dispatches from empack 2014, stockholm

'Research needs to move fast:' Where are we going wrong with packaging design?

By Rachel Arthur contact

- Last updated on GMT

food packaging Packlab Empack

Related tags: Design

Designing and re-launching packaging is a process that needs to move fast – otherwise products risk being irrelevant, attendees at Empack 2014 in Stockholm heard last week.

Ian Rooney is the CEO and creative director of Packlab, a branded packaging design and development company which says it wants to change the way people look at packaging. He believes it’s an exciting time for designers – but many businesses need a better understanding of packaging product development.

Companies still have a tendency to focus on the design of ‘products’ (such as tangible spatial and visual aspects), whereas emerging design disciplines are looking at designing for a ‘purpose’. This might be considering packaging which offers an experience, emotion and interaction, he said.

Packaging is like a blog

Just because you have a good piece of packaging that stands out on the shelf at its launch, it doesn’t mean it will be successful six months later, Rooney said. The competition will have changed and may alter how well the item stands out.

“Things change,” ​he said. ”Leading brands need to review their packaging every six to 12 months. When I say review it doesn’t mean you’ve got to change, but you’ve got to review at some level.

“Packaging is like a blog. You know you should get round to doing it, weeks goes past, months go past, by the time you get round to putting in another blog entry a year’s gone past. It’s the same thing with packaging.”

What opportunities are we missing?

Packaging is usually designed to appeal to consumers visually, but there are five human senses, Rooney emphasises.

He uses Pringles’ sound branding – the popping sound the tube makes when opened – as an example of how branding can go beyond visual cues.

“My favourite is sound branding. If I’ve got my back to the TV and I hear ‘pup, pup’ - how powerful is that?” ​he said.

“Just by listening, you understand what product is being sold on TV. Name another pack that does that.  

 “I don’t think enough budget goes on understanding the senses or exploring the senses in packaging.” 

Research and assumptions

Both designers and businesses need to create clear and understandable briefs at the start of the process, Rooney said.

“The biggest killer in packaging design and development is assumptions. Brand owners have assumptions, they commission research on assumptions, research is developed based on those assumptions. “

“The right research at the right time in the right context asking the right questions can lead to relevant products. But there’s a horrendous load of irrelevant products on the shelf today.”

However, research has got to be more agile.

 “I don’t think traditional methods of product development can move fast enough. If you think about the average time of delivery of any kind of research, to get from the table on the boardroom and then eventually get to the designers table – it’s nearly irrelevant.

“We need design research but we don’t need R&D but Q&D – quick and dirty. Research needs to move fast. “

“Our most valuable thing now is time.”

Related topics: Processing & Packaging

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3 comments

Food Safety, Taste Preservation, Shelf Life are key

Posted by Michael Delle Selve,

I agree with comments above: no compromise should be made on above assets of packaging materials. Food safety and quality preservation is not just matter of ingredients. The challenge is to choose a packaging material that can combine all assets in a premium level solution which is competitive on the market. Consumers appreciate that.

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Safety is a given!

Posted by Monica Anderson,

Packaging has been engineered to perfection. Rarely does packaging fail us, we are beyond the perception of safety. Safety is a given and not a major concern for modern western consumers. Speed to market on the other hand or ''cool'' in the sense of commercial relevant design that fits consumers and evolves with their ever changes functional and emotional needs is now what keeps us all in jobs.

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Safety or Speed?

Posted by John Tiessen,

The most valuable asset of the packaging industry is a perception of safety. If rushed package redesign results in a product or package that is unsafe, no amount of "cool" will ever erase that memory from the mind of the consumer.

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