08 April 2022, 07:34 AM
  • Lawrence Barnett, owner and managing director of Wonderland Design explains how to judge pack design and make sure its right for your brand
Lawrence Barnett, Wonderland Design: “Pack design. What do you think?”

Ask anyone about a brand’s pack design and they’ll usually offer an opinion. Yet when it comes to your brand, your pack, it’s not so easy! Refreshing your pack design can be a tough process.

One of the most difficult parts of the process for brand owners is the most critical – how to select a pack design route from a range of design concepts.

Research groups are often used to guide these decisions but they never quite feel particularly convincing. And seeking the opinions of trusted colleagues or friends can also feel just as uncertain.

Judging creative work is not a science. It’s tricky to find ways to quantify the merits of a pack design but there are some steps that you can take that will help make judging design work more objective.

1 Have a vision
If you’re re-designing your branding and pack design, then be clear about your brand’s vision. How do you want your brand to be seen in three, four or five year’s time? Your brand’s vision will act as a constant reminder as to what your pack design will need to support. And share your vision with your designer as it’s a great benchmark for your pack design to live up to.

2 Check out the competition
Look at the competitive set and their packaging design. Be clear about where your brand fits in the category. And whether it’s there to disrupt or simply be a better offer than your key competitors. During the design development process, each design concept should be lined up alongside key competitors to give an immediate impression of each route’s merits. A long standing Client of ours always insists on producing studio mock ups for each design route and spending time in a store evaluating them. There’s no substitute for seeing packs in the environment they will be appearing in.

3 The art of briefing
Writing a design brief is an art.  Too many ‘design’ briefs are heavy on category data but light on design direction. Designers want to understand what the pack design needs to achieve – is it going to be a tidy up or should it be more adventurous? What should be the scope of creative exploration? What visual equities need to be maintained? Does the brand have a well-defined personality, who must it appeal to and what must it communicate? Go through the brief with the designer (not the account manager!) and understand what needs to be clearer. A designer will often draw out some creative questions that will make the design exploration more effective and interesting.

4 Research!
Like it or not, research is part of the design process. Whatever form that may take. There are a number of research tools available now. From face to face small groups (can be expensive) to larger online groups where quick and easy chat boxes can be used to capture instinctive responses, through to consumer panels that can be used to thoroughly evaluate designs. And, of course, trusted colleagues or receptive buyers can provide invaluable feedback, as long as they understand what the design is looking to achieve. But don’t be tempted to research or share too many options – two to three is plenty.

5 Trust your designer
Choose a designer or a design agency that you trust or has good experience of working with packaged brands. Briefed well, they will have a good eye for what is right for your brand and how it will best perform on shelf and online. So listen to their opinions, share your thoughts with them (good and not so good) and work together to drive the design process forward.

6 Trust your instinct
No one knows your brand better than you. Take your time to review them, live with the design options for two or three days. Put them up on a wall. Review them again. A period of reflection can crystallise your thoughts. Even change them. But most of all, trust your instinct.

The design process should be an exciting and enjoyable part of brand management. But it can become frustrating if some of the brand planning, design objectives or processes are vague or lack clarity. Get them right and it’s a rewarding process where you can feel confident – and excited – about the decisions you make.