Who is packaging designed for? A designer may be working for a certain brand but ultimately the packaging is for the end customer. It’s what gets them to pick it up off the shelf or plays a role in enhancing their experience. It’s no surprise then that some companies and designers are making packaging design decisions based on changes in customer habits and wants.
Apple is one such company. A recent patent suggests that its future product packaging may be tech-enabled. The patent builds on a similar idea which Apple filed back in 2007. This ‘active’ packaging can be used to provide power and data to a device while it is still sealed in its box.
This could be a real gamechanger when it comes to buying a new phone or tablet. At the moment most customers have to wait until they get home to use their new device as it needs to be charged, download updates, transfer their data and so on. With active packaging this could all be done before they buy. The product can be kept charged while in the box. Software updates and fixes can be applied while in the box.
Shoppers are increasingly looking for instant gratification. We don’t want to wait for our products to be delivered or even to queue up to pay if we can avoid it. Apple’s active packaging taps into this trend by ensuring that you can get started as quickly as possible with your new phone.
There are concerns that would need to be addressed were this to be rolled out, such as security, the cost of producing the packaging, and how to dispose of it safely, but it’s clear Apple is keeping customer habits front-of-mind when thinking of the future.
Meanwhile over in Japan, Rohto Pharmaceutical decided to do something a bit different for the limited-edition Alice in Wonderland version of its Skin Aqua sunblock. In an unusual move, the text on the front of the bottle was printed backwards.
This was in direct response to the trend among younger shoppers to take photos of themselves with their skincare products. By printing the text backwards, Rohto Pharmaceutical has made sure that it can be clearly read when a customer takes a selfie in the mirror. This helps the brand make sure everyone knows what the product is.
The double-packaging (the product itself comes in a plastic bag with the information printed the right way round) is somewhat wasteful, but it’s an interesting response to a shift in consumer habits. Could we see more packaging being designed specifically to work well in selfies?
Another thing impacting packaging is the trend of unboxing videos. As the name suggests, these videos show someone unboxing a product and talking about it. For the watcher the excitement lies in the reveal of the product – and the packaging has a big impact on how much anticipation there is.
For packaging designers, a good test for new ideas could be to think about how they might look when someone opens them. Is it a pleasant experience? Is it easy to open? Are there different layers? Is there something surprising about the way the product is displayed?
Online subscription boxes also tap into this unboxing trend. Whether it’s clothes or beauty products or food, the experience of getting the parcel through the mail and opening it is being designed to be as attractive as possible. Boxes are often beautifully designed or have exciting graphics, so they look good in photos and videos. The packaging is designed so that the contents can be laid out in a way that catches the eye once the box is open.
As consumers we’re always demanding more of the products and services that we use. Our habits and lifestyles can quickly change, such as with access over ownership, a need for convenience or the use of social media. Brands that can meet those needs win our favour. The role of packaging in doing that should not be overlooked.
By Cate Trotter, Head of Trends at Insider Trends.