How to create a good packaging design brief
Every woman reels with excitement when that little robin’s egg blue box with a silky white bow is presented to her. Even before opening it our minds begin to jubilantly dance over the possibilities of its contents.
Tiffany’s boxes have become iconic. Without their labels the Pom Wonderful, Maker’s Mark and Perrier bottles are all unmistakable. A product’s packaging is an integral part of the product itself. It is a promise the brand is making to its customers. A decree that the product will deliver on its expectations.
So when a client asks you to create packaging for their product you have become an ambassador of the brand.
Where to begin with your packaging design? You start by creating a good design brief with your client. Here are some steps you can follow to create a packaging design brief that will start off your project with the right foot!
1. Understand the Company & the Product
Educate yourself on all aspects of the company, yes the whole company. Learn when it began, what it does and what it wants to do. As for the specific product you will be creating the packaging for, aim to know what it looks like, feels like, tastes like (only if applicable, you don’t have to lick a Lego) its purpose, and most importantly what emotions should/does it evoke in the target demographic.
2. Understand the Target Audience
Speak with your client about their target audience. Who are they trying to sell this to? Be as specific as possible asking such questions as age, sex, income, geography.
Many companies have spent quite a bit of time and money researching this and may already have materials that would be useful to you. Just ask.
3. Pin Down the Packaging Requirements
Next you must figure out the packaging requirements. What besides marketing is the purpose of the packaging: to protect from impact, to prevent spoiling, to secure in transport? Some will be pretty clear i.e. if a drink does not have a bottle…very messy.
Ask your client to provide you with samples of what the container will house, so you’ll know the dimensions, weight and how many units of the product will be in each package.
4. Clarify the Production Details
To create a stellar visual package according to your client’s budget, you need to know a few production details first. Every time a consumer purchases the product it comes in the packaging, so the client’s basis for the total cost of the product will include packaging costs.
Now, your client should give you parameters of how much each packaging unit should cost. Stick to them.
Be sure to know:
the cost per unit,
amount to be produced and
where it will be produced.
These three factors are directly related and critical to the design process. It’s possible your client already has a manufacturer. If not you may need to do a little recon to find an appropriate facility.
You should ask if the client wants you to be involved in the production and on what level: leading the whole production, being available to answer questions from the manufacturer, or some other level of involvement.
5. Choose the Right Materials
Select materials that work with your concept, fit the design requirements and fall within the desired budget.
Munchery's packaging is a good illustrate of this. They say:
"We used to have ugly plastic packaging, that aside from being bad for the environment, it also didn't work in the oven.... which is the way most of our chefs recommend heating up their food. So customers used to have to do an awkward transfer into something oven safe.”
6. Set the Right Design Direction
Arm yourself with a good understanding of the desired design direction. Ask the client to give you three or four examples of product packages they fancy and three or four of ones they do not. The more specific they can be the better. It will save you both time in the long run. Ask about the style. Are they looking for chic and minimalistic or fun and zany?
Remember to ask for all the communication and visual deliverables the client needs to pass on to you – the company’s logo, any professional photographs the client has or still needs, brand guidelines, etc. The more information you have the better equipped you will be to deliver what they are looking for the first time around.
If this is a redesign be sure to get any materials they already have i.e. past packaging, pictures, logos, etc.
7. Clarify the Copy
Make sure you have the copy work and any other information the package needs to contain i.e. legal information, price, bar codes, and any additional information that is required. Don’t forget to include the information in the necessary languages for the target audience.
Masa's packaging is a good example of this. They say:
"In Masa, the product is the brand. This is what we want to communicate as clear as possible leaving behind all unnecessary and decorative details."
8. Clarify What Needs to be Delivered & When
Consult with your client about what you will need to deliver and when. Are there prototypes are required? Understand the timeframe so, in coordination with the manufacturer, you can produce all the deliverables required.
Communication is the lifeblood of all relationships, including work relationships. So it is important that during the brief stage you ask questions, listen and always keep an open mind.
A last little note for our precious Mother Earth. Product packaging is one of our planet’s biggest sources of waste. Go green and good luck with your packaging design brief!