The user experience is a key factor in the development of great packaging, but brands are taking UX to the next level with expert design to entice a broad selection of consumers and cater to an even wider range of needs. We look at more personal experiences, inclusivity and reimagined formats that lead the way.
Design for All
At a time when consumer goods giant Unilever is removing the word ‘normal’ from its beauty labels, inclusive brand values are catalysed into the mainstream. Packaging is now being used as a platform to celebrate diverse cultures and ethnic backgrounds, while accessibility is a target for disabled consumers and beyond.
Heralding Cultural Heritage
US-based brand Kulfi’s cosmetics, which are specially developed to suit South Asian skin tones, come in playful packs with stickers inspired by saris and traditional South Asian cultural references. US beauty brand Napolera pays homage to Latinx values and heritage with its bar products made with Mexican nopal (cactus pads). The vividly coloured boxes and graphics are unabashedly Mexican.
Design for Improved Handling
Skincare brand Humanrace also includes braille, while white dots provide a quick and intuitive visual reference for the order of use. Victorialand features tactile packaging symbols to help identify the products, while a QR code links to audio description of product features, ingredients and other relevant content.
Celebrating Black Consumers & Causes
Black consumers and PoC are looking for products and packaging that gives them a mainstream voice. During Black History Month in October 2020, UPS featured artwork on delivery boxes created by the owner of a small Black-owned graphic design firm.
US supplements start-up Peak + Valley features a woman of colour on product labels after the founder Nadine Joseph noted that the wellness marketing is largely geared to white women. Small and independent beauty brands are leading the charge for inclusive packaging. Founder of US-based inclusive cosmetics brand UOMA Beauty, Sharon Chuter followed up her influential 2020 Pull Up For Change campaign with another, Make it Black – partnering with nine leading beauty brands to repackage cosmetics in black branding, generating meaningful conversations around what it means to be Black and how to empower Black entrepreneurs.
With 74% of Black Americans viewing their race as central to their identity (Pew Research, 2019) and 58% more likely to expect the brands they buy to take a stance on issues (Nielsen, 2020), packaging is a powerful vehicle for inclusion and celebration.
Brands are also targeting both mobility-impaired consumers and those on-the-go.
McDonald’s India’s new EatQual packaging redevelops its standard burger box so that customers can eat one-handed, while a one handed hand sanitiser application from Italian packaging company Easysnap Technology has been adopted by Delta Airlines for its online ‘care kits’.
US beauty brand Qur’s packaging is also easy-use. There is no cap to unscrew or a twist to turn with its 360 Lip Balm, which instead opens with a roll of a thumb or finger. Similarly, the new easy-open tube for GSK-owned Voltaren pain relief cream features a small notch in the cap you can use your finger to lever open. Little tweaks like this make a difference.
Form & Function Inspires Design
Packaging designed to reflect the product’s function or act in a way that helps customers understand the product’s function better is also an exciting trend.
For Brazilian haircare brand Fabrica, ridges in the bottle intuitively inform on use and subtly communicate which products are suited for certain hair textures. Similarly, US fragrance brand Byredo’s new make-up collection’s packaging design features curved shapes that respond to the user’s hand and the position in which they would apply the product.
Taking inspiration from their contents more literally, Chinese design agency Rong Design developed paper tear open packaging for grapes that mimics the action of peeling one. Similarly, Amsterdam-based eyewear brand Ace & Tate’s new contact lens sleeves are barely one millimetre thick – eight times thinner than standard packs to reflect the lightweight nature of its lens.
Emotive & Sensorial Strategies
Designers are cleverly capitalising on the strategic use of colours, materials and tactile interactions to induce feelings of joy, comfort and indulgence for packs that foster wellbeing and offer guilt-free luxury.
Traditional features of premium packaging – such as weight and excessive material use – are quickly becoming outdated, as designs need to be light for sustainability and e-commerce. This is driving explorations into alternative expressions of prestige.
In 2020, French champagne house Ruinart introduced a moulded paper case complete with a paper ‘button’ closure, which fits around a bottle like a second skin, to replace its usual giftbox. The sleeve is 100% recyclable and nine times lighter than conventional champagne packaging.
