In the world of consumer products, outside appearances very much do count. It’s the packaging that draws the customer in, differentiating a product from the endless others sitting by its side on store shelves. But once the snappy designs, striking colours, sharp logos, detailed descriptions and sleek overall look have attracted the desired customer, how does the usage and functionality of a product’s design affect their feelings about the item? Every product goes on a journey, from manufacture to distribution to the consumer, and the packaging has to ensure that it keeps the contents in the same perfect condition as when it first left the production line, not to mention when opened and used by the customer, time and time again. So, while the packaging design needs to be eye-catching to initiate the first purchase, its functionality is likely to be what keeps them coming back for more.
Ask any beauty or hair professional about the key to perfect make-up or a beautifully coiffed up-do and they will undoubtedly be able to reel off a list of top-name brands that deliver maximum performance. But they will also likely say that application is a vital component in achieving a professional finish, so the product design of beauty and haircare items needs to make it as easy as possible for an untrained user to fully utilize the items that they invest in. If the design allows precise, fluid and faultless application, delivering spot-on results, they will want to repurchase. Whether a nozzle that delivers the perfect mist of hairspray over a new style, the precision of a doe-foot applicator as it glides over the lips when applying a gloss, or how the pump of a foundation affects its consistency and deliverance, the way a product is designed says just as much as the contents inside.
Nowhere is this more in evidence than the growing world of bloggers, whose dominating authority in the fields of beauty, hair and style simply cannot be denied. Some of these influencers have followers running into the millions and their validation can prompt thousands of sales from impressionable viewers. YouTube, and other video and content channels, has given these internet stars a platform to voice their views in ways never seen before, and they can talk for minutes at a time about their opinions on just one product, whether favourable or not. While much of their reviews focus on product performance, these beauty gurus often delve into the functionality of a product and how this affects the overall look or results that can be produced. It can be often be the case that the actual contents of a product can receive a rave review, yet the packaging lets down what would otherwise be a sure-fire wonder product.
So, when it comes to packaging, just what takes a great product into all-star territory?
Protection: It goes without saying that the main purpose of a product’s casing is to protect what’s inside from the outside elements. Packaging needs to be practical for handling and shipping, and withstand the wear-and-tear of being on show in store, or from further transportation if bought online and delivered directly to the customer.
Durability: When the product is snapped up, the packaging should be durable enough to last through repeated daily usage. Casing that falls apart in a short of space of time will result in dozens of returns and even more unhappy customers.
Situation: Product packaging needs to be designed for everyday life and the situations that everyday people find themselves in, whether that’s travelling abroad, going to the gym or on the move. Packaging that is fiddly with lots of components, difficult to handle when faced with slippery soapsuds in the shower or quick to spill over and stain is not convenient for anyone’s lifestyle.
Shape: As well as being aesthetically pleasing, the design of a product’s shape needs to be tactile and feel comfortable in the hands. It should also be compact enough that it can be stored easily or stand freely on a shelf, either at home or in-store.
Fastening: Certain products can end up causing cuts or broken fingernails when an attempt is made to open them, so bearing a solid lid or strong clasp that closes firmly, yet unscrews easily, is a definite in packaging design to ensure ease of use.
Material: Whether runny liquids or bright powders, the chance of transferring make-up or lotions onto a product’s casing is inevitable through regular use, so materials that cling to dirt or spoil quickly are a no-go.
Wastage: Consumers want to get as much out of their products as possible, and use every last drop. If the packaging doesn’t allow this, they can often be left feeling short-changed.
While attractive packaging is always going to be key in catching a customer’s eye, stepping into their shoes and examining the many ways in which a product will be used will ensure that functionality and form needn’t be exclusive.