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Label Management
October 31, 2022
April 1, 2024

Packaging Design Process - A 12-Step Guide by Artwork Flow

Rangan Das

Packaging Design Process - A 12-Step Guide by Artwork Flow

October 31, 2022
April 1, 2024
Rangan Das


What is the one thing a shopper probably notices while looking for an item on a shelf? Of course, it’s packaging design — the way it stands out from the rest. It is said that 72% of American consumers have shared that the packaging design of a product influences their purchase decisions. 

Packaging design is a crucial part of product branding and marketing. It serves as a powerful tool to attract your target audience and connect them with your brand. From concept development to final production, the packaging design process involves multiple stages that require creativity, strategic thinking, and attention to detail. In this blog post, we will delve into the journey of packaging design, from its conception to completion.

What is packaging design?

Packaging design refers to the creation of visually appealing and functional containers or wrappers for products. 

It strategically helps a brand to:

  • Communicate brand identity.
  • Differentiate its products from competitors.
  • Improve the overall user experience.
  • Ensure the packaging meets legal requirements.
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For the package designing process, a lot of departments must pitch in to create a successful design. A product package design includes not only the visual elements but also includes the size, shape, materials used, accurate labeling, and other physical aspects of the packaging. 

A packaging design process can get complicated quickly. You need to think of designs that not only look good on screens but also when the product is on the shelf. You also need to consider the project budget and possible bottlenecks and have contingency plans. All of this is way more complicated than creating a design and slapping on a few logos. 

That is why you should know the 12 crucial steps in the design process that are necessary to create a completely error-free packaging design

The 12-step packaging design process

Stage 1: Set up the packaging design process

The first stage is getting up to speed with your present market before you work on the packaging design process. You need to fix a few elements before you move on to the next step. 

1. Your intended audience

Understanding your target audiences thoroughly is the first and most important prerequisite. Some of the most important and game-changing choices you make for your packaging design will be guided by this. Therefore, thoroughly understand and categorize your customer profile before beginning the design process.

2. The sales channels available to you

You must consider the sales channels available to you, such as brick-and-mortar stores, e-commerce delivery, etc., to decide the parts of your packaging design. Every sales channel has unique packaging needs, which must be identified in advance to provide smooth operation to understand the shipping and handling options, storage capacity, safety, and so on.

3. Meeting brand guidelines

Fonts, graphics, and images are important components of your packaging's visual aesthetic. Focus on communicating the essence of the product and the brand through the packaging design. This will provide the customer with a satisfying unboxing experience and convert first-time buyers into repeat customers. A consistent design packaging will also help consumers recall your brand. 

4. Supply chain options

The possibility of the product packaging being harmed during transit is always there. Therefore, it is crucial to understand the typical supply chain route. To choose the packing components, consider the product's form, size, and type. By doing this, you can be confident that your product will remain sturdy and secure during transportation.

5. Choice of packaging materials

Your packaging material choice has a direct impact on how your design appears on the finished packaging. You must choose the suitable material according to your desired price range, sales channel, safety regulations, etc. to keep the structural integrity, appearance, and feel of your product packaging.

6. Sustainability: For consumers, environmentally friendly and sustainable packaging is always the winner! Use as few plastics and environmentally hazardous products as possible. Your marketing team will need to focus on new techniques to gradually draw in more customers by pushing the brand as a sustainable one.

Also read: Packaging Sustainability–Eco-Friendly Packaging for a Greener Future

7. Pricing: Starting with the expenditures associated with the product’s packaging design, printing, and assembly, you must make sure that you can stick to your budget in the future and you can be consistent with your ROI targets.

Stage 2: Brief the team

At this stage, the brand and the design team should meet up and discuss their expectations and limitations. This stage is crucial since it determines whether plans are heading in the proper direction. It serves as a road map, and the brand’s inputs are a key tool in gaining a comprehensive grasp of the psychology of the customer towards their brand.

