The Evolution Of Packaging Design

by Designhill Tweet - in Packaging - 11 min read

Packaging Design

A product has to be packaged nicely to attract customers. It is essential in catching the attention and leaving a lasting impression. In fact, packaging design helps build a solid foundation of loyal customers. But it has evolved from being simple to functional and artistic.

Today’s packaging design goes beyond 3Cs— containing, caring and conserving. It also includes the purposes of communication and promotion. Packaging also offers several intuitive cues designed to trigger consumer perception and behavior.

Although these purposes are considered customary today, it took over 150 years for packaging design to evolve? Growing competition among brands and continuous technological breakthroughs have disrupted the evolution of packaging design since the 1860s. There is no doubt that this evolution revolved around cultural trends and consumer behavior during the early ages.

Let’s take a look at packaging history timeline. We will also discuss the evolution of packaging design and materials with today’s consumers’ perception in this article.

Packaging History Timeline

1805- Nicolas Appert — known as the ‘Father of Canning’ — invented a method to preserve foods. He devised the technique of packaging the food in glass jars, sealing with wax and cork, and keeping them in boiling water. Appert founded modern preservation techniques after Napoleon announced to offer 12,000 francs to anyone who could develop a way to preserve the food supplies for his army.

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1817- During this period, the first commercial paperboard box was developed in England.

1847- Richard March Hoe invented the lithographic rotary printing press. It created a design much faster than flatbed printing technique.

1890- Robert Gair devised the concept of the paperboard folding carton. It was invented after a metal rule that was used to fold bags changed its position and cut the bag. Later, he found that by slicing and folding paperboard in one operation, he could produce prefabricated cartons.

1890- BPIF (British Print Industry Federation) was founded.

1896- National Biscuit Company (NABISCO) was looking for a better and attractive way to package their crackers. They came across Gair’s folding cartons and started utilizing it. They ordered the production of 2 million units. This led to the birth of the folding cartons as ideal packaging material.

1906- Kellogg Company became the first entity to use cardboard cereal cartons for packaging.

1908- Swiss textile engineer Jacques E Brandenberger invented cellophane. However, it was patented in 1917. It paved the way for the plastic usage in packaging.

1926- Eckert and Ziegler patented the first commercial modern plastics injection molding machine.

1934- The year is known for liquid packaging breakthrough with the invention of the Gable-top milk carton.

1940 — 1949- Frozen food packaging idea was introduced.

1951- Driven by the concept of tetrahedron packaging, developed by Erik Wallenberg, Tetra Pack was invented.

1952- Michigan State University founded a School of Packaging as a segment within its Department of Forest Products. Later on, in 1957, it became an independent school.

1954-Polypropylene came into existence that transformed the packaging industry.

1959- The first pop-top aluminum can was produced by Ermal Fraze.

1960- For the first time cans were available widely that led to the expansion of the soft drinks market.

1966- Fair Packaging and Labeling Act was launched in the US. It required labels on consumer goods to disclose the identity of the product, net quantity, the name of the place of the manufacturer, distributor, and packager.

1970 — 1971- The recycling symbol was introduced. It was designed in 1970 by a student Gary Anderson. This symbol came as an entry for a graphic design competition held by the Container Corporation of America.

1982- The incident of Cyanide-laced Tylenol Capsules killing led to the revisions of the packaging design of medicines and over-the-counter products. The reforms emphasized the invention of tamper-proof packaging designs.

1996- UK Food Labelling Regulations of 1996 was founded. The act introduced fundamental requirements to all food packaging entities in the UK. Food must be branded with the original name, percentage mark of specific ingredients, use before date and storage conditions, and so on.

1999- The Food Standards Act was introduced to the House of Commons. The act was devised to set up the Food Standards Agency in the United Kingdom. This kept on influencing the food packaging industry.

2005- The Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations were introduced. It required businesses in the UK to recycle and recover specified amounts of packaging waste.

2009- UK government released Packaging Regulations to provide a set of guidelines to every packaging manufacturer in the UK.

2011- Researchers at the University of Strathclyde invented an “intelligent plastic.” This led to the beginning of intelligent packaging. The plastic changes its color when the food packed in it is about to lose its freshness.

2011- Australia became the first country to follow the Tobacco Plain Packaging Act. The nation guided companies to prohibit the use of branding and attractive packaging to promote tobacco sales. A legal rule was imposed to make packaging plain with no decorative materials.

2012- David Edwards, a Harvard Bioengineer founded WikiFoods Inc. The company specialized in edible packaging such as fruit juices, yogurt, ice-cream and other items.

How Packaging Design Evolved With The Right Materials:

01. Prehistoric Packaging Materials And Techniques

The era is known for human being hunters and gatherers. They produced and consumed food locally, so the packaging wasn’t a necessity. However, it is generally assumed that from approx 5,000 BC to 3,500 BC, the primitive packaging method was invented. Their nomadic nature and civilization fueled this need. They started looking for ways to store, protect, and carry foods.

Prehistoric man used containers and vessels made of natural materials such as animal skins, leaves, gourds, and woods.

These options are only the assumptions as to what may have been the early packaging materials used by primitive man.

02. Domesticated Village Packaging Evolution

The increase of villages helped humans settled down. It also led to the emergence of innovation and creativity. They learned to shape wood into crates, clay into pots and also discovered weaving techniques. They started making stronger bags from animal skins, weaving baskets, and sacks from plant fibers and leaves.

