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Packaging design by Jonathan Sands Are many products meaningless without their packaging? Jonathan Sands explains packaging design's role in protecting contents, selling products, and helping people to use them He discusses the rise of green packaging, how consumer driven demand is helping to improve packaging recyclability as well as reducing greenhouse emissions. 09 November 2006, Updated 29 October 2007 An introduction to packaging design The term ‘brand’ originates from the days when farmers used to brand their cattle to register ownership of their herd. Before long the brand began to represent not just the owner but their values and quality of their product; it became a mark of security and trust. Packaging has always had a fundamental role to play in the way brands communicate these values. From these relatively humble beginnings packaging design in the modern age has become one of the most sophisticated, holistic and powerful examples of the designer’s craft. The full life cycle of packaging now touches on all of the key issues facing business today and it is important to understand its impact from cradle to grave. From where the original product is sourced and the cost of materials used, to the transportation costs to store and the legacy issues surrounding its reuse or disposal designers today must consider the full impact of a pack’s design. What is packaging design? Packaging design can be viewed in four different ways:a means of protecting the contents of a package a contributor to the cost of the end product a sales canvas on which to promote the product's attributes and benefits a part of the product experience itself The role of packaging Packaging plays many functional roles from protecting contents to helping the user employ the product but perhaps its main job is still seen as one to help sell the product at the point of purchase. Most products are meaningless (or at least undifferentiated) without their packaging - just take a look at any shampoo fixture and think about how you’d chose one from another. So, once functional considerations are completed the most important design consideration is how best to create and tell a story that stands out from the crowd. From aesthetics… In the 80s and 90s it could be argued that packaging designers concerned themselves mostly with how their craft could help add value in terms of improving aesthetic appeal, to then improve sales. The use of foil bags, embossed and etched bottles, textured papers and wax seals, latest print techniques and new materials were options endlessly considered as designers tried to enhance product perception and standout. …To ethics More recently there has been a marked shift in focus towards environmental issues and the role of packaging. Design pundits often quote the egg carton as being a design classic. It is somewhat ironic therefore that this simple eco–friendly, yet beautifully functional design is perhaps also a contemporary benchmark for environmentally sustainable packaging. While the repackaging of many grocery items in foil wrap may still be wholly appropriate in many instances to improve shelf life and product perception, the rise of the 'savvy shopper' in the last few years has forced packaging professionals to look at alternatives. The growth of retailer 'basics' brands and a growing awareness of the impact on the environment of excessive packaging have driven a desire for packs to be wholly recyclable. The rise of green packaging But ‘green’ packaging isn’t just about recycling. We now also live in the world of food miles where we measure the distance a product has to travel from source to point of purchase. Therefore truly green packaging needs to consider more issues than recyclability. We need to consider palette maximisation too. In other words how can we design our packs to...
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