Where did packaging design begin?

The concept of product packaging along with design represents an understanding that to market one’s item to consumers entails an understanding that they have choices and the core idea in implementing the preceding represents swaying that choice to one’s particular brand. Product packaging, in terms of human history and civilization, is a relatively new concept, in that early tribal and village cultures caught and consumed food where it was located, moving frequently to find game and growing produce (Berger, 2002). The self contained and self sufficient nature of this type of existence created little need to store, transport or package items as they were consumed almost instantly.

Containers then consisted of leaves, shells and gourds which later gave way to materials that were of natural origin, containers made of woven grasses and logs that were hollowed (Berger, 2002). As humankind progressed, they gathered into larger villages and towns and increased the nature of commerce included foodstuffs as an item of trade. Trading marts sold not only woven materials and fashioned implements but were a location where hunters and farmers brought items to market to be sold.

The earliest example of pottery and earthen containers has been traced back to the Paleolithic period around the 11th millennium where samples were found in the Japanese islands (Wikipedia, 2005). The initial uses with respect to food and other products was the mass or volume storage of grains, jewels, and weapons such as arrows and other items, with this evolving into farmers and merchants devising means to measure amounts and weigh items to sell to buyers and purchasers on an equal basis. The development of a uniform size for varied containers which held differing amounts provided a quick and consistent measurement via which merchants could relatively quickly dispense varied amounts in uniform measurements and as commerce grew, crude packaging design was utilized to (Berger, 2002)

1. Hold specific amounts of products that helped to define the size or amount that would be purchased by consumers.

2. Protect products from being contaminated as well as from varied forms of environmental damages such as rain, dust, etc. and to help to limit or prevent theft.

3. Aid in the transport of products as well as storage and movement.

4. And later to provide a means of identification which evolved into the utilization of designs and markings that made attractive display additions.

Types of Packaging

There are varied types of packaging design which have been employed through the ages as the innovations and discoveries in other fields impacted upon this area. As a result packaging categories can be divided into the following segments:


This is comprised of material that easily bends and conforms to the contents, and in the case of modern packaging consists of containers that hold sugar, potato chips and the varied packages that we utilize to put items into for carting home from the market. The utilization of cloth, leaves and woven grasses falls into this category and represents some of the earliest forms of packaging utilization. Flexible packaging is termed “source-reduced”, which means that it adds and or has the least amount of material when compared with other packaging types that could be utilized, thus adding minimal weight (Integrated Waste Management Board, 2005). The advantage is also that flexible packaging is easily discarded after use.

Flexible packaging design use on a commercially wide scale basis has been traced back to the Chinese in the first or second century BC, who utilized sheets of mulberry bark that was treated as a wrapping for foods (Logan City Council, 2005). The Chinese refined and further developed packaging techniques in the ensuing centuries as a result of innovations in the art of making paper and as the knowledge of papermaking spread across continents as a result of exploration and trade, it made its way through Asia and eventually Europe. Papermaking was first introduced in England in 1310 and arrived in the United States in 1690, when it was introduced to Germantown, Pennsylvania (infoplease.com. 2005). Paper then consisted of a thin sheet of cellulose and its early development comprised cellulose fibers that were derived from flax, which is the same plant that is utilized to make fibers for linen. The early demand for paper actually created a situation whereby old linen rags were utilized as a fiber source in its making. It was not until 1867 that making paper from wood pulp, the process we commonly are familiar with, came into use (Berger, 2002). The plentiful and inexpensive nature of this supply source resulted in its becoming the primary source of papermaking and permitted the utilization of paper based products to be used in various manners. As wood pulp replaced cloth, the use of paper became widespread as the cost to manufacture it rapidly decreased.

The first important development in packaging came with the creation of paper bags in 1844 when this was introduced in Bristol, England. Francis Wolle in the United States invented a machine in 1852 that made paper bags and this made the use of this type of packaging design to become one of the primary sources of that time (TheGreatIdeaFinder.com). Developments along these lines continued in the 1870´s as glue was utilized to make paper sacks, along with the introduction of the gusset design which is the construction method we are familiar with today. Further advancements included the invention of machinery that produced what is termed as in-line printed paper bags which aided in marketing and merchandising differentiation. The development of the glued paper sack enabled the replacement of the more expensive cotton flour sack, and eventually the creation of multi-walled paper sacks permitted this material to replace cloth when the method to sew multi-walled paper sack ends was invented in 1925.

The development of plastics as a packaging material came into being in the early 1970s and as a result of its many forms, it occupies the flexible, semi-flexible and rigid categories along with paper.


The utilization of paper based packaging as a material took a further step with the development of paperboard, which we understand in today’s context as the type of paper utilized in cereal packaging design. This innovation was first produced in the United Kingdom in 1817, which is approximately two hundred years after the Chinese invented this process (Logan City Council, 2005). Corrugated paper, which is another form of cardboard or paperboard, first appeared in the 1850s. This method entails utilizing then sheets of paperboard which are processed into a wave shape for additional rigidity and then these sheets are placed between two flat paperboard sheets (paperonline.com, 2005). The method provides for added strength as well as light weight, the foregoing along with the inexpensive nature of the material makes it particularly well suited to shipping as well as for storage use.