The quality of the briefing reflects the nature of the creative work. A seasoned creative agency is adept at breaking down the brief. Based on the brief, they determine what is needed, what works, and what doesn't.

Stage 3: Project planning 

Planning is a predetermined sequence of action that enables brands and design teams to develop a project's structured framework. At this stage, key considerations are made such as:

  • Budgeting
  • Channel distribution
  • Quality
  • Timelines
  • Staff distribution and more

Usually, management personnel from the brand will head as the project manager. As the results are mostly value-based, proper resource allocation will ensure a successful design process. 

A strong project plan ensures results are maintained while staying within budget and time constraints and keeps the designer accountable. By using an artwork management tool, project managers can ensure that the project planning is done optimally.

Artwork Flow's automated creative workflow

Stage 4: Research

We are surrounded by many businesses nowadays, yet not all receive media attention or good advertising. For this reason, each retail box on the shelf serves as a medium of advertisement and carries a great deal of expectations. An effective package design draws customers, keeps them engaged, establishes your brand's positioning, shares your brand's narrative, and persuades them to purchase. A good design should:

  1. Allow the customer to notice the product within 3 seconds. 
  2. Lead customers to place the product in their cart. 

Customers generally take 7 seconds to decide whether they want to buy a product. This information requires extensive research. We can break down this research into three parts: Client research, market research, and design strategy.

  • Client research focuses on understanding how the brand’s clients such as its retailers and wholesalers perceive the brand. Client research also helps understand which other brands are the competitors. 
  • Market research helps understand the current trends, your target audience, and how they perceive your brand.
  • Finally, we have the design strategy. The design process steps, which depend on research, are a crucially important strong basis for a successful packaging design process. The typeface, color scheme, hierarchy, value propositions, and content all play a role in this process.

Stage 5: Dieline design

Dielines are flat diagrams that display all the folds and cut lines in a package. Dielines are often made in Illustrator and ought to be flawless. 

The package designer should choose the packaging form type before the design phase begins and then draw a packaging die-line that is suitable and pertinent. Any error in the Dieline will result in a major error in the subsequent phases, wasting time, money, and resources. Through 3D packaging software, it is possible to visualize how a Dieline would look in real life. 

Stage 6: Visual design 

Finding the target market and target audience comes next, right after the research stage. The project manager will communicate and explain target, segmentation, and positioning details with a graphic designer after they reach a standstill on this part.

The front of the packaging should have the brand story. The brand story and identity have a significant impact on design concepts. Depending on the tale's type, colors, typeface, and general theme are chosen. The design must be genuine, open, and honest to satisfy the requirements of creativity and usability.

Also read: What is Brand Storytelling and Why it Matters

Graphics, shapes, materials, and other elements are used in packaging design to create useful objects that appeal to a variety of sensory levels, including the visual, tactile, and emotional.

The right amount of emphasis should be placed on the size of the brand name and the product name. Additionally, tagline, graphics, and font style should all be chosen to help the consumer visually understand the information at a single glance.

Stage 7: Creative review 

Collaborating on a design and reviewing it can be complicated if it’s between two or more teams. A packaging design process requires teams comprising,

  • Brand manager
  • Project manager
  • Visual designer
  • Product manager
  • Copywriter
  • Regulatory manager and more

It’s normal to find a couple of feedback and suggestions on your label from each stakeholder. A workflow automation tool can streamline them and bring them to one place.

Review creatives with Artwork Flow

It helps to accelerate your project and contribute towards a smoother collaboration between various teams by helping you to:

  1. Build workflows to manage product labels.
  2. Track the progress of the project.
  3. Share dynamic feedback with smart annotations.
  4. Speed up the approval process with real-time notifications.

This ensures that the final design meets your brand’s or client's objectives and requirements hassle-free. 

Stage 8: Prototype

After finalizing the visual design and copy, designers create initial prototypes to visualize the design in three dimensions. This may involve creating mock-ups using paper, cardboard, or digital rendering software. Prototyping allows designers to evaluate the packaging design from various angles, test its functionality, and make necessary adjustments before moving forward. 

