While the fundamentals for packaging design remain the same, there are new patterns for the new normal. Apart from visibility and engagement, companies should adapt their strategies and processes to cater to these unprecedented times.
The year 2020 emphasised the requirement to change and adapt due to the Covid-19 pandemic rapidly. Naturally, in the scramble to adjust to this new, interior-focused experience, many found it hard to cope. Yet others discovered parts of themselves they never knew existed, and thrived – and this held exceptionally true for brands and businesses as well.
The world of packaging design was no exception when it comes to witnessing the disruption. The question is, what learnings can we take forward as we move into 2021? Based on Elephant Design‘s numerous experiences this year and weighing other parameters, a few trends shall be extremely crucial in the new normal.
1. Lend Me Your Eyes & Ears
This is the age of information, excess, and choice – and due to high levels of engagement on various platforms and advancements in technology, it is vital to stay away from all the digital noise. The challenge for packaging is to arrest the present generation’s attention: in a world where they have too many distractions! Catchphrases, innovations in design structure, semiotic elements – all these will aim to grab and more importantly, retain attention at several touchpoints in the packaging experience.
A popular Japanese beauty product takes an unconventional approach to their packaging where they printed all their text backwards. While most would pass this off as a lack of a quality check, the Japanese brand doubled down on their selfie-taking core demographic for this limited run by design—a bold yet creative way to secure their promotion.
2. Truly Yours
There is also another easily visible trend: Hyper-personalisation. Ironically, Andy Warhol indicated that the age of originality had all but faded with mass production. But what he didn’t anticipate was that even personalisation on a mass scale would eventually be feasible. This trend was popular with iconic brands like Coca Cola and their ability to roll out bottles with personalised tags that are also culturally relevant in a local context. Nutella merged personalisation with an algorithm to create 7 million unique designs on their popular chocolate spread jars.
Standardisation is fast losing appeal, and we shall see more brands integrating personalised elements to make the product feel like it’s uniquely yours.
3. Made Fast; Not Necessarily to Last
For adaptation to be successful, we need to leverage two essential packaging design characteristics: scale and speed. In tandem with market saturation and short attention spans, an idea sticks only if its execution can be instantaneous. These conditions require a keen knowledge of materials, tools and processes for the development of speedy packaging; and making the production cycle as lean and efficient as possible, reducing the number of steps/technical processes to its core essentials.
4. Connecting Essentialism with Localisation
In 2020, our world realised the importance of localised goods, products and services during the pandemic due to restricted movement and logistics. As a result, the emphasis on extremely resilient packaging (for transport) was not a significant concern over such small distances. Thus, packaging that did not combine hi-tech materials and development became more feasible, boosting the use of perishable local materials like brown paper which is poised to increase in the coming year.
5. Embracing the Circular Economy
The pandemic drew focus to the issue of corporate/business-oriented responsibility and the environment, especially when examples of flora and fauna returning to previously affected areas due to economic activity started to circulate.
The packaging industry has always been questioned for its environmental impact, and in 2021, this scrutiny will only increase. Brands will have to think about pain points like their packaging’s shelf life and how its disposal and reuse can be taken care of responsibly. For example, Tata’s sustainability division is recycling 38% of its fly ash (a waste byproduct from their thermal stations) and applying it to the construction industry (pages 18-20). Expect many brands to adopt these alternatives and solutions to meet this need!
6. Virtual Integration
With conventional environments and public spaces becoming harder to access, our forays into the virtual world have gained a lot of traction and depth. This shift affects packaging in the same way, where brands leverage technology to provide digital experiences like never before. Brand collateral, informational tidbits and even creative ad campaigns can develop, which reduces the use of physical materials – something that will increase in the coming year.
7. Trust Through Communication
In 2020, we saw a dramatic spike with consumers prioritising safety and hygiene, but how do we ensure brands communicate their commitment to providing high standards? Here is where packaging design steps in and curiously, we see a reversal in perception. Once, messaging like ‘untouched by hands’ on product packages would invoke a sense of industrially mass production, but today, it is a hallmark of safety! Brands shall find new ways to build this trust via packaging, so this is an area to watch.
We hope that these shared insights shed some light on packaging trends in a year that perhaps will go down as the year of recovery as the world gets back on its feet!