During the early 1900´s the preferred method of shipping many products was in wooden crates, which added considerable weight as well as the initial cost to produce, but they are prized for their durability (paperonline.com, 2005. The manufacturers of these crates put up a valiant battle to delay the utilization of cardboard crates made of corrugated paperboard, and after considerable litigation the paper based carton was introduced. Today, these crates are called C-flute corrugated paperboard cartons (Michigan State University, 2005) and represent the major shipping container in utilization. In reality, the development of what is termed flaked cereals hastened the utilization of paper based cartons. The Kellogg Company located in Battle Creek, Michigan in the United States was the first company to utilize cartons for cereal. The product started as a health food for sanatorium patients that soon caught favor with the public and the Kellogg Company took their product mass market. The packaging originally consisted of a heat sealed bag of Waxtite that covered the outside of the box. This outer wrapper contained the Kellogg name as well as advertising printing (Kellogg’s.com. 2005). Today’s cereal boxes utilize a wax type inner container to hold the product with the outside paperboard carton as the sturdier material. This outer box contains the brand identification and advertising copy.

The paperboard containers as well as other forms of paper based packaging design gained popularity with consumers as a result of their light weight, markings and ease of storage. On the business side of the ledger, the low cost and ability to create a meaningful differentiation from other products helped to found the packaging design revolution which is prevalent everywhere we look. The continued development of plastics saw this material introduced as a packaging item during the late 1970s as it began to replace paper utilization in varied packaging instances (British Plastics Federation, 2005). The relative strength to weight ratio of plastics as well as its ability to be easily molded into any conceivable shape as well as color combinations that designers wanted provided marketers with unlimited variables to create differences. At first, plastic packaging as we know it today did not immediately land on store and counter shelves, the utilization of shapes, colors, and unique packaging design concepts evolved as is the case with any innovation. The manufacturing advantage of plastics in addition to the aforementioned benefits is also a factor of its weight to contents ratio which significantly decreases shipping costs. Plastics, as with some types of paper, occupy all three classifications, flexible, semi flexible as well as rigid, depending upon the method utilized.


The first rigid material utilized in product packaging design, as mentioned, was earthen pottery and this was primarily utilized as a storage and measuring device rather than for the packaging of products. Glass and metal containers, in terms of their utilization in packaging, although not in our modern mass merchandising format, came into use in 1500 BC and 1200 AD respectively (glassonline.com).

The art of glass making first began as an alternative to pottery in 7000 BC, yet it did not become industrialized until 1500 BC when the Egyptians mass produced it. The materials required for the formulation of glass, soda, limestone, sand and silica, were plentiful in the Egyptian region (glassonline.com). The basic process of melting the indicated materials and molding them while heated has changed very little through the ages, however, the techniques regarding molding have progressed. At first, the molding process consisted of pressing the hot molten material into cups and bowls. The invention of the blowpipe by the Phoenicians around 300 BC advanced production dramatically and permitted the formulation of round containers which enabled food to be stored as well as transported (glassonline.com).

It was not until the late 17th century, when the split mold was invented that the use of glass containers became more suitable as a packaging item on a large scale as it enabled the formation of shapes that were irregular as well as decorative designs that were raised. The preceding permitted placing the manufacturer as well as the name of the product onto containers thus providing marketing identification. Improvements in manufacturing processes during the late 18th and early 19th centuries reduced the cost of manufacturing glass containers through increased production techniques and other refinements thus making them economical in terms of utilization for mass consumer marketing whereas they were heretofore mostly utilized as vessels in shops and for higher end product sales such as drugs and other expensive mixtures (glassonline.com). The preceding was a result of Owens invention of the automated rotary bottle machine, which was patented in 1889 (glassonline.com). From that point on, until the late 1960s, glass dominated the container market for liquid based product, later replaced by plastics and coated paperboard containers, such as used in milk, juice and other formats. The preceding developments in plastics and paper based liquid containers once again relegated glass back to utilization for high end products as a result of its higher weight ratio, relative fragile nature and high cost relative to other materials (glassonline.com).

Tin plating samples were discovered in the Bohemia region of Europe that date back to 1200 AD, and samples of iron coated tin cans were discovered in Bavaria dating back to the early 14th century (Kratzsch. 1999). Tin was utilized as it can be plated in very thin layers over other metals, such as iron. In ancient times, cups, plates and eating implements for royalty and boxes were made of gold and silver. The tin plating process was held as a closely guarded secret by Bavaria until it was stolen by the Duke of Saxony in the late 1600s and thus the method found its way to France and England by the early 1900s (Kratzsch. 1999).. The process of tin plating was brought to the United States in the early 1900s by William Underwood and very quickly, it replaced iron in the manufacture of many items as a result of its light weight, low cost and higher rigidity (Maine Preservation.com, 2005).

The first utilization of tin for food packaging design came as a result of an offer proffered by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1809 who was seeking a means to feed his troops (hyperhistory.com, 2005). Until that time, metal was considered poisonous in terms of using it for food storage. A Paris chef, Nicholas Appert, discovered that tin was not poisonous, nor did it affect the taste of food stored in it as long as the food had been boiled and then sealed into the container (hyperhistory.com, 2005). This was development was followed in 1810 by the creation of the tin cylindrical can, patented by Peter Durand of the United Kingdom (Cookery-Online.com, 2005). Until this time, metal was utilized to store and sell tobacco products, which had begun as early as 1764 in London.