Stage 9: Refinement through continuous feedback

Approve or reject your creative

Here, the packaging design is polished and tweaked one last time, deciding the required finish. Changes in typography, color, and graphic imagery are subject to customer requests. Ensuring the final design conveys the desired result is the goal.

The process of feedback involves multiple departments getting together to review the artwork. With an artwork management tool, this process becomes a lot easier. 

  • When setting up a project, the project manager can assign reviewers along with deadlines. 
  • The reviewers can conveniently view the design files using a browser, and with the aid of online proofing tools such as font finder, color extractor, online measurement scale, and spell check, they can provide precise feedback. This process is significantly faster than using emails and spreadsheets to collate feedback. 
  • Furthermore, reviewers can use online proofing tools to directly annotate the design files, write comments, and seamlessly accept or reject specific parts of the design file they are assigned to review. The incorporation of these online proofing tools enhances the efficiency and accuracy of the review process. Version comparison

Through accurate feedback cycles, the complete design and packaging process is refined leading to your design ultimately getting approved!

Stage 10: Quality assurance

Before the packaging is mass-produced, thorough quality assurance checks are conducted to identify defects or inconsistencies. Quality assurance ensures that the packaging design meets the highest standards of quality and functionality, providing a positive user experience for consumers.

This may involve physical inspections, color matching tests, structural integrity tests, and compliance checks with regulatory standards. For the back side of the packaging, the graphic designer works their creative magic and ensures that the package is created following all applicable laws and regulations which include:

  • Ingredients
  • Barcodes
  • Nutritional details
  • FDA or FSSAI and other legal information
  • Claims and key messaging
  • Instructions / Usage
  • Contact information

ComplyAI by Artwork Flow makes the process even easier by letting your customizable rulebook run the compliance check of your packaging label to find any discrepancies. 

ComplyAI by Artwork Flow

Also read: Understanding the FDA Food Labeling Guide: A Comprehensive Overview

Stage 11: The printing process

The printing process requires further collaboration with print vendors. Print vendors can be a part of the packaging design process from the early stages to ensure the feasibility of the design process. Once the brand has approved the design, mockups and open views of the finished product are delivered to the brand. The design team will distribute the highest quality design files possible, making sure they are print-ready.

To choose between Pantone and CMYK colors throughout the printing process, one must know the printing color process. 

  • The creation of authentic Pantone colors requires extremely exact ink mixtures. It uses predetermined colors to "match" a color used throughout the design process. 
  • CMYK is a four-color printing technique that uses cyan, magenta, yellow, and black as its primary colors. 

Also read: RGB vs CMYK: Everything You Need to Know

The layouts are then converted by the design production team from finished art to pre-press and digitally ready states.

The printing is then completed through cooperation with printing companies.

To make sure your design printing process goes error-free, Artwork Flow accommodates print inspection as well. This way, you can check if the physical print is deviating from the original design pixel-by-pixel and avoid printing labels with colors that don't match the brand or copy that overlaps.

Compare hard copy files with print compare

Stage 12: Market review

A small batch of new packaging is first introduced to the market. Following the product's debut, post-packaging feedback is gathered from the real market. Many questions about product acceptance and sales are answered through market research. It is easier to identify the areas that need improvement and what you can do to optimize your packaging for the next version of your design. To ensure your packaging designs exceed market expectations, your market review must be fair and thorough as the data you collect will set the path for your next design strategy.

Closing thoughts

We hope this article helped you cover your basics starting from setting up the packaging design process. Most successful packaging design examples make use of the 12 steps listed above or a variation of this. It allows brands to design better packaging for multiple products.

To upgrade your packaging design process using AI-powered tools & for effective label management, Artwork Flow is a fine choice. It’s a top pick for leading brands like HomeChef, VitaCoco, and Lavie. Book a demo with the sales team to learn more.

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