The Element of Surprise in Packaging Design

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Part of The 7 Secrets of Powerful Packaging Design Article

Many people don’t realize that, in the past 8 years, one marketing industry has risen to be the number 2 largest spend by today’s brands: Experiential marketing. Of course, digital is still number 1 and growing by 16% annually. But, experiential marketing is now number 2 with 6% growth from 2014 to 2015 (Study by EventMarketer). The reason for this is simple: people crave memorable experiences more than they crave things. It’s now a well-known fact that millennials value experience more than they value owning houses, fancy cars or expensive items. This shift in consumer behavior from desiring things to desiring experiences has a direct effect on packaging design.

How, you may ask, can a package design be like a live event? The thing that makes live events so memorable is that moment where something happened that was unexpected, and blew your mind. Packaging designers can take a lesson from live events by delivering a similar element of surprise to the shopping experience. For example, the moment when a package lid is lifted, and the inside of the carton is flooded with a bright color that says “this secret experience was designed just for you”. Or when the customer realizes the package was designed to have a second life after you unpacked the product, and doubles as gift box or storage box for other things. The packaging design’s face panels may create a larger image when viewed next to each other on the shelf. Or, when the packaging unveils a bonus gift item that wasn’t even advertised on the carton—that coupon code, window sticker or keychain that declares “I’m a real brand loyalist, and only loyalists get these.” The possibilities for elements of surprise are vast so be sure to challenge your packaging designer, or your client, to develop an element of surprise into your next packaging design.

CAPTION FOR IMAGE ABOVE: Create an unexpected moment of surprise for the customer. Stage that element to be discovered during the unwrapping of the product. The resulting experience will delight and satisfy–moving your brand to the loyalty winner’s circle. Example: Flood the inside of a folding carton with color that reflects the fragrance, attitude or style of the product about to be experienced.

Key Element: For the past 10 years, the fastest growing category of advertising/marketing budget expenditures has been Digital. The second fastest growing category: Experiential Marketing. Why? Because experiences engage our sense, stimulate emotional responses and earn a place in our long term memory. Find a way to make your packaging a memorable experience.

Get The 7 Secrets to Powerful Packaging Design as a free download

Personal versus Corporate Branding

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There are two types of brands: Personal and Corporate. Selecting the right one for your company requires asking some questions, getting objective answers and some future considerations.  A Personal Brand is based on a person, just like it sounds. Oprah, Martha Stewart, Tony Robbins, etc. These brands can be applied to any number of products or services that can reasonably be affiliated with the celebrity such as Oprah’s Magazine “O” and Martha Stewart’s many lines of home décor. The brand carries the values, talents and notoriety of the person for whom the brand is named. Corporate Brands are not based on any one person, but rather a concept, idea or industry of focus. Sometimes, the brand name is nonsensical, like Google or Trivago, which makes them catchy, but it costs a lot to advertise and build catchy-ness in a funny word. Corporate Brands are more flexible in that, it matters less who is at the helm of the brand, allowing corporate brands to be bought, sold and expand easily into many industries. Example: Microsoft, Apple, and Starbucks. While the CEOs of these companies can rise to high levels of fame, just like with Personal Brands, that person can also be replaced without the brand completely loosing its vale. Example: Steve Job’s passing and subsequent appointment of Tim Cook as CEO of Apple. Apple is worth more now than when Steve Jobs was CEO.

How do you know which one is right for you?


  1. Will customers buy from anyone selling the products or services you make?
    1. YES: Corpoate
    2. No: Personal
  2. Is having you in the sale critical to making the sale happen?
    1. YES: Personal
    2. No: Corporate
  3. Is your type of product or service specific to you as a creative, innovator or inventor?
    1. Yes: Personal
    2. No: Corporate
  4. If you were taken out of your business for 6-months, would it negatively affect the sales of your company?
    1. Yes: Personal
    2. No: Corporate
  5. Do you want to be able to sell your business in the future?
    1. Yes: Corporate
    2. No: Personal

Now that you know what kind of brand you need, the next step is to work with a brand design agency to develop the logo design, messaging, design style, color palette, typography and guildelines that will ensure consistency wherever your brand appears.

