packagingWhere do you start when designing packaging for your product?

It can be a minefield depending on what you are selling… Here are a few tips to get you started on the right tracks.

Decide on the size and shape – which is most suitable for the product?

Does the packaging need to fit snuggly or does there have to be room for anything else in the pack?

You may have an idea of how you want it to look but bear in mind that a non-standard shape may mean the production costs exceed your budget. Be open to different options and always have an alternative when comparing costs.

Measure the products dimensions to get an idea of size.

This may be altered by the packaging supplier later but it will give a good basis for costings and the amount of information that can be fitted onto the pack.

How do you see it being displayed?

gift packagingConsider how it will be sold – stacked on a shelf next to other similar products, displayed in a transit  pack or in a point of sale tray or display cabinet.

Will the top be visible, or the front face be the most prominent?

The customer needs to be able to see what it is clearly from the shop floor to attract their interest.

The retailer may only want to allocate a certain amount of space.

The weight of your product will dictate the kind of packaging material you can use.

The pack must be durable enough to offer protection and stability. A heavy glass ornament will not be safe enough inside a ‘crash lock bottom’ carton (see below) with no interior support. A heavy duty power tool will be better packaged in a corrugated board than a carton board.

There are often limitations and restrictions in the choice of material but the packaging must also be sympathetic to it’s contents.

packaging corrugated

There is a huge choice of packaging solutions from carton board to corrugated and hand finished solid box board to acetate and plastics. All materials have different advantages and disadvantages depending on the product and its use. Over the years corrugated boards have been developed and refined. In the past corrugated was mainly only used for transit packaging. It can now be seen cradling some very high end products. An environmentally biased product will be more suited to a recycled corrugated liner and if designed well will still look smart and desirable.

Choose a style of box or pack

packaging There are many, many standard designs that will keep costs down. With the advantages of CAD, packaging manufacturers and suppliers can produce samples to your size and requirements easily. This is ideal when deciding what alternative style of pack works best with your product and its position in the market. It also enables mock-up packs to be taken and pitched to the retailer.

Mock-ups and samples

Large department stores will only decide on taking your product for a trial if it fits in with their target market and their criteria. If you want to sell to such a retailer a high quality mock up pack is essential.


Budget restrictions may determine your final pack. Small quantities will always be vastly more expensive as many packaging companies will run them as sample runs. Quantities in 1000’s will be remarkably less per pack.


packaging diepackaging die cut cartonsPackaging has to be printed and then cut out accurately in position. This is usually done using a ‘die’. Laser cutting is becoming more popular as costs come down and is very accurate and suitable for intricate work but on lighter weights of board than may be needed.

The cost of the pack should work out at no more than 8-10% of the actual products value. For small runs and trials this may have to be higher.

The design costs will also have to be included, and a good packaging designer with experience in packaging is essential.



The Design of the pack must be aimed at the product’s target market. It must take any competitor’s product into consideration, how it will appear next to them and how to stand out from them. Drawing on the company’s brand, or developing a new one but maintaining consistency throughout any existing marketing and sales literature.

There are certain legal requirements to be followed especially for weight and ingredients. Alcohol is a typical example and nutritional information, i.e. calories and fat content, has become standard. Warnings or instructions for use, ‘Sell by’ or ‘use by’ dates and shelf life, bar codes and security tags, all have to appear somewhere and space allowed for within the design.



Good packaging will not only protect your product, it will give it a higher perception of value and promote it. The cost of replacing damaged goods that are not properly protected will usually outweigh the costs of well designed and produced packaging in the long run. 

Packaging enhances your product, increases sales and saves you money. Great products need great packaging! 


angie phillips Written by Angie Phillips, Design Consultant - Helping you create business by creating effective design with expertise and efficiency. Personally committed to my clients and always happy to offer advice. Promoting and helping you to grow through strategic introductions even after our work is done. More design tips and useful information here