Design insights & tutorials.

The Beauty of Package Design: Inspiration and Tips

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package design

pack·ag·ing [pak-uh-jing] – noun

  1. an act or instance of packing or forming packages: At the end of the production line is a machine for packaging.
  2. the package in which merchandise is sold or displayed: Attractive packaging can help sell a product.

To me, the feeling of opening a well designed package exemplifies good design. All the little nuances contribute to an individual experience. Kind of a lame example here, but when I first opened my Macbook Pro or iPhone, I got a feeling who apple is as a company and the standard they hold themselves at (not to mention the reaction to the product itself). This can all happen very naturally, but we as designers look to analyze that process and replicate it. Getting this kind of reaction to a product’s package before the consumer even reaches the actual ‘product’ itself is an accomplishment.

Plant a Seed

I understand that geeking out over unusual packaging is a strictly designer joy, but conveying more attention to detail is something that can be taken at face value, as well as scrutinized to the ‘enth’ degree. If a package grabs someone’s attention, your most likely to hear a “Huh, that’s kinda cool.” There’s no real revelation had by the average consumer. But what your doing is planting the seed that may stick in their mind making the product seem more relevant, or personal to them.

Beyond that, some people just flat out want to be better than their competition. So they look to inject quality into every aspect of their product. Design can convey that message in a very unique and personal way. Whether targeting a specific demographic, or an entire populace, we have the means to convey quality and individuality before the consumer even knows what the product is. Real world benefits are clear to see when a Design firm re-brands a product’s packaging and sales increase 35%. Product packaging is no joke, and serious companies look to designers for results. On the other hand, creatives in the movie and music industry recognize the opportunity for a more artistic approach to selling their products.

The Price Tag

The relevance of good packaging is present in both the corporate and creative ends of the client spectrum. I think most people would agree that a degree of custom packaging would never be a bad thing. One of the main hindering factors in pimping out clients packaging is the price tag. Many start ups or creatives dont have the cash to invest in something that isnt considered 100% necessary. But Im a firm believer in presenting yourself as serious as you want to be taken by others. Now that doesnt mean if your serious your going to automatically get a custom packaging job for your new album. In terms of taking that extra step in presenting yourself, or making sure your product’s utmost quality is preserved for a consumer, there are few better ways to impress than investing in custom work.

judge that book

I know most of you are waiting for the ‘judge a book’ metaphor to be flipped on its ear somewhere
in this article – “go ahead, judge that book by its cover!”… but no cliches here. Have you ever found yourself saying, ‘Psssh, that Limited Edition CD packaging is sooo cliche’. Probably not.

Odds are, the design speaks volumes about the musicians. Whether it’s Beck and his DIY sticker package, or Green Day providing a blank CD to allow customers to burn a copy for their friends. Different artist have different visions… Or at least a unique perspective. So, I think we’ll steer clear from cliches in this article in the spirit of good design.

caption

First off… im a sucker for kits. Any sort of kit that contains a booklet, a t-shirt, and some random goodies has me at hello. I dont care how lame or irrelevant the actual stuff is. Below I picked out some cool pieces.

Custom Packaging

  • Here’s a custom box Set for musician Ben Sidran.

Sagmesiter Book Cover Design

  • This is a very smart design by design hero Stefan Sagmeister. See it in action.

Mf Doom Packaging

  • MF Doom goes custom here with the foil wrap. Nice touch to a limited edition version.

Custom Packaging

  • Heres a really cool book version of a CD package.

Custom Packaging

  • This packaging comes from Switzerland. Migros is a chain of food retailers with a penchant for good design… check out more.

—–

Some Basics.

Get your hands dirty

If your used to strictly working on a screen or are from a fine art background, you’re all too familiar with the training/development of your ‘eye’. This is obviously our creative intuition that dictates pouring over countless revisions until a layout looks just right. On the other hand (hehe), training yourself to think with your hands until something feels right (double pun) is a whole other animal. There are many connections to be made from the two however.

Texture, an element of design, can be literally translated from the eye to the hand. You can go down the line with that train of thought; Line, Scale, Balance…. all can be translated without much (if any) stretch of the imagination. Try shifting your production process from the eye to your hand. If an illustration your working on needs a little texture or weight added to it, don’t look online for a cool picture. Look around you. What makes something heavy in your hand might also apply to your illustration…make your lines and texture more dense…add perspective. Often times a different approach may shake up your design routine opening up new doors for exploration.