For a consultation about your brand design, contact Deal Design.


Get Onboard with Sustainable, Reusable, and Recyclable Packaging

By | Catalog Design Blogs, Graphic Design Blogs, Packaging Design Blogs, Uncategorized | No Comments

Social pressures are pushing companies to adopt packaging that is sustainable, reusable, and/or recyclable. While most would agree this is a great move, many brands that start down the eco-friendly packaging path end up reverting back to continuing what they have always been doing. We mainly see this happening for three reasons:

1. Lack of understanding about the many ways packaging can be sustainable
2. Sticker shock at the cost of the switch
3. The misconception that sustainable, reusable, and/or recyclable means bland and boring

There are many ways packaging can be eco-friendly. And, using eco-friendly materials does not have to be dull and bland. Progressive packaging designers  can employ innovative thinking to re-design your packaging while using eco-friendly materials is one of the most necessary and popular ways to begin selling and distributing your products.

Recyclable Pulp and Papers

One way to develop sustainable packaging is by using folding cartons made from recycled materials. Paper pulp is processed by chemicals that remove all ink and unwanted printing on paper – therefore, making it an extremely popular material for eco-friendly packaging. Using molded paper pulp instead of Styrofoam for cushioning products inside outer containers benefits our environment. Styrofoam is not a recyclable material; however, it is still often used as a cushion for products in many packages. Eliminating Styrofoam as the go-to material for cushioning will successfully be the step towards sustainability the environment is in desperate need of.

Reusable Bottles and Jars

Plastic products are also a huge opportunity for sustainability in packaging design. In the past 10 years, there has been a major trend of reducing plastics in things like water/liquid bottles and plastic rings in canned 6-packs. Many informative websites such as Ban the Bottle have proven that Americans use about 50 million water bottles a year; however, our recycling rate is only about 23% – meaning that about $1 billion worth of water bottles are dumped in landfills each year. Many brands have taken the glass bottle route instead of using plastics which enables their product to be reusable by consumers. Certain glass bottles and jars lend themselves more readily to being repurposed by the consumer, so why not give your customers packaging that creatively inspires them to reuse?

Biodegradable Additives

There is a challenge with being “sustainable” because the high cost in packaging often scares brands away; however, consumers will pay a little more to support the environment. Using social media, advisements and packaging content itself is a direct way to communicate your dedication to the environment and justify the higher cost of the product. According to an interview CNBC did with Nestlé chairman Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, there has been a tremendous change in the thought process of the consuming youth. Millennials are on the hunt for affordable prices with the most environmentally friendly option, while 20 years ago the focus was price alone. Nestlé is not alone with this sustainability shift – Deal Design’s client, Reef sandals, has made a significant change in the manufacturing of their products to make them eco-friendly. Reef is now including Eco-One® additives in products to speed biodegradability of sandals in landfills. There is a high chance that recyclable products and packaging will soon become a world-wide norm –so get onboard now before your product is left to drown in our oceans.

Contact Deal Design for a packaging design estimate.

Get ideas for sustainable packaging on our Pinterest Board:






Crowdsourcing Package Design Decisions Guarantees Big Sales

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Making final decisions on logo designs and packaging or label designs is a major roadblock that many start up companies face. Being invested and immersed in a product can create a biased opinion on what designs stand out and sell a product effectively. This is where crowdsourcing becomes a quick and easy decision-making tool for any company. Asking your target market what they like ensures you go to market with a winner.

Crowdsourcing is a relatively new term in marketing. It’s the action of using a web site or social media channel to obtain feedback on a decision that needs to be made. We previously called this activity “Focus Group Surveys”. “Focus” because you could only afford to pay a small group of people to show up to a room and participate in market research. But today, the Internet and Social Media enable us to reach out to hundreds or thousands of people in a target market and get immediate feedback to empower successful marketing and business decisions.

