A Complete Packaging Design Process From Start to End - Artwork Flow

Rangan Das

October 31, 2022

Taking a packaging from web to shelf depends on a number of complicated pieces that need to work well together. In this blog, we break them down to show how you can master the process.

The process is an essential element of success in any field, particularly if it is something that requires collaborative efforts. When it comes to the package designing process, a lot of departments must pitch in to create a successful design. A product package design does not only include the visual elements but also includes the size, shape, materials used, and other physical aspects of the packaging. 

A 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 think of how the project budget is, and possible bottlenecks and have contingency plans in place. All of this is way more complicated than creating a design and slapping on a few logos. 

In this article, we will be exploring 9 crucial steps in the design process that is necessary to create a completely error-free packaging design. Read on to learn more about how to design packaging. 

Stage 1: Set the stage

The first stage is getting up to speed with your present situation before you work on the design process steps. You need to fix a few elements before you get started with the design process. 

  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 appropriate parts of your packaging design. Every sales channel has unique packaging needs, which must be identified in advance to provide smooth operation in terms of understanding the shipping options, storage capacity, safety, and so on.
  3. The visual elements of the design: Fonts, graphics, and photographs are important components of your packaging's aesthetic. Focus on communicating the essence of the product through the packaging design. This will provide the customer with a satisfying unboxing experience and convert first-time buyers into repeat customers. 
  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 appropriate 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 appropriate material according to your desired price range, sales channel, safety regulations, etc. to retain 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. The marketing team will need to focus on new techniques to gradually draw in more customers by pushing the brand as an environmentally friendly one.
  7. Price of packaging: Starting with the expenditures associated with the product packaging's design, printing, and assembly, you must make sure that you can stick to your budget going forward 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 things 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 functions, 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 including budgeting, quality, timelines, and staff distribution are made. 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 that results are maintained while staying within budget and time constraints and keeps the designer accountable. By using an artwork management system, project managers can ensure that the project planning is done optimally. 

Stage 4: Research

We are surrounded by many businesses nowadays, yet not all of them receive media attention or good advertising. Because of this, each retail box on the shelf serves as an advertisement and carries a great deal of weight. The purpose of package design is to draw in customers, keep them interested, establish positioning, share a brand's narrative, and persuade them to make a purchase. A good design should do two things:

  1. Allow the customer to notice the product within 3 seconds. 
  2. Customers should put the product in their cart. 

Customers generally take 7 seconds to decide whether they want to buy a product or not. 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 the brand will compete with. 

Market research helps understand the target audience and how they perceive the brand.

Finally, we have the design strategy. The design process steps, which are dependent on research, are a crucially important strong basis for successful packaging design. The type of colors used, the typeface used, the shape of the text, the hierarchy, the value propositions, and the content are all factors 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 appropriate 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.

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, and the tagline, advantages, graphics, and font style should all be chosen to help the consumer visually understand the information at a single glance.

For the back 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 UPCs, among others.

Stage 7: Refinement through continuous feedback

Artwork Flow Reviews and Pricing 2022

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 generally 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 view the design files using a browser and using tools such as font finder, color extractor, online ruler, and spell check, reviewers can provide precise feedback. This process is faster than using emails and spreadsheets to collate feedback. Reviewers can also annotate the design files directly, write comments and accept or reject the parts of the design file they are supposed to review. 

Through feedback cycles, the complete design and packaging process is refined.

Stage 8: The printing process

The printing process requires further collaboration with print vendors. Print vendors can be a part of the project 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 be aware of the printing color process. 

The creation of authentic Pantone colors requires extremely exact ink mixtures. To "match" a given color used throughout the design process, it uses predetermined colors. 

CMYK is a four-color printing technique that uses cyan, magenta, yellow, and black as its primary colors. 

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.

Stage 9: 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. Numerous questions about product acceptance and sales are answered through market research. A clear picture of how your product is doing in contemporary and general commerce begins to emerge. 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 will need to 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 answer questions like what the first step in the design process is or what is packaging design in general. Most successful packaging design examples make use of the nine steps listed or a variation of this. It allows brands to better packaging design for multiple products, or multiple SKUs. To learn more about the packaging design process, check out Artwork Flow. 

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