Creative Packaging: the design lifecyle

By Kate Clayton
By Kate Clayton

As creative packaging designers and marketing strategists, we have a responsibility when it comes to the role design plays in influencing the materials used for branded packaging design. At some point, our creative solutions are either influenced by the containers we design for, or we are asked to recommend a container or design a bespoke pack construction.

We regularly respond to branded packaging design briefs from FMCG clients who have a distribution of 500,000 per product run, so with these large runs in mind, we want to give better guidance to clients when it comes to product containers, without compromising their brand or profit margins.

Mark, Design Director here at DA recently shared an interesting perspective and it got us thinking about our role in the packaging lifecycle and how we can contribute to more ‘conscious’ design:

“Something unexpected happened the other day. I was on my way into work and a piece of rubbish caught my eye. It’s usually a proud moment when I see a piece of packaging I’ve created in the public domain, but it wasn’t the case this time.

Seeing an empty popular drink vessel lying there, I suddenly felt a sense of responsibility – I had created something that was causing unnecessary waste…It was a powerful moment and made me consider our role in the packaging lifecycle.”

Up until recently, there hasn’t been a huge commercial incentive for FMCG brands to consider eco-friendly packaging for their new products. There is often the perception that eco-solutions double the cost per unit or won’t fit with a premium look and feel. However, with more informed shoppers dissecting labels with a forensic lens, spending a bit more on environmentally bespoke solutions could result in bigger returns in the long-term.

These figures from Global Data illustrate that shoppers around Europe are more informed and concerned about the source a product they are purchasing is made from – around the pack, as well as inside it:

‘Sustainability and ethics have grown in importance to European consumers over the past 5 years’. In 2016, 71% of European consumers considered living an ethical or sustainable lifestyle to be important or important in creating a feeling of wellbeing or wellness – 7% more than in 2011.  Source: Global Data via Packaging Gazette, December 2017.

From decomposable rice husk to renwable bamboo – more sustainable options are available for brands to explore as part of their brand message. New material innovations can, in some cases, feel more premium than more commonly used materials like plastic, so it seems like a no-brainer to make them more accessible to FMCG brands that produce high volumes of stock, ultimately reducing the amount of plastic going into landfill or even worse, into the sea.

Packaging plays a big role in representing a company’s vision and values, and it’s a clear statement that enables brands to demonstrate that they are taking meaningful action when it comes to Corporate Social Value (CSV) and addressing the benefits of contributing to a Circular Economy before it’s too late to take action. It’s also not enough to ‘look’ ethical now – consumers can see through this, so brands need to behave and demonstrate ethical practice, with complete transparency.

There isn’t an overnight solution for FMCGs, but through collaboration, exploration and a more aligned corporate strategy, we believe there are better solutions out there and we’re on a path of discovery! By understanding what is sustainable and economically viable for a range of FMCG categories, we can present our clients with recommendations that won’t compromise their margins, or our future planet when it comes to:

  • On-pack solutions
  • Structural considerations
  • Inks
  • Making sense of the options available: compostable, recyclable, renewable, biodegradable, or best of all reusable…

As more consumer brands begin to take sustainability more seriously, we are beginning to create more of a dialogue here at Design Activity.

Over the coming months, we’ll be exploring topics around sustainable packaging solutions, from recycling to materials and technology, to understand the barriers to FMCG’s when it comes to using the friendlier alternatives and how we can realistically be part of the solution.