At Deal Design, we crowdsource design decisions to validate design direction and take the pressure off of us, or our client, having to make the right one. No one argues about their favorite design being the best one when an overwhelming percentage of your target market tells you what decision to make.

Examples of a recent label design that was crowdsourced for a final decision is included in this blog post. Our of the several designs created, our client narrowed it down to their top 3 and then crowdsourced to get the final answer.

In the photo above, there are explanations for the outcome of a crowdsourcing poll. This gives insight to the reasoning behind each vote and helps us understand they “why” of the votes.

Packaging Trends of 2018

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What’s In, What’s Out, and What’s New in Packaging Design?

We have officially hit the halfway point of 2018, so it’s time to start thinking about the new developments 2018 has brought us, in the packaging design world. Just like fashion, packaging has trends, and we remember the good, the bad, and the ugly. To stay #trending, here are 5 of the most commonly used packaging trends this year.

1. Sustainability:

While sustainability in packaging in a newer concept, it is considered more of an expectation and necessity to many consumers. Take your favorite water bottle brand for an example. I can guarantee you that there has been a change in the amount of plastic used in the bottles and caps over the past couple of years. Brands are finding innovative and environment friendly ways to use lightweight and biodegradable materials to package their products. The key trend within sustainability is: reusable. Consumers are attracted to packaging that has a potential second or third life after initial purchase. Whether it’s a glass bottle or a storage box, a consumer feels like they are receiving more than just a product alone when they receive sustainable packaging . This allows consumers to continue buying products without polluting the environment with excessive plastic and waste.

2. Bold Colors and Words:

 From a young age, we are asked what our favorite color is. The rainbow contains 7 colors and the average human eye can detect 10 million variations of those 7 colors. We are attracted to color. Color inspires memory, imagination, and creativity and has been scientifically proven to spark many emotions including hunger and happiness. Now think about coordinating color with words. If your brand’s name is bolded, enlarged, and filled with a strong color, the consumer’s eye is instantly drawn to the name and their emotions are engaged. Packaging can either make or break your product. So why not stand out on the shelf or website and package your product with equivalent of a bold spotlight shinning directly on the item 24/7?

3. Simplicity/ Sleek:

 Touch is one of the 6 senses that humans crave on a daily basis. We are attracted to how things feel in relation to how they look and vice versa. When the packaging of a product is silky, sleek, and smooth the consumer is immediately intrigued. Take the iPhone packaging for an example; most consumers know what the box must feel like because of what it looks like. The simplicity of the box is raw and unedited. No gimmicks, no frills, no distractions. What you see is what you pay for. When your product is packaged in an effortless yet effective manner, it becomes all about the product itself. While simplicity and sleek packaging styles have been trending for the past couple of years, it is still one of the most effective ways to brand your product.

4. Foil Detail:

 Picture this – you’re walking down the street listening to your favorite song and you see a shiny item on the ground ahead of you. Your adrenalin picks up as you move closer and all you can think about is what this item is. You squat down to pick it up; it’s a beautiful gold ring. You wonder how much it’s worth, who it belongs to, if it has sentimental value…but there is no one around to ask. So do you keep it or put it back on the ground for someone else to find? You slip it in your pocket and keep walking with a pep in your step and a smile on your face. This is a similar idea to foil detailing. Packaging that has little hints of gold, silver, copper, or holographic foil immediately pick up light and shine from across the room. When a consumer spots an item that has foil detailing, they view it as something expensive and beautiful. Shine is fun to look at and it catches the eye of everyone. Would you walk past a shiny object? This year, catch your consumers eye from across the room.


5. Vintage:

 There is something special and charming about vintage items. There is a story that is told and a feeling of comfort and safety in things that are rustic, weathered, and used. You may be asking – “wait, to stay current in packaging trends for 2018, shouldn’t I be innovative and progressive–meaning new?” While packaging trends are always changing and evolving, some products lend themselves to a nostalgic style. When tradition and “the old way of doing things” is valuable, then go with vintage. Vintage packaging celebrates timelessness and allows products to bring part of the past into the present.

