The 5 Stages of the Packaging Design Process

For businesses that sell physical products, stellar packaging design is perhaps the single most important step in gaining a brand following and, in turn, generating sales. Product packaging must be both functional and appealing – without one or the other, businesses risk losing large portions of their customer base. 

In this post, we’ll review the 5 most important steps in the packaging design process. With these steps in mind, you can ensure that you are maximizing the potential of your product reach within your market. 

1. Concepting: aligning your product’s design with your brand identity

Your product’s packaging should do two things: convince the customer to buy that specific product AND convince the customer to remain loyal to your brand. Therefore, it is important that all of your product packagings align with your brand’s identity and appeal to your ideal buyer. 

So, start with the buyer. Develop an ideal buyer persona and evaluate what drives that person to make a purchase. Conduct market research to tailor design decisions such as color scheme, font, photography, copy, and information architecture (more on that later!) so that they appeal to your ideal customer. 

Then, consider the aspects of your business that differentiate you from your competitors. Is it your adherence to organic ingredients or materials? Is it an advantage you offer to your customers? Is it your brand’s story or mission? Identifying your brand’s value in the marketplace is an important step in laying the foundation for your packaging design.

2. The Design Phase 

Once you’ve developed the concept for your product, you can begin the designing phase of the process. During this stage, you will blend technical decisions with artistic ones in order to produce a product that will please your customer and enhance your brand’s presence. 

You’ll want to gather the following logistical info before you begin designing: 

  • How many packages you’ll need designs for. For example, will you simply be producing a label for a bottle, or will you need a design for a shipping box as well?
  • Dimensions for those packages.
  • Copy for your product. Your brand, tagline, product name, description, and any required information such as ingredients, nutritional information, or barcodes should all be compiled before design begins.
  • Imagery to use on the design. 
  • Brand-aligned colors, fonts, and logos.

Then, you will need to decide the hierarchy of your “information architecture.” This is a fun and fancy way of describing the order in which your information is first received by your customer. For example, is it most important for your customers to quickly know and understand that your product is vegan? Or would you prefer to establish your brand name’s presence? If so, it should be your brand’s name that is most prominent in the design.

Check out these two examples below. In the first example (Source: Herbivore Botanicals, design by Alex Kummerow and Julia Wills), the product variation is the most important information. The variation name is central to the design, and the color of the packaging changes to reflect this. In the second example (Source: Content Form Context), Thyane’s brand name is the most important element of the skincare brand’s packaging. The viewer’s eye is drawn straight to the arching logo before any other text.

herbivore brand identityTHYANE brand identity

Once your designer is armed with all necessary information and materials, they can begin drafting the first round of designs.

3. Revisions

Next up will be your revision stage. At this point, your designer should have provided you with a multitude of design options for all aspects of your package design. Be sure to require a wide variety of initial designs to ensure that this stage is as meaningful as it can possibly be. 

At this stage, it is helpful to have more than 1-2 sets of eyes on the project. Have a trusted team come together to weigh the options your designer presented you with. With each design draft, consider whether the package design effectively communicates the most important information to your customers. Namely, that your product is the ideal solution to their needs or desires. Also, be sure to choose a design that is a cohesive addition to your overall brand identity. 

Remember that it is your product’s packaging that will ultimately sell your product to consumers. Keep this at the forefront of your decision-making process. Once your team has deliberated and come to a consensus on the winning design, it’s time to start working with your printer.

4. Package Printing

Printing a package design is a much more involved process than traditional two-dimensional printing. It is important to work with a printing company that has ample experience with retail packaging to ensure that your final product is one that you are happy with. 

Before your bulk order is made, you’ll need to request a proof from the printer. A printing proof is simply a “rough draft” – it allows you to see your product’s packaging in-person and to decide whether the sizing, color, and cut lines are what you imagined them to be. Sometimes, your printer will need to adjust their color settings or readjust the alignment of the dielines (the lines on which you will cut or fold your package design). 

It is important to see your final product in 3-D before sending in your actual order. Sometimes, a design that you loved as a 2-D PDF or Illustrator file won’t look quite the same once it is printed and assembled on an actual package. You may find that you want to have your designer make final tweaks to the design so that your product looks the way you want it to.

At Deal Design, we have established partnerships with trusted printers and packaging manufacturers, so we handle all of these details for our clients.

5. Market Launch 

At this point, you’ve painstakingly seen your vision through to a real, tangible product. Now, it’s time to release your product into the world. 

Your market launch opens up an entirely new set of decisions to make and strategies to master. Some questions you’ll need to be prepared to answer at this step include: 

  • How will I prepare and deliver my products?
  • How do I want my products displayed? 
  • How do I want to maintain an online presence for my product?

It is imperative that you track the metrics of your product’s sales so that you can revisit and revise your next launch.

This outline for the packaging design process is by no means exhaustive. At any step along the way, you may need to tailor the process to meet the needs of your brand, budget, vision, or product. Our intent with this guide is to make you feel equipped to begin the journey of designing and launching a product that you’re proud of, and that you’re passionate about getting into the hands of consumers. 

Deal Design is passionate about helping you to do that with efficiency and high-quality work. Our team is highly qualified to guide you through your package design process. 

To find out how we can help you realize your vision and quickly produce a stellar package design that you’re proud of, get in touch with us.