A brand’s package design architecture is most often what resonates first and foremost with consumers. While some consumer product brands don’t leverage package design architecture as an integral part of their package design, most knowledgeable brands do. In some cases, it’s obvious; in others, less so. Package design architecture, if effective, delivers the brand to consumers at a glance; increasingly important at a time when competitive products crowd retail shelves. In the case of licensed consumer products, package design architecture is an absolute necessity. Not only does it deliver the most significant visual assets of the licensed property; it works across numerous categories of consumer products to make it instantly recognizable. Licensed products are typically merchandised throughout the retail environment rather than in a single shelf set, so instant recognition is extremely important.
Brands, licensed or not, have equitable assets that must be uncovered. Many brands have significant heritage and deep emotional connections with consumers. It’s important to delve deeply into the essence of these brands to uncover both overt and hidden values. They then can be fully leveraged during the package design development process. Understanding the visual cues that resonate with consumers on an emotional level leads to compelling and recognizable package design that refers back to the brand.
Make package design architecture recognizable and modular
Often, package design architecture is the first thing consumers identify from a distance. It typically embodies something emotive and unique to the brand – something that every fan would instantaneously identify as representative of the brand, and all that it means to them, when they see it on pack at retail. Think: the stacked or horizontal trio of Owlette, Cat Boy and Gekko character art on the PJ Masks packaging program; or the white and yellow vertical column that appears along the left side of all John Deere licensing product packaging.
Packaging standardization guidelines for a licensed brand illustrate how the package design architecture functions modularly across all packaging formats, as well as its importance in maintaining a consistent look across a breadth of products in a variety of categories. Package design architecture builds recognition. Modularity provides flexibility. A packaging program that leverages distinctive package design architecture in a modular fashion can do even more than that: it can establish a strong emotional bond with consumers, deepening their brand loyalty.
Connecting with consumers through an iconic, hand-drawn zig-zag
Recently, our design team had the privilege of refreshing the core Peanuts global packaging program for Peanuts Worldwide. One of the primary objectives for the refresh was to pay homage to the origin of this beloved brand – the Charles Schulz comic strips. The visual assets associated with the strips themselves were uncovered and evaluated for potential use as part of the packaging program’s new design. The comic strip panels from both the Vintage (1960s and 1970s) and Classic (1980s – 2000s) eras, the familiar newsprint halftone dot pattern, the Peanuts logo and the artwork of the full cast of Peanuts characters were the ones that rose to the top. Our design team continued sifting through the Peanuts archives to uncover a single graphic device that could represent the brand in an iconic manner while serving as package design architecture. Ultimately, we chose the zig-zag graphic that appears on Charlie Brown’s shirt in Shulz’s beautifully hand-drawn style to play that important role.
The look we established for the refreshed core Peanuts global packaging program has a simple, contemporary visual aesthetic. The continuous comic strip pattern in tones of light grey on white define the top half of the package, while a bold yellow – which derives from Charlie Brown’s shirt color – superimposed with a distressed halftone pattern, dominates the bottom half. The Peanuts logo, changed from its normal white to the bold yellow, solely for use within the refreshed package design, is centered within the comic strip pattern. It’s sure to catch the eye of consumers as they navigate store shelves. However, the most powerful asset within the refreshed package design is undeniably the zig-zag package design architecture, which bissects the front and side panels, serving as the delineation between the comic strip and halftone patterns.
From a distance, it’s impossible to miss the zig-zag graphic in contrasting black centered within its light grey, white and yellow backdrop. Consumers will arguably be drawn to it before they even notice the familiar Peanuts logo. And, it will immediately trigger emotions associated with their experiences with the Peanuts characters, their unique personalities and the relationships among them. Since the zig-zag graphic is so meaningful to consumers who love the Peanuts brand, it has the power to elicit a strong emotional response at retail.
Our standardization guidelines explain to Peanuts licensee partners how to properly utilize the zig-zag package design architecture as they build the packaging for their products. It illustrates how it must be centered from top to bottom within each package panel and how it should be scaled in such a way that it creates a continuous zig-zag at retail when products within the line are merchandised side by side. It also shows how the standardization of the zig-zag package design architecture never changes, whether it be for everyday products or seasonal, holiday-related products. The takeaway: consistency is the key to successful implementation of package design architecture. It’s the reason why it resonates so quickly with consumers within the chaos of the retail environment.
Package design architecture is universally effective
Even for less iconic brands, package design architecture can build equity in the minds of consumers, become instantly recognizable and subliminally associated with the brand at a deep level. It just needs to be meaningful. When package design architecture is meaningful, it has the power to move a brand to category leadership and create lasting impressions. Just think of what it can it do for your licensed brand.