10 Tips for Creating Pleasing Packaging Designs

August 28, 2018 by Erin Behan

Don't let a blank box intimidate you. We've got 10 helpful tips on how to create the perfect design for your custom box, courtesy of freelance graphic designer Rebekah Mathis, who works with Distinct Packaging.

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1. Ask yourself, "What am I trying to say with my package design?"
When someone gets your custom box in the mail, what message are you sending? Think about how someone should feel when they receive your custom packaging, Mathis says. Your branded box might serve the purpose of being informative, professional, personal, or perhaps it makes your recipient feel pampered. It's up to you. Thinking through this process will help you clarify your vision, Mathis says.

2. Gather your ideas and materials.
It's tempting (and fun!) to open up the Distinct Packaging design program and start playing around with design ideas, but Mathis recommends spending time on an idea and concept first. Included in that planning process is gathering your logo, images, art, color, or other creative influences. "Having that plan, first, will help you have less guesswork in the end," Mathis says.

3. Make sure your design materials are print compliant.
Nothing ruins a good design quite like fuzzy or pixelated artwork and logos. Many people assume that artwork that's optimized for the web will also work for print; however, that's not the case, Mathis says. "You can't just take a file from the internet that looks sharp on your phone or your screen and use it for print," she says. Most web images are set at 72 dpi, while the ideal for print is 300 dpi. So whether it's your company logo, a photo, or another piece of artwork you'd like to add to your box, make sure it's set to at least 300 dpi.

4. Use color sparingly.
While a brand may occasionally splash out on color when it comes to packaging, Mathis recommends "keeping it simple" on color. That means picking a main color and choosing an accent color or two (and not 10).

5. Keep fonts simple.
Like with color, fonts are best approached with the "less is more" philosophy. Instead of using a whole bunch of contrasting fonts on your box, Mathis recommends using one main font and one complementary accent font.

6. Don’t go overboard with backgrounds.
The theme of keeping it simple extends to background patterns too. Think subtle instead of bold if you use repeating graphic elements on your packaging.

7. Emphasize what's important visually.
When designing a package, scale is important, Mathis says. That means if you have a few things you want to communicate on a package, you need to identify which one is most important by making it larger than all the other elements. The others need to be small, Mathis says, "and not just a little bit smaller, but a lot smaller, so that the viewer's eye knows where to go first." When elements are close in size but not exactly the same, "it's confusing," she says.

8. Don't overthink your design.
Have we mentioned that simple is best? Mathis says that the overall design doesn't need to be complicated. For instance, "If you have a really strong logo that you love, just trust the logo, and pick the right colors. If it feels like it was too easy, that's OK. Don't feel like you have to design for hours to make it look good."

9. Sleep on your design.
It can be easy to get caught up in your design and lose the bigger picture. "If you've been working on your design for a long time, and you feel like it's close, save it, and walk away," Mathis says. "Wait until the next day and come back and look at it with fresh eyes. You might see something you need to adjust, or you may say, 'It's good, I'm done.'"

10. Mock up your box.
Once you've got a final design, Mathis recommends printing it out for one final look-see. Seeing your design on paper can help you catch errors. Go a step further and tape your design to a blank box to help you visualize what's on the computer screen into something you can hold and manipulate in your hand.

To get started on designing your own custom packaging, head to Distinct Packaging where you can pick your box type and size, choose a finish (everything from kraft to premium white gloss), and place your order. Design in the Distinct Packaging design tool using 3-D visualization, or download a PDF to design in the program of your choice. Alternatively, if you decide to hire a design or branding agency to do the work for you, we've got advice on picking the right creative agency for you.

Rebekah Mathis - freelance graphic designer for Distinct Packaging
Rebekah Mathis, freelance graphic designer for Distinct Packaging

For those who need help or get stuck along the way, there are several ways to reach Distinct Packaging: by using the Request a Quote form, by emailing support@distinctpackaging.com, or calling a representative at (877) 464-1959, Monday–Friday, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. EST.
Erin Behan

Written by Erin Behan

Erin Behan is an L.A.-based writer and editor who considers fine paper one of life's little pleasures.


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