These materials and techniques evolved packaging as well as improved the lifestyle of the human being. With these evolutions, the human could store food from adverse weather conditions and animals. They could also transport foods and crops to and from the villages.

03. Packaging Design And Material Evolution In Cities

The development of cities contributed to innovation immensely. When people became able to move farther with unspoiled foods, products, and supplies, the concept of trading started. Eventually, it brought sophistication in packaging materials and products.

The discovery of blown glass played a pivotal role in the evolution of packaging. The introduction of adhesives and industrial glues also played a significant role.

During this period, wooden barrels were invented as well. The problem of bulk storage was solved quickly with this go-to packaging form. These containers allowed people to carry large quantities of liquids and dry goods with ease.

04. Packaging Design During The Industrial Revolution

The Industrial Revolution brought some of the most significant packaging evolutions in history. Various machines were invented that replaced the traditional handmade process with machine-made manufacturing. This not only led to a fast production but also introduced efficient packaging techniques. The idea of individual packaging also surfaced. This had a great impact on the way products were manufactured and packaged for sale.

05. The Dawn Of Modern Day Packaging

Till the end of World War II, marketers focused on bringing new materials like aluminium foil. People started adopting single-use throwaway packaging option. Ultimately, packaging turned into an effective sales and marketing tool. Today, most of the food items are packaged in paper-based materials that showcase the name of the brand in bright and eye-catching lettering. This is the era when brands started taking the help of a logo designer to design their logos and get it printed on the packaging.

In the early 1900’s, the emergence of plastic changed the whole scenario. It became a primary packaging material all around the world. In the 1960s, polyethylene was invented that quickly turned into the most-used packaging product. However, due to the overuse of plastic packaging, recycling became a major issue.

06. EPA Intervention In Packaging Material

In the early 2000’s, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) formulated strict rules for businesses to combat environmental impacts. These laws forced companies to find sustainable materials and optimize waste. This has a significant effect on packaging design.

07. Current Moods And Trends In Packaging Design

The packaging industry is now focused on creating more modern, easy-to-carry and reusable packaging options.

The perception of customers has changed over the period. They are continuously looking for the products that combine functionality with reusability. Therefore, manufacturers are devising new concepts to stay relevant. In last few decades, there have been many vital aspects influencing the packaging design evolution for more modern and fresher options.

Let’s take a look at those aspects that reflect current moods and trends.

Environmentally Aware Customers — At present, people are far more cautious of the need to be eco-friendly than ever. The appearance of a new breed of environmentally conscious consumer has accelerated the demand for reducing ecological footprints. Now, consumers are hunting for goods that are more sustainable and promote product well likewise usage of logo in design. The packaging industry has accepted this trend. It’s leveraging technological design innovations to produce eco-friendly products that can be recycled easily.

Recent packaging trends show this option to have a positive impact on the surroundings. Here are some excellent examples!

  • Buxton, the bottled water brand has decided to use technological innovations to manufacture updated, ergonomic bottles that will cut down the use of plastic by 25%.
  • Volvic, yet another bottled water brand, focused on making bottles from 20% sugarcane waste materials. This will turn its bottles into 100% recyclable PET bottles, thereby hugely dropping their carbon footprints.
  • UK-based brand, Snact is taking things further by delivering a powerful statement, ‘fighting waste with delicious snacks.’ Their packaging is 100% compostable that too with no special conditions. It means consumers can decompose the packaging easily in their homes.

Such packaging innovations show how the industry has transformed to meet customers’ expectations for environmentally friendly packaging solutions. Even there are brands that highlight their environment-friendly initiative in their web page design. This is done to spread awareness among customers that they are concerned about the environment too.

Cost-Effective Solutions — A more affordable packaging solution is essential, not only for businesses but for consumers too. Manufacturers look forward to source products that decrease manufacturing as well as transport costs. But they don’t want to compromise on quality, brand identity, convenience, and reliability that are highly important for customers, along with affordability.

It hard-pressed the industry to reduce the packaging production cost, and the shipping cost has moved from glass to plastic packaging. Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) has become a popular term in the bottled drink industry. Take an example of Coca-Cola bottle. It has evolved from its iconic glass bottle to a plastic bottle. This packaging is much cheaper and can be produced in a large quantity. Also, it’s easier to transport as the plastic material is lighter than glass. And, as it doesn’t break easily, it’s convenient for customers to carry anywhere.

Not only soft drinks, but the milk industry has followed the same footprints. They have also shifted from glass packaging to plastic packaging.

08. Stunning Packaging Designs

As a result of packaging evolution, the design aspects have changed as well. Now, shapes, labels, colors, and printing etc. play an important role in packaging design and manufacturing.

Brands are concentrating on making their packaging more creative and innovative. Hiring a professional graphic designer for packaging design is getting momentum. It’s key to attract and satisfy customers. Perfume bottles have gone through a drastic transformation. The traditional pear-shaped bottle has evolved a lot. Now, it’s available in different shapes and colors. Each of them has been designed with a single objective — to influence the customer to buy at first glance.

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Conclusion

Packaging is a “Knight in Shining Armor” that enables a brand to attract customers. However, it has evolved over the period. It began with natural materials like animal skins, leaves, and plants in the early ages. Customers find a stunning packaging design with innovative approach irresistible. Reusable, eco-friendly and lightweight packaging options are reliable.The packaging industry is adapting reusable and environment-friendly materials for packaging to reduce their carbon footprints.The industry looks forward to embracing new technology and continues evolving. Brands now take professionals’ help from companies such as Designhill to create packaging design that’s not only sustainable but attractive.

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