Package design plays a crucial role in the success of any brand vying for consumers’ attention. However, I would argue that, for toy brands, it’s even more significant that package design be well-conceived and executed, given the visually-chaotic environment of today’s mass retail toy aisles. Of course, creating visually appealing packaging that communicates the essence of a toy brand is essential to attract the attention of consumers. But, let’s not forget that packaging serves as the first point of contact between the toy brand and its dual target audience of kids and their parents. To make this first point of contact a great first impression, it’s essential to establish effective visual hierarchy for all on-pack communication.
What is visual hierarchy and why is it important?
Visual hierarchy refers to the arrangement and prioritization of visual elements to guide the consumer’s eye through a logical flow of information. In toy packaging, visual hierarchy helps consumers quickly understand a product’s key benefits and features and its primary play pattern. But, it also facilitates the decision-making process by highlighting essential information such as line segmentation, age appropriateness and safety warnings. By establishing a clear and effective visual hierarchy, it will be much easier for consumers to navigate the product line at retail, which will have a positive influence on their perception of the brand.
1. Establish a primary focal point for consumers
The first step in establishing effective visual hierarchy is to determine a primary focal point. The primary focal point should be the single most important piece of information that consumers need to know about the product. It should prominently highlight the toy brand’s key point of differentiation and unique selling proposition on the front panel of the package to create an immediate visual impact. This can be achieved through the use of a tag line or a highly-visible call-out. And it should be designed with contrasting colors and bold typography to ensure that consumers will read it before their eye moves to any other communication.
2. Organize key information in a logical, hierarchical manner
Once you’ve established a primary focal point, it’s essential to organize key information related to the product in a logical and hierarchical manner. This includes the product segment indicator or sub-brand logo, product name and descriptor, main product photography or illustration, and any features or benefits that distinguish the product from that of its competitors. These elements should be arranged based on their importance, relevance, and the order in which consumers are likely to seek information. The most crucial information should be placed prominently and be easy to locate at first glance. As the eye moves across the product’s package, the information hierarchy should guide the viewer towards secondary details, then supplementary information. An effort should be made to avoid having multiple elements appear on-pack at the same relative size to ensure that they don’t compete with one another for attention.
3. Utilize contrast and color in on-pack communication
The strategic use of contrast and color can determine the order in which consumers view information on-pack. Use contrasting colors to make communication that must appear higher within the visual hierarchy stand out from the background and from other information of lesser importance. When determining the color palette for your toy brand’s package design system, carefully select color combinations that align with the brand identity and package design architecture to establish an emotional connection with consumers. Then, keep in mind that brighter, bolder colors within the palette will attract more attention, while muted or more subdued colors will be more recessive.
4. Leverage imagery, icons and other visual cues
Product imagery and iconography are powerful tools for establishing visual hierarchy in toy packaging. High-quality product photography or a dramatic, stylized illustration that glorifies the product while depicting it in use can help convey the play pattern while generating excitement. Icons can be used to convey information quickly, and also organize information sequentially, ensuring that consumers read them in the appropriate order. Arrows, lines and shapes can also be leveraged to guide consumers’ eyes directionally through the package design. They can be strategically placed to draw attention to important information or highlight key product features.
5. Choose the right typography
Typography can significantly impact the order in which consumers view communication on packaging for toy brands. In fact, the selection and treatment of typography may have the most impact on visual hierarchy. Of course, it’s important to select fonts that are age-appropriate for the toy brand’s target audience. But, it’s just as important to choose fonts that are appropriate for the product’s category. Consideration should be given to the use of a combination of font styles to differentiate between key points of communication. However, the use of too many font styles would be detrimental to the overarching visual aesthetic of the package design system. Leveraging fonts with varying weights can be an effective way to distinguish between primary and secondary information within the visual hierarchy without the need to incorporate multiple font families.
6. Keep the overarching design simple and consistent
Packaging for most toy brands generally tends to be a bit busier than the packaging of brands in other consumer product categories. This can lead to consumer confusion and distraction, making it more difficult for them to read information in the intended hierarchical manner. The simpler the package design system’s overarching visual aesthetic, the more likely it will draw the attention of consumers in contrast to the competitive offering and allow them to better navigate the information presented to them. Consistency in the treatment and placement of design assets and communication on ever product’s package within a line is the key to shoppability and a positive experience with the toy brand at retail. Therefore, an effort should be made to avoid cluttering the design with excessive text or graphics that may confuse or overwhelm consumers. And a cohesive visual language should be maintained throughout the package design system by utilizing a consistent color palette, fonts, and graphic styles.
An effective visual hierarchy connects with consumers
Establishing an effective visual hierarchy in packaging communication for toy brands is crucial to capturing consumers’ attention and delivering the product’s key information in a logical, sequential order. By taking these six tactics into consideration as you develop your toy brand’s package design system, you’ll be able to properly engage consumers and enhance brand recognition. Remember, a well-executed visual hierarchy not only communicates the product’s unique selling proposition, key benefits and features and play pattern, but also helps forge a strong emotional connection between the consumer and the brand, ultimately leading to increased sales, customer satisfaction and brand loyalty.