The discovery of tin’s applicability for long term food storage in varied sized containers found its way to its use for cookies and matches in the early 1830s (Cookery-Online.com, 2005). At this point, its utilization on a mass scale for food storage had not taken off as a result of the relatively high cost as cans were lead soldered on a hand made basis with a hole of 1 ½ inches at the top which was utilized to squeeze the food through. Then a small patch with an air hole was left and the food inside was boiled and the patch then closed (hyperhistory.com, 2005). The process was lengthy and prohibited mass production as approximately sixty cans could be so completed in this manner. The development of the aluminum can took off in earnest in 1852, with prices declining at a steady rate until 1942. Aluminum gradually replaced tin cans utilized in food storage applications. Rigid containers can be fashioned from paper based products, plastic, glass, as well as metals, and all have and do have their place in the modern forms of packaging, design and marketing.

Importance of Packaging Design

The advance of civilization from a tribal based existence is due to humanity’s consistent innovation and adaptation to find new methods of feeding, clothing and conducting commerce. The development of new packaging techniques and innovations have been innovated through the ages as a result of the aforementioned, as well as the vision of individuals who saw needs, voids and opportunities to be filled. Without our modern forms of plastic, metal, paper, cardboard and glass containers, carton and other packaging types, civilization could not exist. Taking the preceding past the simplistic need variable, the existence of all these differing forms of containers has spurred a climate of competition which benefits mankind in that consistently newer and better methods are being devised to create products, convenience, longevity, lower costs and develop new products.

And while food packaging design has formed the primary undertone of the examples thus far provided, the evolution of packaging has also made possible our modern world of commerce which provides medicines, all manner of processed as well as unprocessed foods, perfumes, smoking products, health and beauty aids, clothing, furnishings, fixtures, and whatever you see have either been delivered by, packaged in or still remain in one of the three packaging classifications of flexible, semi-flexible or rigid containers. Those television programs we watch would not be possible save for the safe and dependable containers T.V sets are shipped in, and even the design and outside container holding the picture tube or high definition contents is a packaging element distinctive to its brand. The toothpaste, toothbrush, soap, body powder and other articles found in one’s bathroom are in containers or packaging made possible by advances in plastics, paper and metal components as well as compositions. Life as we know it would not be the same without our potato chips, coffee, tea, bread, eggs, meats, vegetables, fruits and the like all which were either processed or put into containers made from paper based products, plastics, metal or glass. The foregoing represents the broader societal aspects concerning the importance of packaging design in general terms. More specifically, the processes and allied aspects of packaging in terms of marketing, mass distribution, quality of life, benefits to mankind, truth in advertising and contents, along with environmental factors are the broader considerations which shall be broached, along with other aspects.

In terms of marketing and differentiating one’s product from other competing brands, packaging does indeed matter. The look, style, colors, shape and other features help to distinguish one’s brand from others thus enabling consumers who are used to or seek to purchase a brand to locate it easily (Sheffield, 2003). In a world crammed full of like product types, “…a unique bottle design…” or unusual box could very well be the reason a consumer elects to purchase a product for the first time (Sheffield, 2003). Thereafter, the product’s fulfillment of its promise in terms of taste, performance, features, durability, usability or other factors helps by and large to determine is continued selection by consumers. But, in order for the second equation to take place, the first one must occur (Sheffield, 2003). This however was not always the case. Recent innovations in plastics and formulation techniques have driven down the costs of manufacturing unique shapes and designs, some of which are of ergonomic benefit, convenience, usability, or simply for eye appeal.

An example of the preceding can be found in Nestlé’s new tough bag introduced for its Purina Dog Chow line. The company replaced its prior multi-wall paper package “… a woven polypropylene material…” (findarticles.com, 2004) that resists tears from fork lifts and consumer use, has an improved appearance on selling selves and offers an easier to utilize opening technique that is more convenient helped to increase store sales as a result. The foregoing is in light of the fact that the packages contents remain unchanged. Other innovations by the same company includes an improved Nesquick syrup bottle that is easier to hold and grip for kid sized hands, offered an improved shelf look and the open top left less of a syrup mess through the use of an inverted bottle that featured a no drip cap. The innovation helped Nesquick to increase sales to the consumer market while not making any changes to the actual product itself (findarticles.com, 2004). The company claimed that since the introduction of the new container its syrup sales rose 15% over the same fiscal period one year prior and that the company gained 2.6 points in market share points (findarticles.com, 2004). The foregoing points out the importance of packaging in offering new ideas, convenience, usability and function to consumers that can aid in driving sales. The preceding is an example of function defining form.

Another example of the preceding is the introduction of ring-pull pop top cans. We now take this innovation for granted all but forgetting how we ever opened soda cans in the past by pushing down on a perforated opening that usually found us spilling some soda in the process. Since the introduction of this new opening feature ring-pull pop top cans now comprise one-third of the soda can market and it is expected to increase to two-thirds by the year 2008 (Gubero, 2005) The importance of packing in its purest sense means that it fulfills the objective of utilizing a minimum of resources and waste to accomplish its object of delivering its contents to the end user in safe manner whereby the contents arrive as intended. It must be remembered that our entire way of life is held together by the innovative means that we utilize to wrap, protect, ship, store and market all types of products. The foregoing is made even more dramatic by the following (Pongracz, 1998):

1. Food packaging design conserves perishable items from spoiling early and thus in the long run extents the useful life of foods which for all intents and purposes could not be brought to market for the millions of global urban dwellers to utilize and enjoy.

2. Packaging design in general enables us to improve the quality of life by manufacturing items which can be essentially transported to any corner of the globe, be it food, cosmetics, medicines, appliances, furnishings, electronics, etc.

3. The increased urbanization of the globe is placing an ever increasing reliance on packaging as a means to support this explosion. The facts are that (Pongracz, 1998):

1. 150,000 individuals are added to the current urban population totals each day.

