Pack to the future

Designer Patrick de Grande shares his forecasts of the upcoming trends that will dominate packaging.

patrick De Grande, an active member of the European Packaging Design Agency (EPDA) and co-founder of Belgium’s Quatre Mains design agency, shares his views on packaging’s future.

what challenges lie ahead forthe packaging industry?

The demand for more sustainable packaging solutions keeps on growing, under pressure from regulators and the consumer. This means it is crucial for packaging producers and their customers to reduce the amount of raw materials used in packaging to a minimum.

They need to ask themselves the question, ‘Will our production waste be recycled as much as possible or can the production process be improved even more to minimise the production waste?’ The consumer is also aware that he is being taken for a ride by packaging with a recycled look and is demanding ‘no more greenwashing’. This means that, in the future, packaging genuinely needs be produced in a sustainable way.

which trends do you see in the world of packaging?

A first important message in packaging design for the future: keep it as simple as possible. The challenge is to get the essential values of a brand across in a simple text message that stands out in a world that is already full of messages. Compare this with the principles of social media: tell your message in a maximum of 144 characters.

This does not mean that you need to simplify your message, but that you must convey it very clearly. After all, those rushing around the supermarket and filtering all the different packaging will immediately see the designs that appeal to them the most: recognisable shapes, colours, and patterns, combined with simple typefaces and illustrations … These are just some of the tools to help the exhausted and overwhelmed consumer in making his selection.

The packaging material, printing and finishing techniques are also important in making a great first impression.

A second important trend: size matters. Brand owners can tackle the increasing lack of brand loyalty among consumers by providing packaging that is right sized for them, their families, and the various usage occasions. This means that, for alcoholic drinks, consumers are looking for a wider range in smaller bottles. And the typical snack consumer is prepared to try new products if these are offered in trial sized packaging. Brands must therefore be more flexible to satisfy the shopper’s increasingly changeable needs.

Third trend: packaging is becoming more decorative, which represents a ray of hope in the evolution of packaging. Products should no longer just look appealing in the shelves but should also help to make the consumer’s home look more attractive. Products that used to be hidden at the back of the cupboard are now given a place of honour at home: a bar of chocolate, a lovely can, or a decorative box of tampons. This means that the brand and the packaging are always on display and become emotional beacons for the consumer.

Last but not least, the fourth trend: maybe the time is finally now for truly no more waste packaging. Think about food products in an edible wrapper. Or soup in an entirely organic bag that dissolves without leaving a trace when heated. Or maybe we will soon be printing everything in our own homes with our own 3D printers …

what are the challenges for brand design in the future?

Brands need to become much more flexible. New consumers – above all the Millennials – demonstrate far less brand loyalty than their parents. They expect brands and manufacturers to go beyond limits and leave established principles behind.

Brands that react more quickly will remain afloat in the everfaster consumption culture. It needs to be clear what your brand stands for and you must keep a close eye on the promises you make to your customer.

You also need to develop an emotional bond and involve the customer in the role you perform in his life. Equally you must try to strengthen the connection between your brand and the consumer. You owe it to yourself to think in broad terms and to learn from the competition, from critical consumers, and from cutting edge ideas across the globe.

In other words: think globally, act locally. Smart brands promote social harmony in our society. Only then can you be sufficiently flexible to handle risks and seize opportunities quickly.

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