Every designer should work with their hands. Whether its sketching or mocking up your original CD package, training your hand allows you to tangibly realize your ideas. Packaging in it’s appeal and production, (here it comes….) is hands on (duh). This means that a customer isn’t only going to look at the cover, but they’re going to be swayed by how it feels and functions.

Packaging (and Design in general) is USEFUL ART. So the obligation to make the project different in form is also accompanied by the obligation for it to function appropriately. How is the package more than just elaborated wrapping paper? Does it do its job?

These ideas apply to every packaging job. This presents new and different challenges to every project. So really what this does is expand your creative tool set to include more ways to flesh out your designs. We’re talking:

  • alternative papers (organic, synthetic, varying stocks…)
  • alternative/custom casing (folds, shapes, varying functionality/different closures)
  • alternative printing (inks, paints, dies, finishes)

and on and on it goes. If your goal in design is to convey a message, these additional tools can only amplify that message.

The more connections you make from one creative discipline to another, the stronger and more diverse your work will become.

Read Up

One thing that is a necessity when trying to break into custom packaging jobs, is getting to know the production process. Printing posters is one thing, getting to how custom die-cut packages are made is a little more involved. Knowing what paper will work with a certain fold or how it will react with a special varnish you apply to it is a matter of research and experimentation. There are many resources out there that help to fill in the blanks.

Here are some choice books to check out:

Beyond reading up, start collecting and creating. If you read design magazines usually there are a ton of ads for paper and printing companies (most notably in HOW). I have quite a stash built up from collecting over the years. And if you’re feeling especially driven, send away for a swatch book from printers or paper suppliers… People have been know to make up companies to get their hands on the coveted ‘source’ book from printers (…). But don’t wait on getting the ‘right’ paper or tools. Start with what you’ve got.

Start making your own mock ups. Get your self some nice blades and start constructing your own creations. You can find some decent paper to work with at art stores, but the important thing is you start thinking about your how your designs can be furthered using custom hand finishing. Remember, good is in the details.

Final words.

For the Hopefuls:

  • Remember, spray paint, exacto knives, band-aids, patience, and paper stores are your friends! Get to know them!

For the Inspired:

  • The Dieline is a great blog and there are lots of books out there. If youre feeling the love, let us know and we’ll keep the packaging articles coming.

For the doubters:

  • Really? Why are you reading this article?…did you not see those pics above? Go to bed.

Discussion

We want to hear what you have to say. Do you agree? Do you have a better way to approach the topic? Let the community know by joining the discussion.

  • Logan

    Great article! The last line was hilarious! haha

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  • http://supaspoida.myshopify.com Lar Van Der Jagt

    Good packaging design is one thing that can never be pirated. A nicely designed package is about the only thing that would get me to invest in physical media these days.

  • http://supaspoida.myshopify.com Lar Van Der Jagt

    Good packaging design is one thing that can never be pirated. A nicely designed package is about the only thing that would get me to invest in physical media these days.

  • Chris

    Good article! I’m an in house designer and packaging design is probably the most fun that I have, thinking outside the “box.”

  • Chris

    Good article! I’m an in house designer and packaging design is probably the most fun that I have, thinking outside the “box.”

  • http://matthewtraxler.com matt

    Great article as always! Thanks for sharing.

    As you mentioned alternative printing methods- I thought this was a pretty cool idea- about 3 articles down- they talk about screen printing with hot cocoa and the nice results.

    http://www.bluecollarpress.com/bcp/

  • http://matthewtraxler.com matt

    Great article as always! Thanks for sharing.

    As you mentioned alternative printing methods- I thought this was a pretty cool idea- about 3 articles down- they talk about screen printing with hot cocoa and the nice results.

    http://www.bluecollarpress.com/bcp/

  • http://www.jasongraphix.com/ Jason Beaird

    Great article on Package Design. The Dieline is another one of my regular reads. If I wasn’t such a web nerd, I’d probably get into package design…or wayfinding/placemaking. Very cool, tangible stuff.

  • http://www.jasongraphix.com/ Jason Beaird

    Great article on Package Design. The Dieline is another one of my regular reads. If I wasn’t such a web nerd, I’d probably get into package design…or wayfinding/placemaking. Very cool, tangible stuff.

  • Elvis

    Great article, Package design is def what attracts the consumer first. Ive been debating and researching on a package design style for t shirts, since i read computer arts projects issue on package design. Package design is expensive though.

