Trends in packaging design

Marianne Rosner Klimchuk discusses trends in packaging design with director Bronwen Edwards of London-based brand agency Brandhouse.

Marianne Rosner Klimchuk
What should a brand owner do with packaging design to prevent further loss of market share to private-label competitors?

Bronwen Edwards
Engage. Brands need to rise above functional or product connections, as consumers are increasingly aware that products rarely differ. Rational points of difference don’t last, so brands need to be believable through finding a point of resonance either through heritage, emotional connection, or constantly innovating design and structure. The last option is the most immediate but the least sustainable long term. On the other hand, making an emotional connection will put a brand in good stead for a longer time. Design must incorporate this, building on the brand strengths rather than vying for shelf standout.

What global trends do you see in packaging design?
Limited editions are a trend we’ve seen recently, as brands try to build value, difference, and collectability to a range. For example, Evian or Coke, both of which are distinctive enough to cope with a radical temporary design change without losing recognition, have been able to add excitement and modernity with their recent efforts at limited editions. Another trend we see is the use of frivolous illustration and ‘hand made’ crafty design with friendly dialogue in the communication. The idea here is to counter consumer cynicism, build emotional connections with consumers, and humanize big corporations. But I’m not sure how long this will last before consumers tire of this style and become cynical to its chumminess.

What are your thoughts on retail-ready packaging design?
Retail-ready is certainly an important consideration. Unfortunately, it causes more than its share of horrendous printing. But there’s no doubt that it aids navigation enormously and provides brands with a constant canvas in an otherwise uncontrollable environment.

What is your view on how designers can promote innovation in this challenging economic climate?
Each client obviously has individual criteria. But essentially, if it would give the brand difference, excitement, and advantage, that would result in an increase in sales, which is always appreciated in recessions!

What do you enjoy most about your job?
The constantly changing nature of the challenges, and the fact that every week I’m working on a different problem, each one an education into that market or product.