Swiss luxury watchmaker Breitling realised a reduction in transport-related emissions of over 60% by swapping its original hefty watch box for a flat-packed, snap together design made entirely from recycled PET.
Purposeful Colour Use
Research into colour psychology shows that consumers make up their mind within 90 seconds of their initial interactions with a product, and that 62-90% of that assessment is based on colour alone. Clever brands are adopting a deliberate approach to colour to orchestrate product associations and forge an emotive response.
United Sodas of America use colour as a way of creating deeper meaning. Each flavour is assigned a bold shade that not only expresses its ingredients, but also evokes a feeling. Gingery Ale, for example, comes in a nostalgic green can, which channels its zesty, earthy flavour and a mood of “reading prose by firelight”, while White Grape’s pale purple tone expresses delicate sweetness and “grace”.
In a bid to attract the attention of a wider audience, San Franciscan vertical farming start-up Plenty replaced typical ‘healthy’ visual cues (such as clean graphics and foregrounding natural greens) on its salad packaging with the fun colours associated with artificially flavoured foods. Russian designer Anna Mosevnina’s conceptual snack packs similarly employ bright colours to lure kids into healthy eating.
“Imagine that you don’t have to hide your pill bottle and it can be left out without showing sensitive information,” & “It can also be used as an embedded authentication code for luxury brands.” developer Jiani Zeng told UK design publication Dezeen.
New coatings for antimicrobial protection offer further reassurance to hygiene-conscious consumers. San Francisco’s Designsake Studio launched Matter – an entirely recyclable coating that uses silver ion technology compatible with paper, plastics, glass, metal and textiles.
Personal Packaging. In a year fuelled by uncertainty, consumers crave control. Brands acknowledging new needs and habits are getting the user involved in the packaging process. Here we explore the booming, sustainability-driven refill revolution, which is hitting strides both as an in-store and at-home exploit, as well as new customisable treatments.
DIY Refills Encourage Loyalty
Eco-friendly at home refill concepts are snowballing across product categories as consumers prioritise sustainable values. New brands and packaging concepts are luxurifying the process and encouraging brand loyalty with elevated design and a DIY element that gives consumers participatory satisfaction.
Start-ups and independent brands are making the case for mixable, bring-your-own-water soap concepts that are inherently eco-friendly. Keeper (US), Forgo (Sweden) Equa Care (Slovenia), and Haeckels (UK) provide customers with keepsake refillable vessels into which a pill or powder sachet transforms into soaps and cleansers when combined with tap water. Ferm Living (Denmark) and Spruce (UK) adopt the same concept for home cleaning sprays.
Displaying Better Values:
Brands are adapting their packaging to meet consumers’ values and address sustainability criticisms. US app Jybe scores restaurants on the sustainability of their packaging based on user feedback. Users search for restaurant ratings and upload images and feedback on their own deliveries. The app also acts as a marketplace where restaurants can buy sustainable delivery packaging at discounted prices.
Meanwhile, restaurants are ditching single-use plastic en masse to avoid customer condemnation and comply with a growing number of governmental bans on disposable items. In China – where the government has already banned single-use items such as plastic bags and straws – KFC has replaced plastic cutlery at 90% of its locations with wooden versions, while Pizza Hut has eliminated plastic straws and replaced plastic bags with paper ones.
What does this mean for your brand?
Design for all
When the word ‘normal’ is no longer acceptable on beauty labels & inclusive brand values are catalysed into the mainstream. Can your packaging be used as a platform to celebrate diverse cultures and ethnic backgrounds, or can you target accessibility for disabled consumers and beyond. Inclusivity is now more than an industry buzzword, what can your brand be doing do better?
Is your packaging doing everything it can to truly deliver the experience your brand wants to deliver. Can the product’s function act in a way that helps customers understand the product better. Is there a missed opportunity where your brand can be experienced such as on the go that hasn’t been considered? Working together we can unearth those insights that can elevate your packaging and resonate with consumers.
Emotive & Sensorial
Designers are cleverly capitalising on the strategic use of colours, materials and tactile interactions to induce feelings of joy, comfort and indulgence for packs that foster wellbeing and offer guilt-free luxury. Brands need to connect with consumers on these emotional & sensorial levels to truly deliver on their needs. Do you know which aspects of your brand consumers engage with the most and what ownable attributes can be working harder for you?