  • socoduce

    Yup… andother goodie. And yes, guilty…

  • http://naldzgraphics.com NaldzGraphics

    very nice article!!its worth it reading:)

  • http://naldzgraphics.com NaldzGraphics

    very nice article!!its worth it reading:)

  • http://www.annendijck.be Stijn

    Great article.
    many Thanx for the Inspiration and Tips!

  • http://www.annendijck.be Stijn

    Great article.
    many Thanx for the Inspiration and Tips!

  • http://mercenarydesign.blogspot.com elcodigodebarras

    Great post. I´m a packaging and typography lover. I´ve created a small blog to make inspirational and usefull compilations about graphic design. If you got a twice minutes look around it, comments are appreciated.
    http://mercenarydesign.blogspot.com
    Thanks.

  • http://mercenarydesign.blogspot.com elcodigodebarras

    Great post. I´m a packaging and typography lover. I´ve created a small blog to make inspirational and usefull compilations about graphic design. If you got a twice minutes look around it, comments are appreciated.
    http://mercenarydesign.blogspot.com
    Thanks.

  • Lance

    I will admit that I fell victim to “package whorism” when I bought the last album from TOOL (10,000 Days) If you’re even a bit of a fan you should check it out if not for the Packaging alone.

  • Lance

    I will admit that I fell victim to “package whorism” when I bought the last album from TOOL (10,000 Days) If you’re even a bit of a fan you should check it out if not for the Packaging alone.

  • http://www.fuelyourcreativity.com/ adelle

    Very well thought out article, I absolutely love it. Will be spreading the love with this one!

  • http://www.fuelyourcreativity.com/ adelle

    Very well thought out article, I absolutely love it. Will be spreading the love with this one!

  • Eric Thayne

    It’s so easy now to buy music online, but having a nicely packaged CD makes it worth the drive to Wal-Mart.

    Thanks for the post!

  • Léo

    Great!

  • Léo

    Great!

  • Logan

    Great article! The last line was hilarious! haha

  • Ruben

    I agree, packaging is just as important as the piece itself…I attended Sagmeister when he came to Boston, he’s just as eccentric as his package designs LOL

  • Ruben

    I agree, packaging is just as important as the piece itself…I attended Sagmeister when he came to Boston, he’s just as eccentric as his package designs LOL

  • Vito

    Yes! This kind of article is what I have always wanted to see on GoMedia! (not that I don’t like the other articles)

    Please write more!

    One thing, however… your recurring confusion between “your” and “you’re” makes me want to slap you with an ill-tempered mutated sea bass.

    :)

  • Vito

    Yes! This kind of article is what I have always wanted to see on GoMedia! (not that I don’t like the other articles)

    Please write more!

    One thing, however… your recurring confusion between “your” and “you’re” makes me want to slap you with an ill-tempered mutated sea bass.

    :)

  • ChequeredManiac

    Really nice post, fresh feel to the whole article.
    Now that you mention it I think I do have a thing for packaging. The experience of my MacBook and the TimeCapsule was one I’ll never forget, especially the latter.

    An album I bought for the cover was Idiot Pilot, Strange We Should Meet Here. Nothing too special but it cought my eye.

    I like yourcodenameis:milo’s Print is Dead album which was modelled on a burnable disc and its box that you could buy in any shop, with the words PRINT IS DEAD roughly drawn on with a cd marker, it even had a hmv sticker printed in the booklet. I liked that for its originality.

    For me the best packaging for an album was Minutes To Midnight special edition. Beautipully embossed LP on the cover of the case with a gorgeous booklet with tonnes of pictures, lyrics, dedications and articles written by the members of the band. The case was a material, I couldn’t figure out what exactly but it even felt nice.

  • http://www.gomedia.us cmgc!

    @ Vito

    Firstly, thanks Vito. Expect to see more of these kind of articles in the near future….holler.

    Regarding my grammatical mess ups…. your absolutely right. Youre comment is very true. Whenever your writing an article, you shouldn’t only rely on the spell checker… Youre comment is appreciated.

    :)

  • http://www.gomedia.us cmgc!

    @ Vito

    Firstly, thanks Vito. Expect to see more of these kind of articles in the near future….holler.

    Regarding my grammatical mess ups…. your absolutely right. Youre comment is very true. Whenever your writing an article, you shouldn’t only rely on the spell checker… Youre comment is appreciated.

