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A basic guide to packaging development

A basic guide to packaging development


Over the last century, packaging has transformed remarkably. Initially, it was simply a means to transport items—often using paper bags or glass bottles—without drawing much attention. Now, it has become a key player in marketing, designed to captivate shoppers' attention amid a sea of competing products on store shelves. It serves as a powerful tool for brand reinforcement, impacting consumers with every product they use from their kitchen or bathroom cabinets.


The evolution of packaging has revolutionized its production process as well, making it a more strategic and comprehensive part of product design and development.


Packaging development is an all-encompassing, innovative, and conscientious process. It integrates every aspect of introducing new or improved packaging to the marketplace, covering everything from initial design and material choices to the graphics on the package. It also includes the manufacturing processes and considers the recyclability and environmental impact at the end of the product's life cycle.

Table of Contents

The many roles of modern packaging


Today, packaging typically has many roles. Overall, the roles of packaging are diverse and critical to the product's success, encompassing functional, emotional and informational aspects that connect the product with the consumer.

Product integrity

Packaging ensures product integrity by providing protection from environmental and physical damage, streamlining logistics for better handling and supply chain efficiency, and preserving perishable goods by shielding them from air, moisture, and other contaminants.

Usability features

Packaging enhances usability and consumer satisfaction by offering convenience through features like resealable bags and easy-open lids, creating memorable unboxing experiences that positively shape brand perception, and aiding in portion control to manage serving sizes and minimize waste.

Branding tool

Finally, packaging serves as a crucial marketing and branding instrument by drawing attention on shelves, conveying brand values, and setting products apart from competitors with distinctive design elements. It also reinforces brand identity through consistent logos, colors, and designs, making brands instantly recognizable to customers. Additionally, packaging delivers essential information, such as usage instructions, ingredients, nutritional facts, expiry dates, and warnings, serving both regulatory requirements and enhancing consumer knowledge and convenience.


The roles of packaging development and graphic design are crucial. But what does their creation entail, and what steps are involved in the process? This serves as a fundamental guide to the entire packaging development journey, highlighting key considerations and introducing beneficial packaging development software.


Development of the physical packaging


The journey of packaging from concept to consumer involves five crucial stages, each presenting unique challenges that affect the product's overall success.


  1. Material and Manufacturing:

    In the initial manufacturing stage, considerations include the packaging materials, their cost, manufacturing location, time required, and whether to use automated or manual assembly. Choosing the right materials also involve environmental impact, and how well the material complements the design. These decisions impact not only the manufacturing process but also the product’s cost and delivery timeline.
  2. Filling and assembling:

    The second stage involves filling and assembling the packaging, tailored to the product's needs, which might require additional components like inserts or trays. The choice between automated or manual filling and assembly influences the protection and efficiency of the process.
  3. Transportation:

    During transportation, the packaging must safeguard the product against the rigors of transit, whether by land, sea, or air. Efficiently designed packaging can also reduce transportation costs.
  4. Durability:

    Shelf life refers to more than just the longevity of perishable items; it concerns the packaging's physical durability and its aesthetic appeal on the shelf, including resistance to tampering and damage.
  5. Unboxing:

    The final stage is the user experience, where the packaging serves as a direct communication channel with the customer. The packaging should not only protect the product but also provide an engaging unboxing experience, reinforcing brand loyalty and yielding marketing benefits.

Navigating these stages effectively often necessitates the involvement of skilled professionals to ensure that the packaging meets market demands and supports the brand's marketing objectives.


Given the critical role of packaging development in business success, many major brands manage this specialized function in-house. However, external entities, typically the packaging manufacturers, are also instrumental in this process. For products acquired from third parties, packaging is usually provided. Moreover, a plethora of helpful software exists to aid in packaging development, details of which are provided at the article's conclusion.




Packaging design and development of design masters


In conjunction with developing the physical packaging, the on-pack design is also crafted. The packaging design and development process is a structured and creative journey, typically encompassing five essential steps. Each step plays a vital role in developing packaging that is not only visually appealing but also functional and aligned with brand and market requirements.


  1. Research and Analysis:

    This initial phase involves in-depth market research to understand consumer preferences, current trends, and competitor packaging strategies. It's also crucial to ensure that the packaging design aligns with the brand’s identity and overall marketing strategy. Understanding the target market and brand alignment sets the foundation for effective packaging design.
  2. Concept Development:

    The next stage is brainstorming and conceptualizing various packaging ideas. This creative process involves generating a wide range of ideas, exploring different styles, themes, and innovations. The concepts are then developed into more concrete ideas through sketches and digital mock-ups and even packaging prototypes, allowing designers to visualize the initial concepts more clearly.
  3. Design and master:

    In this phase, the focus shifts to the actual design work, which includes developing the visual elements like colors, typography, and imagery. These elements need to be both attractive and functional, effectively conveying the product’s message. The outcome of this phase is a master design.
  4. Feedback and Revision:

    Once a master design is developed, it’s presented for feedback. This feedback can come from internal teams, clients, or even focus groups. Based on this feedback, the design undergoes revisions. This iterative process is crucial for refining the packaging, ensuring it meets both aesthetic and practical needs.
  5. Finalization and Production Readiness:

    The final stage involves finalizing the design after it meets all requirements and gains approval. Preparing the design for production includes creating detailed specifications and ensuring that the files are ready for manufacturing. This stage also ensures that the design is feasible for manufacturing and complies with all legal and regulatory standards.


The packaging design and development process invariably involves specialists, usually in packaging design and artwork management, to steer the creative process and address strategic project management concerns, as well as to execute the artworks derived from the master design, ensuring the design's fidelity through to the printing stage. Collabra provides a central hub with a broad range of expertise, encompassing project managers and coordinators to graphic designers and printing professionals.


Packaging development software


The article “Product Packaging Software” highlights a suite of packaging development software designed to manage each step of the process from product conception to the final on-shelf packaging. These tools facilitate tasks such as construction, design, visualization, and artwork management.


Collabra utilizes Cway, an artwork management software, for the development and validation of on-pack designs. Cway oversees the entire packaging design lifecycle, streamlining planning, file storage, collaboration, and the online review of artworks. With its array of time-saving features, Cway accelerates the process of bringing packaging to the market.


In summary, the packaging development process is a balance of creativity, practicality, and strategic thinking, requiring careful attention to detail, market insights, and brand considerations to create successful packaging.




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