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Packaging design for food products.

Packaging Design for Food Products

To state the obvious, packaging design is about selling your product by the way it looks. There are a lot of other factors - price, advertising, sales promotion and the quality of the product itself - which influence the consumer's decision as to whether to buy or not. However, the way the product looks on the shelf is almost always the shopper's first point of contact. Looks can kill. If a product does not look as if it will taste good, fewer people will be willing to spend their money to find out whether it actually does or does not.

On the surface, it ought to be a fairly straightforward matter to design packaging which is both appropriate to the product and attractive to the sort of person who might want to but it. In practice, this does not always seem to be the case, and there are a lot of different reasons for this. The messages that pack visuals and pack shape communicate to the shopper depend on a number of factors, such as what other packs in the same market sector look like, and the current state of the conventional language of the marketplace.

Colours, styles of illustration and type-faces come and go. The packaging designer has to keep abreast of the nuances of the way the visual language of any give market is changing and to be able to anticipate the way they will go in future.

What looks exciting one year can look 'old hat' and uninspiring the next, whilst some designs survive the test of time and acquire the status of classic.

There is still plenty of room for improvement and innovation, and since consumers' needs and attitudes are changing all the time-there always will be. It is impossible to ensure the 'perfect' design just by spending money. Packs produced on a limited budget for relatively small clients have frequently shown the big operations a thing or two.

So, enough theory, what does using a design consultancy actually involve? The way a project develops depends on a number of factors. One of the most important is how well the client knows his market. If the client has a clear set of ideas about who his product is aimed at and how best to position it to address this target market, the process is relatively straightforward; the design consultancy can simply respond to a clearly formulated brief.

If the client is less clear on these issues he may wish the design consultancy to play a more investigative role. This might involve conducting a visual audit in the marketplace - assessing the merits and demerits of the product's competitors, analyzing their respective design strategies and assessing the success of these strategies. The client may want the consultancy to commission market research on his behalf. This tends to be the exception rather than the rule but there are obvious benefits in having research and design working hand in hand. Before the work of designing a product's packaging can commence, a brief should be the product of Ideally, the brief should be the product of a collaborative process between designer and client. Once the brief has been agreed, the design team involved will produce a number of design concepts responding to this brief.

The next stage is to evaluate the respective strengths and weaknesses of these concepts in order to establish the optimum route to be pursued. The means adopted for doing this can be anything from a relatively brief consultation with the client to a sophisticated and protracted research programme.

At the London Design Partnership, located at The Works, Torriano Mews, London NW5, tel: 01-485 5885, we are increasingly interested in the ways research can be used as part of the ongoing design process and not simply to assess work on its completion.

What this means in practice is that the initial presentation of the creative work will illustrate how we have examined and challenged the brief. Following this initial presentation, the concepts are refined to one or two designs which are then put into research. Attempts to research more than this number tend to become confusing for the respondents. The latter stages of the research process may well involve launching the design in a test market.

As a designer, I feel strongly that our role is not just to react to what the client wants but to bring our knowledge and experience to bear in a way that will be of direct benefit to the client in marketing the product.

The whole purpose of the various procedures of analysis, creativity and refinement, which we pursue, is to ensure that the client ends up with an exciting but relevant packaging style without having to worry about being bullied by some mad creative person in the process. A lot of consultancies adopt a take-it-or-leave-it approach in presenting their ideas to clients, only showing their recommendations and not the processes by which these were arrived at. We always try to include the client in the thought process through which a design strategy evolves.

From the clients' point of view, the important thing is to employ a consultancy with the right combination of creativity and market understanding, and with a strong commitment to producing a good design that does the job it is supposed to do.

PHOTO : Packaging for Lyons Decaffeinated tea bags

PHOTO : Packaging for John West Microwave meals
COPYRIGHT 1989 Food Trade Press Ltd.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:O'Dwyer, Gerard
Publication:Food Trade Review
Date:Nov 1, 1989
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