    :)

  • ChequeredManiac

    Here’s some links to the things I was talking about

    Idiot Pilot – Strange We Should Meet Here
    http://tinyurl.com/66377p

    not very interesting packaging, but I remeber that I listened to it purely because of its cover

    youcodenameis:milo – Print Is Dead
    http://www.letskiosk.com/#selected08

    I really like all the little parts of this cd. Look at how the cover is just the generic cover of some bought burnable scribbled over, plus the hmv sticker.

    Linkin Park – Minutes To Midnight
    http://tinyurl.com/564dsu

    This is the book that contains the dvd, cd and 40 or so page booklet.
    There is a coverslip over the embossed LP which is a shame, but I couldn’t find a better one anywhere.

  • Vito

    evil…

    pure evil.

    By the way, those links will keep me preoccupied for a good long time. I’m not sure whether to thank you for the great reads or to curse you for assisting in my horrible procrastination. :D

  • Vito

    evil…

    pure evil.

    By the way, those links will keep me preoccupied for a good long time. I’m not sure whether to thank you for the great reads or to curse you for assisting in my horrible procrastination. :D

  • Bryan

    I love Sagmeister’s book packaging! I wish I thought of that, lol. The MF Doom cd packaging is clever too. Very nicely done!

  • Elvis

    Great article, Package design is def what attracts the consumer first. Ive been debating and researching on a package design style for t shirts, since i read computer arts projects issue on package design. Package design is expensive though.

  • socoduce

    Yup… andother goodie. And yes, guilty…

  • AprilRose

    Great article! As one obsessed with the packaging industry there just never seems to be enough great articles concerning it. Hopefully there will be more to see in the future.

  • http://fr34klab.ru Fe34k

    Beauty packing project, i like yor zine. Design from belorusia. excuse me from my english/ =|

  • AprilRose

    Great article! As one obsessed with the packaging industry there just never seems to be enough great articles concerning it. Hopefully there will be more to see in the future.

  • http://fr34klab.ru Fe34k

    Beauty packing project, i like yor zine. Design from belorusia. excuse me from my english/ =|

  • Eric Thayne

    It’s so easy now to buy music online, but having a nicely packaged CD makes it worth the drive to Wal-Mart.

    Thanks for the post!

  • http://www.geoffmay.com Geoff May

    I too am a packaging nerd. This was a good read. Thanks!

  • http://www.geoffmay.com Geoff May

    I too am a packaging nerd. This was a good read. Thanks!

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  • ChequeredManiac

    Really nice post, fresh feel to the whole article.
    Now that you mention it I think I do have a thing for packaging. The experience of my MacBook and the TimeCapsule was one I’ll never forget, especially the latter.

    An album I bought for the cover was Idiot Pilot, Strange We Should Meet Here. Nothing too special but it cought my eye.

    I like yourcodenameis:milo’s Print is Dead album which was modelled on a burnable disc and its box that you could buy in any shop, with the words PRINT IS DEAD roughly drawn on with a cd marker, it even had a hmv sticker printed in the booklet. I liked that for its originality.

    For me the best packaging for an album was Minutes To Midnight special edition. Beautipully embossed LP on the cover of the case with a gorgeous booklet with tonnes of pictures, lyrics, dedications and articles written by the members of the band. The case was a material, I couldn’t figure out what exactly but it even felt nice.

  • ChequeredManiac

    Here’s some links to the things I was talking about

    Idiot Pilot – Strange We Should Meet Here
    http://tinyurl.com/66377p

    not very interesting packaging, but I remeber that I listened to it purely because of its cover

    youcodenameis:milo – Print Is Dead
    http://www.letskiosk.com/#selected08

    I really like all the little parts of this cd. Look at how the cover is just the generic cover of some bought burnable scribbled over, plus the hmv sticker.

    Linkin Park – Minutes To Midnight
    http://tinyurl.com/564dsu

    This is the book that contains the dvd, cd and 40 or so page booklet.
    There is a coverslip over the embossed LP which is a shame, but I couldn’t find a better one anywhere.

  • Bryan

    I love Sagmeister’s book packaging! I wish I thought of that, lol. The MF Doom cd packaging is clever too. Very nicely done!

  • http://FORTapparel.com Trevor

    Slick article, lots of useful info. Keep up the great work!

  • http://FORTapparel.com Trevor

    Slick article, lots of useful info. Keep up the great work!

  • clint

    Damn, Why do the best articles have to arrive on days I have a deadline in 1 hour. I may never get back to this & miss out on all the packagingey goodness.

