We’ve all heard the phrase ‘less is more’ in relation to the design of everything from clothing to interiors to packaging – but does it still hold true?

Minimalism is definitely here to stay. A philosophy rather than a trend, it’s a powerful way to design that allows simple forms to shine in an often complicated world.  We have largely accepted that true beauty and style should be unfettered, uncomplicated – that’s why many of the world’s most famous brands have adopted looks that are so plain and minimal, some may say, they verge on the bland.

But in the world of packaging, there’s a difference between beauty and effectiveness.  Brands must never lose sight of the fact that the purpose of their packaging is twofold – to successfully contain their product, and to make people want to buy it.  Whether or not it one day ends up in the Design Museum is, largely, irrelevant.

Therefore packaging design can never be immune from fashion, and while minimalism is always in vogue, right now we’re seeing a trend for ‘maximalism’ across a whole range of sectors.  What’s more, no two brands are the same – and since packaging design is inextricably linked to brand identity, a minimalist design that works perfectly for one brand might be a complete turn-off for the target audience of another.

Whether your brand opts for a ‘less is more’ or a ‘more is less’ approach to pack design, the real secret is to know when you’ve got too much of a good thing going on.  Even minimalism can be overdone, and for more detailed packs, it’s important not to cross the line from decadent to excessive.

So how do you know when you’ve struck the right balance with your packaging?  As a specialist in product embellishment, Signet has a unique understanding of the ways in which major brands use detail to bring their products to life for the consumer.  Working in the drinks sector means we have experience with both heritage brands using heavy embellishments to lend gravitas to their premium products, and disrupter brands taking on the ‘old hands’ by bringing fresh new ideas into markets with centuries of history behind them.

Differentiation is key.  These are extremely crowded markets and the ability of packaging to effectively cut through the noise at the point of sale is a powerful tool for all brands, whether they are seeking to expand their market share, or gain a foothold for the first time.

Packaging embellishment brings a fascinating extra layer to the overall design of a bottle or box and allows brands to add interesting details, even to the most simple of designs.  For those looking to build authority and heritage, embellishments such as coins, charms, medallions and neck collars bring the kind of decadence consumers expect from a high-end product.

As a simple rule of thumb, we would recommend that there needs to be an aesthetic balance with potentially no more than three separate elements for even the most ornate of bottles, naturally this depends on the size and the design of the pack.  If you plan to have two or more embellishments, it’s important that they’re of proportionate size so they don’t overwhelm each other, and also that they relate to each other in terms of design – perhaps using the same material or style.

For brands seeking a minimalist look, we often advise adding just one element and recommend that they focus on texture or colour – not both.  A monochrome look with bold texture in the form of a large, Marque label or a faux wax seal can be extremely effective, as can a plain bottle with a bold splash of colour. Ultra-contemporary packs often benefit from an earthy touch to balance their modernity – for example, we love the way this brand used a metal charm and waxed cotton cord to soften a super-sleek pack design.

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