a winning package or product design.

Below is a short list on a couple of package design businesses:

  • LDP: LDP is a full service consultancy with extraordinary in-house capabilities – industrial design, product and packaging development, graphic design plus complete in-house model making and prototyping.  [website:
  • Turner Duckworth: International brand design agency Turner Duckworth, with studios in San Francisco and London, creates consumer brand identities and packaging designs. [website:
  • Alloyd Brands: A product packaging design company that offers innovative, custom-engineered, integrated packaging solutions for both the retail and medical markets. [website:

However, some people are brave enough to do it themselves – or do it as a hobby (or for the occasional school project). Whatever the reason, there are some pretty popular package designing software out there. Here’s another list for you to take a look at:

  • Tops Pro: Here’s a nifty one. Not only can it help you design a package, it will also help you cut down on costs by simulating compression and stacking strength. Find it at:
  • Adobe InDesign: What makes this program great to do package designs is that you can do cutting and folding lines – which is essential. However, it can’t simulate things like stacking strength but it works for designing.
  • Adobe Illustrator: Much like InDesign, Illustrator goes a step further in that you can do more complex package designs. For example, You can get more creative with what type of cuts you what.
  • Quark Xpress: Similar to Adobe InDesign and Illustrator in that you can do cutting and folding lines to simulate a package.
  • Adobe Freehand: It can do creative design, storyboarding, document production, and editing. It’s another option.
  • CorelDRAW: It’s a vector graphics editor that can help with creating package designs as well.

Alright, sorry for the boring lists. Here’s package desiging in action, courtesy of the lovely Youtube:

Package Designing is not only a science, it’s also a technology. You can have a pretty good concept, but it won’t mean jack if you can’t physically design it well. That’s my two cents.


The Art of Package Design

Now that we looked a bit into the science and technology behind package design, let’s take a look at the art of it all. Yes, I said art. Personally, I think package designing is artful and creative.

I’ve collected some images of package designs that I personally think are eye-catching and unique from different areas (i.e. cosmetics, electronics, etc.).

Office & Art Supplies


This product package was designed by Mario Jorge Lemos for Art Graf pencils.


Don’t be deceived, this is actually a camera.


It's a relaxing tool. However, I'm not sure what it quite does @.@


Very cute design. Product is honey and I love how they incorporate the tiniest details - like the bees used as confetti.

Chocolates with Attitude! This packaging design is from Bassermachen Design Studio. Each chocolate bar has an atttiude that is projected by it wrapping.


The Purpose, You Ask?

Box Me Up & Ship Me Out is dedicated to the world of product packaging and its design ideas. Its purpose is to highlight a side of advertising that many people often forget about while encouraging the unique innovation of package design.

Though the title of this site references an actual box, this blog will not be primarily about the design of actual boxes (i.e. the package a perfume comes in). No, I will be discussing the shape of a perfume bottle, the cereal box people throw away after finishing it, that bag of potato ships sitting on your desk, the structure of the body wash you use, the design of your mom’s makeup compact – let’s just say this list can go on and on. There’s a lot of topics to cover and they’re never ending because someone somewhere is creating this new idea of a package design that will make you stop and take a second glance.




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