2. 35 years ago only one-third of the earth’s population lived in cities

3. It is predicted that by 2025 two-thirds of the global population will be living in urban locales.

4. The preceding translates into the fact that in 2025 more individuals will be living in cities than the entire population of earth just ten years hence.

5. By 2015 there will be a total of 33 mega cities, each with a population count in excess of 8 million each, and over 500 cities with populations in excess of 1 million.

The preceding population aspects dramatize the extent to which packaging plays in our daily lives and how it has influenced our mode of living. The indicated figures are made even more meaningful when one considers that Tokyo is a city of 27 plus million, and that Sao Paulo in Brazil has a population in excess of 16.4 million.

Food packaging design, as an example, economically utilizes resources that if prepared in another manner would result in massive waste. The processing and packaging of food permits the residues to be utilized as either feed for animals, food by products or fuel. It is estimated that food waste in under developed countries is between 20% to 50% as a result of either poor packaging and or preparation methods, and or the absence of packaging altogether. The foregoing becomes dramatic when compared against Europe where food wastage is approximately 2 to 3 % (Pongracz, 1998). The fact is we must increase our efforts at conservation as efficiencies not only in foods, but in all aspects of resources. It has been estimated that for each one percent increase in the utilization of food packaging, the resultant waste decreases by approximately 1.6% (Pongracz, 1998).

Packaging Design Content

The ramifications of packaging encompass those desiring to have their products purchased, with those who are the objects of this activity and governmental regulation that is empowered to act in the best interest of society. This triumvirate represents the real world factors which companies must consider if they desire to be successful in their long term interests. The dichotomy that exists as a result of the foregoing is as follows;


The companies that manufacture products must be mindful of the ramifications of end use from not only a consumer and governmental perspective, but also in terms of competitor activities and their introduction of continued new, improved and innovative products. This playing field however is fraught with aspects that create a marketing environment that has resulted in increased rounds of governmental regulation. The FTC states (Vitamin Lawyer, 2005):

“ Advertising claims based solely on traditional use should be presented carefully to avoid the implication that the product has been scientifically evaluated for efficacy.”

The purpose of the Food and Drug Administration is (U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 2005):

“… protecting the public health by assuring the safety, efficacy, and security of human and Veterinary drugs, biological products, medical devices, our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, and products that emit radiation.”

This broad mandate stretches far beyond the actual words used to comprise the agency’s title, Food and Drug Administration. The FDA’s mission statement goes on to add that is also assumes responsibility to advance the health of citizens in the United States by helping to “… speed innovations that make medicines and foods more effective…” (U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 2005), as well as “… helping the public to get the accurate, science based information they need…” with respect to the utilization of medicines along with foods for the purpose of improving their health.

The counterpart of the FDA in Europe is the Food and Veterinary Office (FVO), and it is responsible “… for ensuring that Community (EU) legislation on food safety, animal health, plant health and animal welfare is properly implemented and enforced.” (Food and Veterinary Office, 2005) The Food and Veterinary Office fulfills its mission through the promotion of effective systems of control with respect to food safety as well as quality in the animal, plant and health sectors along with maintaining compliance of the European Union food safety and quality, plant and animal legislation concerning health for countries within the European Union as well as those exporting to the EU.

Labeling and nutrition governance within the European Union consists of specific rules, guidelines and regulations for the labeling of food items to permit consumers to have comprehensive information with regard to the composition as well as contents of the products they purchase and to aid them in making informed choices. A recent change in the legislation in this area is the abolishment of the 25% rule that indicated it was not mandatory to list on labels the components of ingredients which were less than 25% of the final food total. This means that all ingredients must be listed and included as well as those which might cause “… allergies or intolerances…”(Food and Veterinary Office, 2005). The Food and Veterinary Office aim is “… to ensure that the consumer gets all of the essential information as regards the composition of the product…” (Food and Veterinary Office, 2005) along with the manufacturer and the methods utilized in storage and its preparation. The companies producing these items “… are free to provide whatever additional information …” (Food and Veterinary Office, 2005) they so desire as long as said additional information is not misleading and is accurate.

The preceding means that companies are supposed to tell the truth about their packaging contents as required by the foregoing statements. Similar rules, regulations and guidelines can also be found for other countries throughout the world in varying degrees of specifics and governance, depending upon the laws in place. Unfortunately, companies do find means via which to bend, stretch and slightly circumvent these rules and regulations which basically keeps them within the letter of the law, but introduces elements of confusion or uncertainty. Some examples of the preceding are illustrated by what is termed “genetically modified organism” or GMO. A genetically modified organism is one where the generic material has been changed utilizing techniques that are generally known as recombinant DNA technology (wikipedia, 2005). The foregoing enables the combining of DNA molecules from differing sources into one molecule in a test tube situation.

The controversy that exists in this instance is that some groups see this as meddling in nature. Their views are in spite of the many benefits that have resulted throughout history from such scientific utilizations. Some consumer groups would prefer GMO be banned, while others want it stated as required labeling. On the international side there is no clear consensus with respect to the acceptability of GMO. The United States stance on this issue remains neutral while in Europe the position is that GMO has not proven to be safe, thus it is banned from importation or domestic manufacture (wikipedia, 2005). The preceding has led to some specific cases of misuse in the United States as cited by an FDA order to several food manufacturers to cease from indicating that their food products were GM free (Food Chemical News, 2001). The labeling practice that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found to be misleading is that these companies were giving the misleading impression that their food products were safer than products made with GMO ingredients.


