Packaging design has evolved into almost a new category in artistic expression- one where marketers, graphic artists, printing experts, and consumer behavior specialists come together to invent new ideas to keep brand messaging and consumer interest fresh. In the arena of commercial art, packaging design has also become something of a time capsule- with marketing cycles becoming shorter and shorter; packaging design can often reflect the mood of the times.
Packaging design elements can be divided into the aesthetic and the functional. Both work together to draw consumer attention, instill trust, and ultimately drive consumers to buy the product. In the past years, functional elements have included see-through packaging, plastic-free or biodegradable containers, and reusable or multi-functional packaging, in keeping with brands’ messaging about their eco-friendliness. On the creative side, art philosophies like minimalism or maximalism, color gradients, and even optical illusions have been used to grab and hold consumer’s curiosity.
2021 began with new hope after a year of Pandemic-induced uncertainty. The main theme of 2021’s designs so far has been about hope, earth-friendliness, and a throw-back to previous, simpler times. There’s also been a new wave of fine art-styled, beautiful and original artwork that would be as much at home as a painting on a wall as a packaging design. The mood is one of freshness, re-birth, and a continuation of trends like storytelling from years past. With so much to choose from, we focused on artwork styles that in our opinion, are really original.
1.Illustrations that hint what’s inside
This one is a brilliant play on achieving functionality with beauty. It’s also really intelligent. 2021 saw packaging with cute, smile-inspiring illustrations and drawings. When you look closer, the illustrations reveal the product too. This is quite distinct from a straight-up image of the product, which is frankly, an old hat. This artistic approach is an attention grabber which deftly does two things at once – first, it achieves smiles with its simple yet communicative style. Second, it communicates the product, as well as the mood that the consumer can expect to be in when the product is used. The whole mood is one of immersive warmth and openness.
Figure 2: Tea Packaging Design showing a simplistic illustration of the tea inside. (99designs)
2.Anatomical or Technical Drawings with fine detail
Frankly, we’re surprised this trend hasn’t seen widespread use already. Remember those beautiful hand-drawn ink & pencil illustrations of exotic birds and animals on yellowed paper? This new packaging design trend takes its inspiration from the detailed, anatomically, and technically correct drawings of the 19th and 20th centuries, featuring anything from birds and insects to balloons and ships. It is retro, it is distinctive, and most of all- it’s eye-catching.
Figure 3: Old ink-drawing inspired artwork. Compare the original zoology drawing style on the left by Charles Darwin (pinterest) from his famous 1831-1836 voyage, and the style of the honey bee on the beer can on the right, from 2021 (99designs). Detailed, stylized ink drawings are all the rage this year.
3.Bold Geometry, solid color, and organic color blocks
Bold is good. The Monotone is bold. That’s the theme that many brands have adopted this year. In a sense, “go bold or go home” seems to be the shoot-from-the-hip, no BS messaging that brands seem to want to convey to keep their message simple.
Figure 4: Bold, geometric designs with an abstract pattern.(99designs)
Figure 5: Solid colors are about clear minds, like the blue of the sky. With no distractions on the background, the foreground can evoke powerful emotions with simple drawings like the one below that are incredibly communicative. (99designs)
Figure 6: Earthy, neutral tones and color blocks like jigsaw puzzles fitting together- this is how nature’s colors intermingle. This style evokes “organic”, natural, eco-friendly. (99designs)
Beauty, it turns out, isn’t just in the eye of the beholder. It is a complete experience, full of smell, taste, and touch. In recent years advances in materials and printing technologies have made texture an important part of brand messaging. In this next trend, graphic artists have taken things to a whole new level, blending the visual impact as well as the textural experience of fine art to inspire awe and longing in the consumer.
Few things evoke emotion, like fine art. Think of a Jackson Pollack abstract or the mystery of cigarette smoke caught on black & white film. Fine art forces viewers to peer closer, trying to peel layer after layer of experience, searching for emotions deep within themselves, as if like Pygmalion falling in love with his own reflection in a pool of water. Add texture to it- the feel of rich velvet or the bumpy stickiness of an Oil-on-wood painting, and the experience goes to an altogether different level.
Figure 7: The bottle becomes the canvas, as the consumer, now a viewer admires the beauty of the label. (99designs)
Packaging design is creative like never before. New design ideas are exciting and inspiring, but turning them into commercially mass-manufactured packaging has an important preparation step called “proofing” to turn artists’ visions into printable artwork. This sounds simpler than it actually is. Original artwork is often made starting by hand but finished on the computer. However, the printed product needs to be printed on labels with ink, and material chemistry matters a lot. If done without expertise, the end result can be quite underwhelming. The best brands, agencies and printers all recognize this, and work with proofing experts like Manipal Digital Systems who understand both the creative process, as well as the necessities and limitations of printing technologies.
Got an idea for a great packaging design? Get it touch with us today to turn it into a beautiful label that does justice to your vision!