New Tool: PMMI ProSource
Check out our packaging and processing solutions finder, PMMI ProSource.

How to Leverage 2022’s Biggest Packaging Design Trends

2021 wasn’t exactly the breath of fresh air many of us had hoped for, but there’s a certain air of optimism as we look toward 2022 that is already having an impact on design trends for the year ahead.

Image credit: BelliWelli
Image credit: BelliWelli

Whether you’re looking to evolve your packaging in order to better serve your consumers’ needs or you just want to give your brand and products a totally new look in a bid to leave 2021 where it belongs (far behind us), here’s how you can leverage three of the biggest design styles set to shape packaging in the year ahead.

1.Eccentric text-centric design

Image credit: Packaging design by goopanic on 99designsImage credit: Packaging design by goopanic on 99designsIt can be easy to forget that type design is an intricate artform in itself. While its main role is communication, typography is not always just meant to be read. From conveying emotion to demonstrating a brand’s personality, clever typography serves multiple purposes, and in one of the biggest packaging trends for 2022, we’re seeing it used in more unconventional ways than ever before.

Forgoing photography and illustrations, eccentric text-centric design instead balances white and negative space with playful typefaces in even more playful colors. In some cases, readability is even left second to aesthetics as experimentations in line thickness and text hierarchy focus on the letters as the artform.

Image credit: 2DADSImage credit: 2DADSThis design style leans into an overarching anti-design movement we’re seeing in graphic design in 2022, so it’s perfect for brands looking to break the mold. If you want to incorporate it yourself, start by looking at any illustrations or imagery used on your packaging, and then remove them! If you feel they are integral to communicating your product, consider how you could use type instead. What other words are available for you to work with in your design? Don’t be confined to just letting your brand name take center stage—look at your product name, any supplementary copy, even your ingredients lists, and see where you can bend traditional hierarchy rules to focus on another part of the text. From there, look to your brand colors and see whether you can inject any contrasting hues to give your label a boost of energy!

2.Y2K aesthetic reigns supreme

Image credit: Chubby SnacksImage credit: Chubby SnacksInterestingly, a large number of this year’s design trends are rooted in nostalgia. Not only that, but they also take inspiration from some of the louder, maybe even polarizing design styles of decades like the ’80s, ’90s and ’00s. One in particular that is seeping back into all facets of popular culture is the Y2K aesthetic. Synonymous with the turn of the century, this 90’s take on cyberpunk merged the grunge style popular at the time with a world that was obsessed with technology and cyber culture, brimming with millennium-inspired optimism.

Although this style was ubiquitous in its time, its novelty became old and tired quickly. Until now, it has remained quite firmly in the decade it was born. However, such is the cyclical nature of trends and after another truly challenging year, consumers and brands alike continue to seek comfort in the design styles of the past. While the Y2K style is gaudy, a little bit tacky, and experimental, there’s also something comforting and attractive in its appealing familiarity.

Image credit: BelliWelliImage credit: BelliWelliWhether your target market is a younger demographic or you’re just looking to inject some youth and playfulness into your packaging, this could be the way to go. To incorporate a little ’00s bling into your packaging, look to metallics and frosty hues like icy blues and silvers, white, and pale neons, sometimes emphasized using color gradients and mists. Go one step further by experimenting with materials popular with this cyber-inspired style, such as holographic or glossy finishes and even transparent materials like plastics and PVC. 

While this aesthetic has been growing in popularity with the Gen Z market for some time now, 2022 will see it catapulted into the mainstream. This younger cohort making up a large portion of consumers and the resurgence of Y2K is a great example of how their preferences can quickly become the driver of broader consumer taste changes. However, while it doesn’t look set to go anywhere any time soon, if you’re a more traditional brand, or you don’t plan on making any large branding changes for a while, approach this style with a little caution. Its kitschy, millennium charm is alluring to many, but there’s no telling how long it will stick around.

3. The reign of rubber hose characters

Image credit: Wally’s Vegan, packaging design by Anastasia S. on 99 designsImage credit: Wally’s Vegan, packaging design by Anastasia S. on 99 designsThe restrictions, stress, and lasting unease of the last two years have left us all dreaming of what a post-pandemic period could look like. This yearning for frivolity, escape, and hedonism coupled with prolific social change has sparked talk of another Roaring Twenties era occurring.

Known as “années folles” in France, meaning “crazy years,” this seems apt considering the revival of a certain type of cartoon—rubber hose characters! If you’re not familiar with the term, you’ll likely be familiar with classic characters like Felix the Cat, Betty Boop, and Popeye, which were made famous by the likes of Walt Disney and Bill Nolan in 1920’s animation.

Image credit: Creature Coffee Co.Image credit: Creature Coffee Co.Now, these charming, jaunty characters are strolling back into packaging design with a vengeance. Full of whimsy, energy, and humor, these vintage-style mascots are certain to make your customers smile with their playful expressions.

Built from basic blocks and shapes, they may be simple in design, but their signature rubber-hose limbs create the illusion of wacky movement and animation in static 2D drawings.

Read article   Read this story on six brands that are reinventing the Memphis retro design trend.

If one of your goals is to strengthen the emotional connections you make with your customers, making a mascot the face of your brand is a smart move. Packed with humor and personality, a mascot can be the perfect way to convey your brand story and personality. Just because these characters are cartoon-like, doesn’t mean they’re just for children’s brands. 2022’s contemporary take on these characters sees plenty of sports caps, sneakers, and tattoos giving them an edge and seeing them crop up everywhere, from street wear brands to pizzerias. So, if you’re looking to create a friendly face for your customers to connect and resonate with, why not consider one of these friendly fellows to help your brand take on a life of its own.

After another somber year, it’s really not surprising that society is seeking to inject positivity and lightheartedness into the day to day in any way possible. By leveraging the biggest and most beautiful design trends across your packaging, your brand can play a small but vital role in delivering some much-needed excitement directly to their doors—ultimately building a strong relationship with them that lasts long after the pandemic.

Shayne is Head of Marketing at 99designs, the global creative platform by Vista.

Special Report: Track & Trace
Discover new tools to approach the supply chain that allow you to leverage your data, see real-time visibility, and forecast future sales. You’ll also learn about KH Hive, an in-house digital demand planning tool that Kraft Heinz created to help the company realize its goals, forecasting sales expectation down to the SKU level, location level, and daily level.
Read More
Special Report: Track & Trace
Rethinking Packaging Robotics to Prioritize Flexibility
In this eBook, you’ll learn how to guard against the traps that CPGs sometimes inadvertently set for themselves when implementing robotics that lead to automation “brittleness.”
Read More
Rethinking Packaging Robotics to Prioritize Flexibility