Faced with a plethora of purchasing possibilities in all manner of products, from food items to electronics, vehicles, clothing, toys, furniture and other areas, consumers are barraged with all manner of subtle advertising and copy tricks to sway them from one brand to another. Faced with these realities, companies employ subtle copy tricks to appeal to consumer sensibilities, as even a small difference can make a favorable increase in register sales. That image of a real strawberry on your favorite cereal package is not what is contained in the box, nor is the bread that states it is made from real wheat flour which is fortified with “… vitamins and minerals … that build strong bodies in 12 ways…¨(Crawford, 2004). In fact, the additional information contained on labels as a result of governmental regulation might actually be helping companies to promote their hype as few consumers actually read this information which is a part of everything they buy (Crawford, 2004). The amazing graphics, colors and packaging utilized for containers often convinces consumers to purchase it, rather than what is actually inside. The prior examples of Nesquick´s new syrup bottle, and Purina’s new woven container are illustrations of this point.

An example of copy innuendo is reduced fat. Katherine Tallmadge, the national U.S. spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, explains that “Reduced fat does not mean low-fat” (Crawford, 2004). Tallmadge (Crawford, 2004) goes onto explain that whole milk is comprised of four percent (4%) fat, thus a measurement of two percent (2%) of milk still contains five (5) grams of fat in each serving, thereby one is still getting forty – five (45) out of a total of one hundred and twenty (120) calories which is fat. Tallmadge indicates that if one is seeking low fat then this means to purchase skim milk. The foregoing points out the detailed and precise information consumers need to have to read through the mountains of data at their disposable. Thus, even though companies are conforming to regulations, package and advertising copy through innuendo and wording can still mislead.

And the confusing list of information to wade through goes on. Take for instance bread. First, one must understand that all bread is wheat bread as a result of it being made from wheat kernels. Lisa Young, who is a PHD, RD professor at the New York University School of Nutrition Food Studies and Public Health, states that unless the ingredient list at the top states “100 percent whole wheat” ((Crawford, 2004) what you could and most likely are getting is white bread with color added. Ms. Young goes on to add that the word fortified really means that when the wheat was bleached, some of the B vitamins and iron that were lost as a result of the process were replaced. Ms. Young goes on to emphasize that the manner in which companies exaggerate can be found in serving sizes. The example utilized provides a clear example of what can only be termed as laughable. Cooking sprays, Ms. Young explains, use a measurement that is linked to time as the contents leave the container. She notes that the side of the can indicates the timing period as one-third of a second and that this translates into 700 servings (Crawford, 2004). The problem is that one – third of a second represents a period that is so small that it is basically impossible a standard to achieve in finger reaction time, thus rendering the measurement as useless in practical terms.


Consumer protection policies are a must in any society as it sets and provides for ground rules under which participants must adhere to (American Bar Association, 1992). The legal structure which requires truth in advertising, drug and food content as well as other measures protect consumers from businesses which might be prone to not operating in the best interests of the public. As the area of food and drug regulations represents the more important areas in packaging since they are consumed, these shall form the focus point for this discussion. Government regulation in terms of food in Europe falls under the European Food Safety Authority, which is responsible for overseeing and conducting risk assessments of food and feed safety, and operates under the auspices of the European Union (European Union, 2005). In the United States the Federal Trade Commission and the Food and Drug Administration review, test and govern the statutes and regulations that deal with packaging, food labeling, contents and associated regulations protect consumers.

Governmental oversight with respect to packaging design regulations ensures uniformity in content, materials and standards to provide consumers with a base level of expectations with respect to products on the market. This minimum standard sets the bar for manufacturers to either met or exceed. The examples of governmental regulations and requirements as stated in section 1 of this segment points to the impact and importance of these agencies in seeing to the public welfare by ensuring manufacturers and producers are adhering to a standard that ensure health as well as safety.

Packaging design and Appearance

The image a package conveys has a lot to do with identification of the target market the manufacturer is seeking as their brand franchise. The foregoing can be seen in the packaging of cosmetics, vehicles, food products, beverages and other examples. The package serves to impart the desired image the brand is seeking or has established, however, the contents or what is being sold must live up to these expectations as well. It is the product that is being purchased, thus the packaging design serves as the vessel said item is delivered in and therefore the two must match. The use of expensive materials, craftsmanship and design adds cost to the product being sold and as such must be considered in light of the target audience as well as competitive factors. If a company is selling to the high end of the market, such may not be enough as this is a determinant of what the product is, its image, utility, performance and reputation. The fact is just because a consumer has a deep wallet, does not mean they will pay a higher price simply for an item that is packaged as being expensive. Bread has a known value in terms of price. Fresh baked bread at a bakery commands a higher price because of the hand made on the spot manufacture, the service of the establishment, its reputation and of course the end product itself in terms of taste and other qualities. The same holds true for perfumes, cosmetics, vehicles and all manner of items. While we might not think of it as such, a Range Rover commands its price as a function of its years of reputation, quality and consumer satisfaction. Thus the attention to leather seats, materials, fit, finish, engine reliability and associated aspects is expected. If a Range Rover performed and lasted like a Ford Explorer, the upper middle class and well heeled customer base would switch to products that delivered upon what they expect.

