When your packaging lacks clear visual hierarchy, consumers become overwhelmed, confused, or simply disinterested. Your package is a mini-poster informing and attracting potential consumers. Strategy-informed visual hierarchy on front-of-pack will help your product shout to effectively cut through the clutter around it.
Top Packaging Priority: Declutter
Consider the KonMari methodology for decluttering your home that encourages cherishing things that spark joy in your life. If a belonging no longer sparks joy, it is acknowledged for its service and thanked before being let go.
Like people’s homes, packages over time tend to get over cluttered. Strategic foundational work before the design process can help inform the messaging hierarchy and establish which communications and visuals should be first in placement priority. Some items need to be let go to avoid trying to say too much on front-of-pack. Establishing a mission statement, brand pillars, identifying audience, and other strategy exercises will naturally help you choose one simple thing you want to say first and then organize information from there in order of importance.
As the number of potential claims, benefits, and certifications keeps going up, it becomes increasingly important to weigh carefully the value of each item and whether it is appropriate for front-of-pack. Too many benefits and claims become white noise to consumers. Establishing good hierarchy with these bits of information will make them effective communication tools. Grouping elements or creating smart pods of information can help the consumer make sense of the disparate elements.
The work we did for Hilary’s is an example of grouping elements and simplifying design in order to speak more clearly to consumers at retail. The product was invisible through the freezer door due to the lack of discipline in the messaging on the front-of-pack. Through strategy and research, we refocused their messaging to get back to living their mission to heal the American diet through sustainable farming, alternative grains, and plant-based protein. We helped them pivot away from strictly appeasing the vegan crowd, which helped simplify messaging and identify the elements to remove from the front of the pack. By grouping elements into more digestible pods of information, the new package stands out on shelf and blocks well in the freezer door.
Think of Your Package as a Poster
Consider the rule of 30-10-3. What does your package say from 30 feet away? Is it sufficiently bold to speak from across the room and does it clearly signal product category? From ten feet away is there a brand message or visual? Once I’m within three feet, am I rewarded and enticed to pick up the package because of the visual appetite appeal and the features and benefits? Thoughtful brand strategy helps inform the order of content and how it can best be presented to the consumer.
Angie’s Boom Chicka Pop is an example of a brand that works great as a mini-poster at retail. The brand uses a palette of delightful colors and bold typography to establish a light, fun, and sassy brand personality. From 30 feet away the viewer sees the brand name with the giant Boom Chicka Pop name dialed up in volume. From ten feet away, flavor name is easily legible as well as circle bursts with key benefits called out such as “calories per cup” and “whole grain energy”. At three feet the consumers engage with the Angie’s brand logo and read the bottom of the pack message “Real, simple ingredients. Nothing fake.” Boom Chicka Pop chose to shout brand name first celebrating an unconventional name that amplifies the fun in snacking.
Take Category Cues into Account
There are visual tropes on packaging within each industry category, whether you are selling ice cream, snacks, or canned vegetables. In order to achieve visual pop at shelf, you need to find the right balance between embracing some of the common cues in the category while disrupting other expected norms. A robust shelf audit and analysis before design will help identify these important commonalities within a category and inform the creative brief.
There’s a constant tug-o-war between disruption and category cues. Finding the right balance is important. Understanding the brand vision, mission, and values will help you know where to push and when to lean into category norms.
In the ice cream category, most packages include a photo of a scoop or bowl of ice cream. Halo Top, a low-calorie ice cream offering, dispensed with any images of the ice cream in favor of an enormous silhouette of an ice cream scoop with the calorie count featured larger than the brand name. The design treatment is a smart translation for a young female audience looking for a fun, alternative ice cream choice that also has a low-calorie count.
The Final Packaging Details
Good hierarchy helps with shop-ability and legibility. Your goal is for consumers to be able to quickly understand what makes your product different.
Make your packaging sing like great music. Not every instrument should be loud — you need to achieve a good mix of loud and soft. Using good strategy in tandem with the design process will help inform what elements should be loudest and what others should be softer.