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Product design vs. packaging design: What’s the difference?

by Anne Carton Tweet - in Learn

Product-design-vs.-packaging-design-2 (1)

In the modern, highly competitive world, your product and packaging design must be attractive enough to instantly catch potential customers’ attention. There are already hundreds of products lined up in your niche. So, outsmarting their design is the key to getting customers to pick your products off the shelves. 

That’s where a relevant product design and packaging design comes into play. Before we get you into how you can create one, let’s understand the difference between the product and packaging design along with several other key aspects.

What is product design?

Product design is all about creating a new product or improving the design of an existing one. It involves researching, analyzing, imagining, developing, and iterating a product based on users’ specific needs. Testing and refining the design are also a part of the process. 

Product design involves not just design but also engineering and business. The designer must generate creative ideas, have technical expertise, and understand how the market and consumer behavior work. 

When thinking of what is a product design process, know that it involves creating functional products that look aesthetically pleasing. The process is also about meeting the end user’s requirements for the product. 

The product design process applies to consumer goods, industrial goods and equipment, digital products, and medical devices. A typical design process involves an experienced team of product designers who research, make prototypes, and develop the product.

What is packaging design?

Packaging design involves the process of creating a product’s packaging. It is responsible for making the product look attractive and enticing to customers. The designer decides on the right packaging materials along with its look and feel.  

The packaging designer considers multiple aspects of the design process to retain the customers with the product’s brand. That means custom packaging design should enhance a product’s overall user experience. So, it is not just about developing the aesthetics of the product but also considering cost, sustainability, and design compliance rules and regulations side by side. 

The packaging design covers various products, including food, beverages, pharmaceuticals, consumer goods, etc. Typically, a team of packaging designers, researchers, and other professionals ensures the packaging is perfect from all angles. 

Product design vs packaging design: What’s the difference 

Both the terms — product design and packaging design may sound same but there are significant differences between the two. While one is about creating a product that customers use on daily basis, the other focuses on giving it an aesthetic look and feel. 

Here are the major differences listed among the two. Let’s check it out. 

Product design in a nutshell:

  • Product design focuses on creating a new product or improvising an existing one in terms of design and usability. 
  • The product design process involves the product’s structure, functionality, and aesthetics. 
  • Product development involves market research, user needs, trends, and technical needs.
  • Product design aims at solving people’s problems in their day-to-day life. 
  • Before manufacturing, a blue-print is developed along with detailed specifications. 

Packaging design in a nutshell:

  • Packaging design is mainly about making the packaging of a product look aesthetically pleasing. 
  • It focuses on how the product will be presented to the end users. 
  • It involves branding and marketing along with user experience. 
  • The packaging process includes graphic designing, type of material it will hold, and the layout of the package. 
  • Packaging design aims at protecting, transporting, preserving, and informing about the product. 

Design is the catalyst for making a product or packaging user-friendly and attractive. Both have specific processes for enhanced user experience. 

Best examples of product and packaging correlation:

The world is full of products and packages. If your product is good but the packaging is nowhere being informative or intuitive, it will not succeed. Likewise, if your packaging design is excellent but the core product doesn’t solve people’s problems, it won’t succeed either. So, the correlation and harmony between the two is vital. 

For example, Netflix — the streaming service provider — solves people’s problems by providing the latest movies and TV shows online and on-demand. Their products are movies and TV shows that they package under a platform easily accessible to people all around. The algorithm enhances their experience by bringing the exact movie or show they desire to watch after a search. Here, the packaging is customized for every user, so they get a wholesome viewing experience.

Best packaging printing methods

There are many printing methods to explore for packaging design. Here are the leading printing methods for packaging:

  • Offset printing: This printing technique is used to print packaging at lower costs and in bulk for retail packaging design and others. The technique involves a plate that aids in transferring the ink. First the ink is transferred to a rubber blanket and then it is moved onto the products like paper packages and more. 
  • Flexographic printing: The flexographic printing method is ideal when you need to print packaging material in large volumes at a high speed. It is a common method for packaging and printing on different materials, such as plastic, paper, and foil.  
  • Gravure printing: It is a high-resolution printing method for high-quality images with fine details. This method is mostly used to print on thin materials such as plastic films. Digital printing: This flexible printing technique transfers ink onto various packaging materials. It is a better option for customized packaging and printing on different materials, like cardboard, paper, and plastic.   

When choosing one of these printing methods, focus on your specific printing needs. Consider the quantity and type of packaging you want and the packaging material. Also, you should consider image resolution, color trend in packaging design, and print quality for better results.  

Product design process

Several methods are used to create product designs. This is because the design process depends largely on the specific product. Still, some product design techniques are commonly used. Here are those techniques:

  • User-centered design: This methodology involves a thorough consideration of the users’ needs. The process involves research, analysis of user behavior, survey, prototyping and then testing to ensure the product meets all the requirements. 
  • Systems thinking: System thinking is about taking into account the context in which a product will be used by the end users. It also involves analyzing the correlation between those systems and sub-systems. 
  • Iterative design: This technique instantly tests and improves different design concepts. It also helps meet the needs of the target market.  
  • Sustainability: This is an ideal method for making products environment-friendly when you want to show your social responsibility.  The method allows for minimum interference with ecosystem and natural resources. It mainly involves biodegradable and environmental-friendly materials. 

These are the key differences between product and packaging design. Consider these when deciding on one of the design methods. 

Designhill helps you fulfill your product or packaging design requirements by offering related services. You can hire product or packaging designers to collaborate with them for your design project or launch a design contest for the same. 

Wrapping Up 

Product and packaging design are vital to marketing a business to target customers. Product design involves creating a product that is useful for target users. Packaging design is the process of creating attractive and enticing packaging. Only with a right product and right packaging you can win the market and drive customer attention boosting your overall ROI.  

Anne Carton is a small business consultant, designer and an enthusiast blogger working with Designhill, one of the fastest-growing custom design marketplace. She has authored several blogs, articles and editorials on various topics related to interactive content, concerning design, social media strategies, growth hack strategies, digital marketing and e-commerce. Facebook | Twitter

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