    Awesome article, thanks for writing!
    c

  • Ana

    Fantabulous. I, too admit to being a packaging nerd. Special edition of Reservoir Dogs? Came in a metal container. Shaped like a petrol can. Seriously, with cd & dvd sales what they are, people are obviously not smitten with the idea of dropping $30 for something they can get for free, particularly in the market we’re in. Throw in some nifty packaging, however… an “unnecessary” splurge becomes an occasional indulgence, as well as the other reasons mentioned.

    Cheers for the links! The Dieline is now added to my rss feed. :D

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  • clint

    Damn, Why do the best articles have to arrive on days I have a deadline in 1 hour. I may never get back to this & miss out on all the packagingey goodness.

    Awesome article, thanks for writing!
    c

  • Ana

    Fantabulous. I, too admit to being a packaging nerd. Special edition of Reservoir Dogs? Came in a metal container. Shaped like a petrol can. Seriously, with cd & dvd sales what they are, people are obviously not smitten with the idea of dropping $30 for something they can get for free, particularly in the market we’re in. Throw in some nifty packaging, however… an “unnecessary” splurge becomes an occasional indulgence, as well as the other reasons mentioned.

    Cheers for the links! The Dieline is now added to my rss feed. :D

  • http://designshard.com Max | Design shard

    Ive never really thought about packaging coming from a web design background, but this got me thinking back to when i first bought my zune player (i know microsoft , dont hate me hehe) i was so chuffed with the box and kept it on a shelf even when i moved house, really good reading.

    Max | Design Shard

  • http://designshard.com Max | Design shard

    Ive never really thought about packaging coming from a web design background, but this got me thinking back to when i first bought my zune player (i know microsoft , dont hate me hehe) i was so chuffed with the box and kept it on a shelf even when i moved house, really good reading.

    Max | Design Shard

  • JJ

    Fantasticalatiously inspiring !

  • JJ

    Fantasticalatiously inspiring !

  • http://alanvalek.com alanvalek.com

    Keep the packaging articles coming!!!! More!!!

  • http://alanvalek.com alanvalek.com

    Keep the packaging articles coming!!!! More!!!

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  • http://www.myspace.com/pleasebelieveinc Please Believe

    I last CD I bought in years was the Beastie Boys “5 Boroughs” disk. Totally because of the packaging too. (I cant believe anyone still puts out jewel cases).

  • http://www.myspace.com/pleasebelieveinc Please Believe

    I last CD I bought in years was the Beastie Boys “5 Boroughs” disk. Totally because of the packaging too. (I cant believe anyone still puts out jewel cases).

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  • http://promisetangeman.wordpress.com PROMISE TANGEMAN

    really great site. thanks. i will be back.

  • http://promisetangeman.wordpress.com PROMISE TANGEMAN

    really great site. thanks. i will be back.

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  • gene

    Hey you should checkout http://brandpackaging.blogspot.com it’s a really great package design blog.

  • gene

    Hey you should checkout http://brandpackaging.blogspot.com it’s a really great package design blog.

  • http://www.roomfurniturechina.com bedroom furniture

    As one obsessed with the packaging industry there just never seems to be enough great articles concerning it. Hopefully there will be more to see in the future.

  • enveloop

    Daily bottle design here http://www.enveloop.com/

  • Johnny

    Those links will keep me preoccupied for a good long time..really good reading.
    cosmetic surgery

  • b

    Really interesting (:

  • emmanuel Tavares

    great content. i haven't read through the article yet though. you spelled “you're”—”your” and it threw me off. we all know one of the simplest design duties is to correct grammar. best.

  • mm120

    Great Article! I am interested in a career in packaging design. Does anyone on this panel know of any good training programs or courses for beginners? I have a bachelors degree in an unrelated field but 2 years experience as a media planner for an advertising agency. All advice/ information about the field is welcomed. Thanks ;)

  • Karo

    hey, Thank You! It cleared my mind;)

  • tonybuy

    multiple DVD Case,Slim DVD Case,Standard DVD Case 3 way DVD Case,4 way DVD Case,5 Way DVD Case Mnaufacturer from China.
    ———
    http://www.media-packs.com/multi-multiple-dvd-case-box...

  • http://aureliandesign.com/ Brad

    Great article – thanks!

  • Shazzi Mayo

    Really nice post, I agree, packaging is just as important as the piece itself.

  • Matt

    Thanks for this nice work!
    dizi izle

  • John

    Great post!
    dizi izle

  • http://www.domain2host.in Domain Registration

    It is very Useful post to me and i am also web developer and domain registrar in Chennai.

  • Shira Shaw

    very nicely written. Thank you!