 Contact US to get these packaging trends working for your products.


Woman holding smartphone with Google search page visible

9 Keys to Getting Your Brand’s Website Top-Ranked on Google

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Your website may be the most important tool you have to build your brand. In this article, Deal Design outlines the most powerful ways you can leverage your Web Site to grow your business. Web strategies continue to evolve at an exhausting pace. But, you don’t have to have the latest and greatest everything to harness the power of the web. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the practice of designing and engineering your website, so Google’s search algorithms view your site as a great match for people searching for the products or services you sell.

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Le Réve car air fresheners in blister packaging. 4 fragrances shown with colorful models.

Selling Your Product From the Outside-in

By | Graphic Design Blogs, Packaging Design Blogs, Product Photography Blogs

Importance of packaging design for new products

There is a great deal of importance in the packaging design of new product. If you are in the beginning stages of developing your new product, you may be thinking to yourself – “My product is great just on its own, isn’t that enough?” When a shopper is evaluating a new product to purchase, the packaging has significant influence on deciding between two or more competing brands. The shopper usually cannot experience the product before purchasing it. Therefore, selling the product is the job of the packaging, and it’s done from the outside-in.

Iconic packaging has a magical effect on the consumer that is equally important, as the product itself. Take an iPhone for an example; the smooth finished and simplistic matte box mimics the design sensibilities of the product inside. The iPhone and all its accessories are efficiently nested into perfectly engineered cavities, making the unpacking experience simple, deliberate, and exciting. The experience happens from the outside-in. Your packaging must emulate this promise of an exquisite experience at the point-of-purchase. The shopper is counting on the packaging to deliver a promise of the product experience to come after purchase.

Dr. Michelle Copeland packaging design

Many times packaging costs as much, or more than the product itself. Focusing time and effort on the packaging design of your product allows you to price your product higher than if it was sold inside a brown paper bag. A consumer is going to respect the value of a product if it is displayed with equally impressive packaging. Think of it like an interview – would you go to an interview for your dream job wearing gym clothes or a stylish business suit? While you may be a better fit for the company based on experience and the value you will deliver, they will most likely not hire you if you show up in gym clothes.

When considering how much you will invest in your packaging design, remember, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Winning the battle at the shelf with a new shopper the first time is critical. Once a consumer has found a product they like, loyalty emerges, and they will stick with what they like 9 times out of 10. Think about how much you have spent on developing your product. Isn’t that investment worth taking your endeavor across the finish line with a packaging design that closes the sale?

©2018 Deal Design Inc.

Contact David Deal about packaging design for your new products.


Product photography studio with lighting equipment around the table

Product Photography in the Age of Smart Phones

By | Graphic Design Blogs, Product Photography Blogs

Professional Product Photography? Why do I need to hire a product photographer? I have an iPhone!

The amazing technology going into smartphone cameras makes everyone believe they are now as good as any professional photographer. So, why would you ever hire a professional photographer for your product photography? Here’s why.

The key to professional product photography is not the camera, it’s the lighting. This secret is true across all forms of photography and any photographer who is being honest with you will tell you that. Today’s digital SLR cameras, and even some of the latest smart phone cameras, can detect lighting levels and have auto focus with image stabilize. These things use to be the technical domain of the experienced photographer. While they still are at an elite level, it’s hard to argue at what point these become less relevant.

What is still 100% true is the quality of lighting makes or breaks your photo. And, when it comes to product photography, lighting is the critical factor that elevates your photos to pro level. You can try this on your own and see what I mean. Take you ultra-cool iPhone and photograph any ketchup, mustard jelly jar in your refrigerator. Do you best to set it in the best lighting situation you can. Then, Google that product online and compare the photo there with the one you took. You will see what I mean. The two product photos are like night and day. Why? Professional lighting. That’s why. Pros use thousands of watts of strobe lighting, soft boxes, reflectors, fill lights, Gaussian filters, flags and shadowing techniques to achieve that perfect product photo. And that becomes the visual standard we, as consumers, are accustomed to seeing and the standard by which we judge quality.