The same correlation exists for food, cosmetic and other products. Package appearance is a function of contents, reputation, quality, uniqueness, performance or delivery of a level of expectation and rareness. Rolls Royce does not manufacture cars in the same quantity as Ford, nor does an expensive perfume use alcohol to stretch the contents. It is a well known fact that more expensive perfumes last as a result of being oil based which takes longer to evaporate and leaves behind a residue that still holds the fragrance. The small yet important differences that are a determination of price, appeal and upper scale sales, meaning the contents, thus aid in determining the package. Apple Computers is an excellent illustration of this point, as is the Sony Vio. Each computer contains high end internal components that have been selected for durability and performance to minimize mechanical breakdowns, crashes and related occurrences. The manufactures have selected high end external materials as their packaging design, and such is reflected in the boxes they are contained in as well as the advertising messages. Consumers pay more for these products not as a result of the packaging or external dress up, but because the entire product as a whole is higher quality, thus the fit, finish, packaging and appeal demands same (Makely, 2002).

The visual aspects of the aforementioned communicate this message, as do the components and materials utilized. Thus, the manufacturer of say Dell computers, Swatch watches, would not be served by taking on the added expense of utilizing high end packaging to sell what are termed as budget products. The preceding would raise the price and leave them vulnerable to competitors whose products deliver the same quality without the added hype of a fancy package. The indicated correlations remain true for all manner of consumer products as the public has a tremendous selection of competing brands in all price ranges from which to make selections. Such being the case, the utilization of a fancy package must correspond to high end components, ingredients, taste, preparation, etc. in order to be successful. The design of packages is thus a function of the market segment, consumer profile and pricing the product occupies. Competing brands tend to spend similar amounts on similar aspects / areas. The foregoing does not mean to imply that lower end or middle range priced products do not or should not design and make their packages as pleasing, different and unique as possible, the preceding correlation has been made to illustrate that consumers basically are savvy regarding what they purchase and therefore are more interested in what is in the box, rather than the box being the rationale to purchase, in most cases.

Trend Impact

Trends in consumer tastes, as well as those which are established by manufacturers, can and do influence consumers as well as competitors within their industry segments. The two work upon each other rather than one singularly affecting the other. The preceding states that at times manufacturers take the lead in the establishment of such trends through the successful introduction of new styles, color combinations and uses, artistic aspects as well as materials. A trend is defined is defined as “the general direction in which something tends to move” (American Heritage Dictionary, 2005). As such, fashion plays a role in our perception of what is new and considered as fashionable. The hip hop craze was made fashionable as a result of the influence of music on an entire generation. The foregoing look that accompanied this craze resulted in a fashion trend of loose fitting clothes that has been described as urban grunge. And while the music and style is wide spread, its influence in terms of packaging design has been minimal. One the other side of the coin, high fashion has always been present in influencing packaging design and styles. In general, today’s packaging is closely allied with the trends in consumer lifestyle (Pongracz, 1998).

Naturally, the functionally of the package is the first consideration on the part of the designer, but, packages also convey a message about the brand and as such they appeal to marketing segments and demographics. Products such as sugar, milk, butter and eggs for example have little need to be trendy as consumers know exactly what these products are and there is little that can be done to change this. However, nutria sweet products, lactose free milk substitutes, and cholesterol free eggs are a different matter. These are products appealing to market segments that are concerned with health issues and that will spend the extra sums of money to purchase products that appeal to this need. The packages for these type of products do keep pace with trends in fashion as the prevailing mood of what is modern, progressive and up to date is the message the companies are portraying in addition to the nature of their basically niche products.

To state that fashion trends determines or helps to determine packaging design is neither entirely true, nor is it entirely false. Trends represent society’s ever changing look at itself in the mirror, and as such reflects the thinking and or preferences of individual demographic groups at a given point in time. Needless to say, manufacturers can not respond to or pay attention to passing fancies that are short lived, as the time to design and deliver such changes to the market would be after this type of trend had passed. But, there are more defined trends that companies do indeed pay attention to. These represent changes in color combinations or style whereby bright colors are an accepted part of the marketplace and represent a long standing shift in that direction. An example of the preceding is the Red Velvet wine series from Marilyn Wines located in Saint Helena California. The company has introduced is Norma Jeane vintage wine collection that honors the late movie start Marilyn Monroe whose real name is Norma Jeane (Packaging Digest, 2004). The packaging design change was prompted by the trend in upper class circles regarding Hollywood movie stars of the past. An example of industries accommodation of the influence of the hip hop culture is evidenced by the new super sized cans for energy drinks which have special appeal to this market segment. The 24 oz cans are a step up from the 16 oz cans that preceded them which remain on the market and represent that culture’s forty sized inexpensive beers that it is identified with it.

Indeed, packaging design does follow its own beat as evidenced by the continued innovations the industry puts forth in new container materials, conveniences and color schemes. An example of this is the new Imagine carton which won the European Carton Makers Association award in 2004. The design features a carton styled after a handbag that has a leather feel which is actually paperboard (European Carton Makers Association, 2004).

Visual Considerations

Eye appeal represents one of the more important considerations in not only attracting consumer attention, but aiding them in picking out there product from others in both familiar as well as new environments. Ever been shopping in a strange store and had to find the aisle where your favorite product is located. Once there it was easy to pick it out from the other similar products, wasn’t it? The preceding is a direct example of the utilization of color as well as design and fonts to aid in product recognition. For those consumers which the company has yet to cultivate as customers, the advertising message, the color schemes, design and fonts utilized are in consort with the package. In terms of the type of product, its content, the selection of the type of packaging material aids in a continuation of the foregoing through functionality. Some makers of potato chips have moved to a foil type package from plastic as a result of the visual appeal the metal brings to design as well as the appearance of cleanliness with respect to the contents.

