How to Use Pattern in Your Custom Packaging

May 31, 2018 by Erin Behan

When the mantra of good design is to "keep it simple," the use of pattern—and its related terms, repetition and rhythm—can be a thorny one. It's easy for pattern to overwhelm a space (think 70s wallpaper) or to take away from the overall message of your brand and packaging (we've all seen designs where fonts are unreadable thanks to an aggressively patterned background). But there are some principles to follow to keep pattern in control and a driving force behind your brand messaging.

First, it's important to think about the difference between repetition, pattern, and rhythm so you know the different ways you can work with them.


custom printed box

Repetition is repeating a single element across a space. These could be lines, dots, flowers, cacti, or whatever element you choose to repeat.


custom patterned box

Pattern is repeating multiple elements uniformly applied across a space. This could be a series of stripes in different colors or arrangements (plaid, for instance), or something even more complicated like what you might see in geometric tiles.


wedding weekend box

Rhythm is when elements seemingly reappear without a discernible order or pattern, as in the natural world. Picture the arrangement of leaves on the ground under a tree, snowflakes falling from the sky, or bubbles in a cup of seltzer.

As well, you want to consider the elements that you can create repetition, pattern and rhythm with: color, texture, shape, letters, and numbers can all be used to great effect.

No matter which type of design element you choose to use on custom packaging, it's important to make sure—as you would with a photograph, font, or color scheme—that your pattern reinforces your brand message. You'll likely be pulling from a graphic or design element you use on your brand's website or printed materials for a cohesive overall brand strategy.

Once you're sure your pattern is on message with your brand, it's important to make sure your pattern complements the other elements on the box without overwhelming them. We've got a few tricks of the trade to incorporate into your design.

Try repeating your brand name or logo across your custom packaging, but consider doing so in a lighter colored font, with one or two of the elements in a bright color, like on this packaging from Vigon.
If you’ve got a repeating element you want to use to reinforce your business, such as honeycomb or stripes, try putting it on some, but not all, of the sides of your box. You might use your repeating element on all but the top flap. Don’t be afraid to play around to find a combination that works for you and your design.
When using a small, repeating element in the background, you don’t want it to muddy the readability of your logo. To avoid this, try boxing off your logo or main design element with lines and whitespace, like in this wedding favor box.
Play with putting your pattern on the inside of the box for a nice surprise when your customer opens it.
Have your pattern overlap across the sides of the box—this can be especially effective if you're using rhythm, like with these flowers.
Use your pattern as a background for artwork and text, like on this box, which mimics wood grain.
If you've got a smaller repeating element working as a pattern, use that same element in a larger way somewhere else on your custom packaging, like in this kitchen company example with whisks.
8. No matter what kind of repetition, pattern, or rhythm you've put on your box, make sure all the important words and text and easily readable and that the pattern is drawing the eye to the text and main design elements and not moving the eye away from them.

To see just how easy it is to incorporate pattern into your custom package design, hop on over to Distinct Packaging. The process couldn't be simpler:

Pick your box type and size,
Choose to work directly in our design tool or download a PDF to work offline,
Preview your box using our 3-D technology, and
4. Order only the quantity you need, whether 10 or 10,000.

Orders ship within 10 days of being placed and if you need something above and beyond (from rush shipping to custom orders), Distinct Packaging can help. Call us at (877) 464-1959, Monday to Friday, EST, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., or email any time. If you’ve already got something special in mind, use this custom quote form.

Don't take our word for Distinct Packaging's ease-of-use and high quality products. Read about how Distinct Packaging got Vigon out of a bind with quick turnaround on boxes, and why Golden Ratio can't wait to order its next subscription box design from Distinct Packaging.
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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