Yet, I often encounter startup companies that think their iPhone photos are good enough. Because, after all, Apple has told them they now have the power of professional photography in their hands. I often see startup product companies using their own pictures on Amazon and their own eCommerce sites and I truly believe they can’t consciously see the quality difference because they don’t have a pro-level product photo to compare it to. I can instantly spot them. And you can too, if you pause and evaluate your initial reactions to them when you see them. They seem…well…less-than somehow. Like mom and pop put them together. And, it erodes your trust in the quality of the products they are selling.

For all the time, money and passion you put into bringing your products to life, you owe it to yourself to hire a professional photographer to capture your blood, sweat and tears in the best lighting possible to ensure you sales match your expectations.

Photo of press operators studying catalog design press forms as they come off a printing press

Catalog Design: The Art and Science of Press Checks

By | Catalog Design Blogs, Graphic Design Blogs, Uncategorized

Hundreds of hours designing, thousands of miles traveled sourcing, and piles of cash invested into manufacturing, and it all comes down to this: CMYK color on paper that acts as the sales too your sales force uses to drive the bottom line. Does your catalog design deliver what you expected? Here’s how it can, with a photo example below.

Over the 20 years we have been designing catalogs for brands, it never ceases to amaze me hear how often I hear about the critical phase of press checking being neglected by others. I think it’s the nature of digital media taking over and replacing print media as the primary communications vehicle for product marketing.  The art and science of color on press is dying away. There are fewer and fewer quality print companies, but those that are still thriving are doing so because they deliver the highest quality of color you can achieve on paper. Of course, the designer need to be there to help push that catalog across the finish line. Here’s why.

When a catalog design goes to print, and after you have reviewed color proofs of the photography, illustration and catalog designs, those electronic files go through a RIP (Raster Image Processing) and get laser etched to printing plates. Those plates then fall subject to a 100% physical process of transferring inks to those plates and then the plates pass the ink to paper at high speeds. The layering of CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black – yes K stands for Black – don’t ask it doesn’t make much sense) requires an artistic finesse on press to deliver the color you expect. Quality press operators will do an excellent job at matching the color proofs. But then, that may not be enough. You see, CMYK color cannot perfectly match many of the inks, paints and dyes used in manufacturing for most product. Printing can get close, but it takes an artist’s eye to make fine tuned adjustments on press to pull up or down color intensities to more accurately match your actual product. Sadly, many designers and their clients ignore the press check opportunity and just assume the work is done when a job goes to print.

Case in point. We just finished the Summer 2018 Reef sandals and apparel catalog designs and sent them to print. I always supervise press checks for large jobs like this where color is so critical. I think about the teams of designers, sample makers and manufacturers that labor over nailing the perfect colors, textures and stylings. I feel it is our duty to honor their creative work with reproducing it as best we can. So, I always bring real product samples with me to the press check. I try to push the limits of ink on paper to accurately reflect the work of these professionals. During the many page forms I pressed checked for Reef, three of the forms had large color photos of products that were just not close enough to the real thing for my taste. Even after all the proofing and approvals that went on. So, I instructed the press operators to adjust the ink flows for the CMYK color decks in certain zones of the press sheet to bring those photos back to more closely represent the real products. Sometimes, we have to make adjustments 3-4 times to get it right. That’s the art of it. You can see what I mean in the photo below.

Closeup photo of catalog photo of woven shirt with real shirt next to it, and note explaining the two don't match

I know what it’s like to have your creative work turn out looking disappointing on press when color values are not what they should be. Buyers are making decisions for tens of thousands of dollars in many cases based on these catalog photos. I want them to be the best they can be. And, sometimes all it takes is an extra 15 minutes of adjustments on press to deliver that catalog design color that boosts sales through the stratosphere.

catalog design photo of cover from Pearson Farm showing pecans and food packaging designs

Catalog Design: 5 Strategies for Catalogs that Build Relationships with Customers

By | Catalog Design Blogs, Graphic Design Blogs

Make your product catalog do more than deliver sales information. Empower it to build a relationship with customers that, in turn, builds your brand. Here are 5 strategies for getting the most out of your product catalog design.