The preceding holds true for a number of products. Medicines tend to be contained in plastic bottles or jars that are either predominately white or clear to reflect cleanliness. Some beverage companies utilize clear plastic containers to enable consumers to see the contents. The application variables with regard to color, design of fonts and packaging design materials is defined within the industry segment with respect to what other manufacturers are doing as well as breaking new ground to introduce concepts proven in focus group studies and as a result of extensive pre-market release testing.

Marketing and Its Influence on the Design and Practically of Packaging

Form Following Function, or Function Defining Form?

The actual shape of the package is a function that is closely aligned with the contents said package is delivering. To a large measure it defines and limits the possibilities which the package shape can take as well as the materials utilized in its construction. In the instance of many companies, the package shape is also a function of the brand as there are some correlations between shape and brand identity (Chen et al, 2002). Beverage containers form a prime example of the preceding The forces of competition also plays a role in defining and constraining shape as do consumer perceptions and historical references (Nilsson, et al, 2003). Bottle and can shapes communicate liquid contents of a certain variety, and boxy type shapes communicate dairy and juice contents. To some extent juice contents are also contained in bottle and can forms. Can formats of a certain height and girth communicate vegetables, canned fruits, sauces and similar products, while paperboard boxes indicate cereals, powered detergents and some powdered forms of liquid such as powdered milk. Potato chip manufacturers, dog food and perfume companies remain the most consistent in their utilization of packaging continuity, however even that has its oddities as Pringles use of a round paperboard container was meant to provide a unique market introduction and consumer brand differentiation when it was first released and it remains the only potato chip brand to utilize this type of container which is also a function of the shape they have decided to utilize in the manufacture of their chips. The indicated packaging design tendencies reveals that there are generalities in the diverse universe of consumer products as manufactures seek to employ packaging shapes as well as colors to define their brands and strike a unique visual appeal that helps consumers identify and notice their products.

The highly competitive nature of the consumer products arena is dependent upon brand recognition, and as such a manufacture must visually establish, reinforce and exposure his product to consumers in a consistent unified series of messages to enable them to strike a cord of remembrance versus the thousands of daily advertising impressions consumers are exposed to on a daily basis. Thus, faced with this blizzard of advertising and promotional exposures, brands are not well served by adding to this confusion by changing their packaging designs too dramatically or too often, but rather to slowly introduce new design segments in a piecemeal fashion, such as a change in font, or color modifications. Once again, there are no hard and fast rules to this area. Marlboro, Coca Cola, Pepsi and other recognizable brands have held their design images over decades utilizing new design schemes based upon the familiar fonts and logo styles to introduce new product rollouts. Pepsi’s image change was slowly modified through the introduction of a number of new cola types and massive advertising budgets that permitted them to then go back to the original Pepsi and upgrade that package design as well. This was accomplished with the aid of a massive advertising campaign that utilized Michael Jackson in the early 1980´s under the banner “New Generation” (Pepsiworld, 2005).

The consistency of packaging design, colors and related aspects indicates stability and when a company embarks upon a modified or new direction, such as in the example of Pepsi, said decision had better be correctly considered least that company lose consumer confidence as well as brand identity and reputation as a result of stepping into new ground that does not represent the pulse beat of its brand franchise.

Beauty or Practicality

In our world of movies, television, and fashion we are consistently reminded that image is everything. This is true of buildings, landscapes, web sites, print ads, vehicles, toys and almost everywhere we look. We are governed by the commercialism of our times and that commercialism helps to define what we are used to as a result of its consistent barrage upon our visual senses. Muoio (et al, 1999) states that “Design isn’t just about decoration…” (Muoio et al, 1999) she indicates that it is “… a critical component of how we communicate…” as well as compete and collaborate. She goes on to add that behind this visual approach to the look and feel of a product design as well as its packaging are a number of carefully conceived fundamental principles as well as pragmatic considerations that guide the process, but the look, attractiveness and beauty, are the first considerations.

As an example of the foregoing Muoio (et al, 1999) utilizes the Dyson vacuum cleaner. She states that good design is comprised of “… 98% common sense…” (Muoio et al, 1999) and goes on to states that Dyson´s utilization of lively colors makes the product uniquely identifiable. We are governed by our consistent exposure and comparisons to things based upon how they look and appeal to us, thus the first consideration of and commercial item is to appeal to this inbred sensibility.

Is it Art, or is it Pragmatic?

The preceding example of the Dyson vacuum cleaner can be expanded to include Mercedes Benz, BMW, Apple Computers, The Sony Vio, the new Razor mobile phones and any number of products we are attracted to. A vehicles purpose it to get us from point ‘a’ to point ‘b’ in a dependable, reliable, safe and comfortable manner, so why are we consistently select or prize those whose designs are sleek and luxurious? A computer’s function is to operate seamlessly between programs in a rapid manner, providing reliability. But, Apple computers consistently command a premium price, as does the Sony Vio and this higher price is not just a function of their higher quality components, it is also a function of their design. The same holds true for mobile telephones, shoes, kitchen fixtures and almost anything one can think of. As illustrated in the preceding section, 3.2 Beauty of Practicality, we are governed by our senses and those senses have been skewed to beauty as out barometer of initial acceptance. However, commercial products and their packaging are a bottom line endeavours, meaning they must sell, and that is function pf pragmatism. In equating the question of whether packaging is art or pragmatic, it is a child of both parents as both disciplines act upon, influence and co-depend upon each other to aid in the design of packaging that meet the needs of the consumer marketplace. From the consumer perspective the eye appeal, art, is an influencing factor as stated by Muoio (et al, 1999) as well as Nilsson (et al, 2003). After the preceding, the engineering aspects of packaging materials, components and allied aspects can be fitted to the design aesthetics. As mentioned in section 3.1 Form Following Function, or Function Defining Form?, the function or use of the package is a product of its contents.

