this week’s biz ladies post comes from yael miller, the senior editor at the dieline and principal at miller creative, a branding and packaging design consultancy specializing in naming, branding and packaging design. yael has more than 10 years design experience—particularly in the food, confectionery and beauty brands—and today she enlightens us on how to design the perfect packaging for your products. thanks yael for teaching us about the power of proper packaging!-stephanie
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We are surrounded by things we can buy, and most of it is inside of packaging. That makes packaging pretty important in influencing the decisions we make when looking to buy something.
Form or Function?
On its most functional level packaging is there to contain and protect something else more precious. However, if shelves were lined with indistinguishable white boxes with black type we would have no way to tell one product apart from the other. Packaging should be a vehicle for informing consumers to convey your product benefits and make it appear more attractive.
In most cases it’s critical that your packaging both protect AND sell your product. Today’s competitive store environment requires a sink-or-swim approach to packaging and branding.
On Store Shelves or Online?
What if your product sells online or simply doesn’t require much packaging at all? Does packaging have relevance to you, then? I believe that packaging is a powerful avenue for “finishing” your product and make it seem much more valuable than if it would be unadorned. Even if it’s just a sticker or hang-tag, these little extras convey importance and attention to detail that something stashed in a clear zipper-seal bag simply can’t.
Packaging and Branding. One Relies on the Other
Packaging is a curious thing. It “does the job” in its naked, unadorned state, but the true value of packaging is when it conveys something meaningful. Your packaging should include your logo or visuals that convey the “spirit” of your brand. Still, a brand (or logo) by itself is worth very little. It needs a “platform” to stand on and shout its message.
Before you can really get the full value of packaging, you need some sort of brand identity. At its most basic, a brand identity consists of only a logo. But, a logo is merely a symbol or word in a sea of millions of other logos. The term “branding” describes more than just a logo. It covers: a color palette, style of font(s), related symbols and imagery, illustrated details and a general “voice” for who you are and what you stand for.
The first step for any product company is to get a brand identity. This is your single most important initial investment in your product and brand. I tell my clients, once you have a solid brand identity, everything else is so much easier.
The Shape of Packaging
The shape of packaging can be changed into anything you heart desires – but for a price. Larger companies usually have the option of customizing the form of their packaging due to very high volume (100K units and up). The tooling costs for custom dies is expensive, so it’s only justified if your volume is up there.
The vast majority of small to mid-sized companies utilize packaging that is not a unique or proprietary shape, but rather generically available structures. Boxes usually are rectangular or square, and bottles and jars are picked out of a stock catalog. These are customized with their surface design – whether they are pre-printed, labeled or adorned with a tag.
Does Packaging Cost a Lot?
Packaging doesn’t have to cost a lot at all. I recommend for start-ups and small businesses with small budgets just entering the world of consumer product sales to start with stock packaging customized with a label. This way you can invest a small amount in packaging and focus on getting your brand out there. Once you build some volume and cash flow, the income will enable you to justify customized packaging and the associated design and production costs.
Getting a pre-printed custom size box requires 5,000 unit minimum order quantities for most folding box manufacturers. The same would apply to printing overseas (China) when doing custom gift boxes.
You could order less, but the fixed costs associated with printing plates and dies make it impractical to do so. For example, it just doesn’t make sense to pay about $2500 for dies and plates when all you need is 500 boxes.
On the other hand, labels require plate charges with an average price of $50-75 a printing plate (most labels require 2-4 plates).
(A professional packaging designer can help you figure out the smartest way to approach all this stuff. Please note the above are just examples and these prices are subject to vary widely.)
It’s Harder to Do It All At Once
Unless you have significant start-up capital and a clearly defined business plan and budget, you need to take it slow and build up your packaging step by step. Don’t worry, though! Before you know it, you’ll be ready to ditch those plain white boxes with stickers and go for fully-customized packaging.
Case in point: One of my clients, just launched their product as was making waves with their amazing food item. They wanted to get into a certain major national supermarket chain. The retailer didn’t want to take their product the way it was because the packaging wasn’t sturdy enough.
The client came to us to help them revamp their packaging. They wanted a natural, gourmet look. We researched a better material that looked natural and would hold up in a store freezer, found a biodegradable plastic insert tray and designed packaging that incorporated the work of a professional illustrator.
The boxes were designed to work with a label system that allowed the company to test some flavors and print a single box that could be customized via the label. This allowed them to save on printing costs for the box, yet order the smaller amount of boxes that they needed.
Eventually, they were ready for a fully printed box (which is more cost effective since less labor is required when you don’t have to hand-apply labels). Their volume had increased and it made sense to order pre-printed boxes.
Can I Design it Myself?
You can design your products, so why not design your packaging? If you’re creative and have a good eye for type, color and style, go ahead and try your hand at it. You’ll need professional design software like Adobe Illustrator/Photoshop if you want that “polished” look. You can also try hand-lettering and/or illustration.
You can find stock packaging at www.nashvillewraps.com or www.gleruperevere.com. Labels and/or cards at www.uprinting.com and cards at www.overnightprints.com. Simple google searches will also bring up other stock packaging providers that specialize in small order for bottles, boxes and bags.
Visit packaging design inspiration websites like www.thedieline.com or www.lovelypackage.com for ideas. You might also find art and design inspiration blog, Share Some Candy, to be a good resource (founded by my husband, Reuben Miller and I).
How Do I Know if I Need a Professional Designer?
If the stakes are higher and you need to compete in the general marketplace (like retail stores or even online), it will be necessary to have a professional branding and packaging designer do it for you. Rest assured, it doesn’t have to be expensive! I find comparing price (and quality) of 2-3 designers is a good starting point. Try to find someone who has produced consistently good work and has some experience in your product genre and not just going for price. This is an important investment in your brand foundation.
An Optimistic View of Your Brand’s Future Potential
Often when we start a business we may be guilty of thinking too small.
I’ve had clients come to me only after designing a whole bunch of labels and packaging with an inferior and cheaply design logo, only to have to start over again. At the time it made sense: start-up company working out of a home kitchen or studio with no cash flow in sight. But, suddenly you find yourself with lots of orders and a fiercely competitive world to enter. You want to get your products into the big retail stores, but you know the look you have won’t cut it.
It’s always easier to grow your company with a brand identity you can stay with. Changing it mid-stream often includes challenges that could have been avoided.