  1. Create a Brand Personality.

Just like people, brands have personality. If you haven’t thought of your company brand that way, chances are your brand’s personality is coming across as boring or non-existent. Or, you are forcing your personal image onto your brand. Like that waitress at the airport food court restaurant who is too tired, busy and trapped in self-loathing to muster anything that resembles personality during her 20 second interaction with me. And, just like that waitress, we are often too caught up in the frantic pace of running our businesses to stop and consider what our product catalog design says about our brand. In fairness, its often hard to see yourself through an objective perspective and very easy to assume customers “get it” because you “get it” clearly. That’s why relying on an experienced brand designer is so valuable. Creative communications professionals can interpret product brands in visual ways that are engaging, memorable and convert browsers to customers. It’s like getting a personal stylist for your outfit, hair, makeup and resume to help you nail that game changing interview. And every customer that views your product catalog is engaging you in an interview to win their business.

  1. Use Graphic Design to Communicate Your Brand’s Personality

The online shopping experience often lacks the personal touch that face-to-face interactions deliver. Even telephone conversations do at least a respectable job of establishing a personal connection between you (your brand) and your customer. But when so many consumers shop online and make their entire buying decisions void of human contact, the next best thing you can do is inject your brand’s personality into your catalog and communicate that personality through your catalog design. Elements like large lifestyle photography, emotionally-driven text, carefully chosen color and photos of your actual team members helps create a sense of knowing your brand, even without meeting or speaking to anyone. With knowledge comes a sense of trust. And, people tend to buy from who they know and trust. If your brand is fun and outgoing, your catalog design should be presented the same way: lots of colorful backgrounds and playful text layouts. Photos clipped out from boring white backgrounds and interacting with the pages and text. Photos of the products in action or in use by fun people and set in fun environments. You get the gist.

  1. Product Hero Photos

Hero photos are large, detailed and dynamic photos of your product or services in use or action. They are also sometimes referred to as glamor photos or beauty photos. The idea is to give the customer an up-close and personal view of your products where they can appreciate all the details that a thumbnail photo can’t deliver. This includes things like finishes, stitching, color, and controls that have to be examined in detail to be appreciated. Think of it this way. If a customer would hold your product and bring it closer to their face to study its details in person, then you need to deliver that kind of experience through your catalog design. When I say hero photos, I mean big photos. Really big. HUGE. They larger the better. You can usually fit a few products in one photo, or different angles the same products and display it at or near full page size, or as a two-page spread. (A spread means two facing pages are viewed as one wide panoramic page when your catalog is held open. Your products are the heros of your business. Give them hero status in your catalog by making them larger than life!

  1. Quick-Scan Features

In retail environments, packaging design has 3 seconds to deliver your product’s value and “why-to-buy” message. Catalog design needs the same fast-scan capability. Each product should have a quick-scan zone where a customer can see the top features, value and price within 3 seconds. If you accomplish this task, and they connect with your product or service, you earn the next step in their review process: a detailed exploration of your product page. Fail to deliver and they move onto another competitor that knew how to delivery quick scan details, and you’ve lost the sale. Other graphic design elements help drawn and keep attention in quick scan zones such as icons, mini-photos and detail photos that illustrate your features and benefits. Your catalog designer can help you with creative solutions for your quick-scan zones.

  1. Less is More

When it comes to catalog design, less clutter per page delivers more sales. We are so inundated with media information that experiencing a product catalog where the design provides ample areas of clear space, uncluttered pages, and easy-to-read and understand product experiences makes for a great buying experience and helps build your brand’s personality shine through. Catalogs like this also experience higher conversion rates (converting targets to customers) than catalogs that jam as much into each page as possible. It may be hard to accept for some people, but white space is your friend. White space allows out eyes to rest for split seconds that are undetectable to us in the moment, but result in happier, positive experiences for customers. Less clutter equals more sales.

Get an estimate for your catalog design