Packaging design not only has to contend with varied demographics, but considerations such as user friendly packaging for elder citizens whose impact on population percentages is increasing. It is forecast that by 2020 50% of Europe’s adult population will be over 50 years of age (Gough et al, 2002) and that percentage in the United States will be 20%, with 25% forecast for Japan. These considerations are also ones that companies must factor into their art and pragmatism equations, making packaging that is user friendly across varied age groups. Thus the inter relationship between these two aspects, art and pragmatic considerations, is not blurred, they are inseparable components that act upon each other.

Environmental Factors

The vary fact that civilization is increasing at an astonishing rate and massing towards urban centres, creates an environmental problem of how to handle the trash that is the offshoot of this mass of humanity. Thus, product manufacturers must consider, before governmental legislation mandates the rules of this new environmental game, ways in which to reduce as well as minimize the effects of their packages in this context. Paper based products represent a more friendly environmental impact due to their biodegradability. The less materials utilized in providing rigidity, liquid leakage proof and other content requirements, the more biodegradable it is. However, the source material which is wood represents another consideration on the opposite side of the spectrum in that it is trees that serve as the supplier of these materials. Striking a balance between increased utilization of paper based packaging and the re-forestation required to replace what has been utilized is at the core of the problem.

However, there are a multitude of products whose use does not presently nor might ever lend themselves to being contained in paper based products. Glass, metals, and plastic comprise a goodly percentage of the materials utilized in packaging components and as such, biodegradability is not a methodology in these instances. De Campos (1998), along with Butner (1995), Greenpeace and varied environmental groups point to the staggering significance of this problem. An example of how our modern standard of living is impacting on the problem of waste is evidenced by the use of bottled water. This new health trend has seen an increase in plastic waste of 1.5 million tons annually (Coates, 2003).

A proposal in the Netherlands in this regard has drawn up a procedural plan under the Dutch Packaging Covenant III whereby the signatories agreed to manage packaging waste through measures whereby companies minimize impact via redesign and materials (Geert et al, 2004). It will take the cooperation of companies, governmental and the end users to effectively address the problem of waste management as the globe’s population base increases. Consumer action will entail paying more attention to recycleability in terms of separating materials types, and companies will need to seek means to make packages that are more disposed to recycling efforts. In terms of causing or making packaging user friendly to the environment, the response is a resounding yes, however, such will require the cooperation of the three players in this crucible, business, government and consumers to make that equation work.

The Future

The future of packaging design finds it at a new crossroads that links it to the course and direction mankind finds himself in. We understand that our limited resources are just that, limited. We can measure the extent to which we have polluted our environment and can equate that the process needs to be reversed. We move towards a mass of civilization that scientists tell us the earth will not be able to support, and the realization of these facts impacts upon every corner of our existence. We, of adult age might not have to pay the price before we depart, but surely, there will be a price to be paid by immediate successive generations. Thus the future of packaging, as is the future of mankind entails embarking upon directions that better utilize resources, focuses upon re-usability of manufactured items as a design process rather than a knee jerk reaction.

Product packaging´s future means that the foregoing consideration be a part of its process. Of design, materials, recycling and biodegradability. Design processes in the selection and innovation of newer more environmental friendly materials is not an argument for green peace, it is a fact of our existence. Thus the role of companies, government and consumers is to cause this to happen. The future has only one reality, and that is our resources become less and less plentiful, so, our utilization of them must improve. This entails all aspects of life, of which packaging is a part. The preceding are pressures and realities impacting upon the industry which is essentially a business to business relationship, they also must be aware of their relationship to society as a whole (Coates, 2003).


The influence of product packaging design on consumers is undeniable as it along with the other ingrained visual components of our modern existence act upon us from birth. We are sensitized to being visually directed beings through the influences of television, printed materials, toys, candy, movies, entertainment, amusement parks, vacations, sports and as a component of wanting to look and be our best as well as belonging. These are all factors relating to our visual sense and have been as well as are acted upon by the science of product packaging. Manufacturers in seeking to market their products employ psychology, art, words, contemporary adaptations and sound to in their advertising campaigns to create brand images that will appeal to us. We can not escape these daily barrages in our commercialized world.

The continued evolution of society brings with it a similar evolution in the psychological, visual, marketing and commercial techniques impacting upon consumers to induce us to try, and repurchase competing brands out for our disposable incomes. This inexorable fact of capitalism has contributed to the fall of communism as that system could not satisfy, nor was it geared to the psychology of all living things, the desire for more security, comfort and a long life. And while the commercialism of capitalism is not that answer to these areas, it provides enough elements to help us think we are in fact moving in that direction.

And as we march forward, we also bring with us all of the associated benefits as well as ills that progress reaps, pollution and waste. Mankind has progressed to the point where we must be accountable for our combined actions looking into the future, rather than just at today. This brings with it the responsibility to seek means to better control and live within the environment we have and improve upon it through better conservation and use of resources as part of the cycle of life. Thus, the present and future of packaging is linked to the present and future of our actions to create a planet that is as friendly to our offspring as it has been to us.