December 4, 2010

Imperfect is the new perfect in packaging trends

This is an article I read earlier this autumn and I have kept it because I think it has relevance not only to the use of packaging materials but to graphic design in general. If it is pointing towards a trend it means we will see less picture perfect packaging and images/messages related to marketing.

"'By using naturally made - or naturally looking materials, you separate yourself from the pack. More importantly, consumers connect to the imperfect. It reminds us we're human."

In regards to graphic design  we have seen for a long time, let's say the last 10 years, a polished look on everything from websites to packaging. Some of it of course generated by new software programs and expanding possibilities in regards to digital design. From my point of view it has sometimes looked like a massive migration down the alley of web 2.0 style; the clean  polished corporate look and  I think many have adapted to it simply because it has been a trend and everybody else is wearing it. I miss more integrity and diversity in the way companies and individuals think about how to visualize their branding. But let that be said: for huge market areas and many companies this is definitely the design galaxy to be in because the clean corporate style visualizes in a strong and positive way their corporate being. But it doesn't mean it is right for everyone and that every logo for every business should look like a website gadget. If this article is onto something this might be changing:

Today we have access to a vast range of digital tools and software programs in regards to design and visual expressions. As part of a natural evolution, a whole generation of graphic designers have explored and pushed boundaries towards where you can go with all tools available. What I question is when graphic and digital design becomes a quest to make the human creation invisible. To exemplify I will use a visual metaphor that might explain what I mean. As a designer I have a passion for patterns and sometimes create and use them as an integrated part of a visual package. With all tools available I can mechanically create a pattern that is 100% mathematically correct or I can set it up by using methods similar to hand-drawing techniques even in a digital media. When you observe a 100% mathematically correct pattern, it just looks flat and dead. There is no tension, nothing that makes it interesting to look at.

And how does this transcribe to real life marketing and packaging ? As a designer I browse among store-shelves to keep up with what is trending within different markets and products. My example is related to a high end beauty product that has a branding package including a message that plays on your personal and individual experience with the brand and product. I can see the graphic design on the package is created with simple techniques and gradients that from my point of view does not keep up with the rest of the branding message and certainly does not reflect an individual experience. 

There isn't always time and money to create exceptional designs and for low cost, high volume products the focus on the packaging has to be related to a budget and practical factors. My message is that packaging should reflect something about the idea and unique value of the product and even with a low cost budget for graphic development it doesn't  mean that you cant do it well. It certainly doesn't mean that you have to adopt the visual trend that everybody else is using. A classic example is the "swirl flower" that  in the near past became a trend in graphic design. Swirling its way out of everything from TV ads , from cellulars to beauty products. In the beginning it was a fresh new look until everyone adapted it and it became a massive annoying sheep-flock trend. Sometimes doing it differently makes it easier for your customer to distinguish your product from the rest of the pack. 

It all makes me think of a song: "Are we humans or are we dancers?" I would say we are both and sometimes we like to buy products that reflects the latest dance trend. But with the article in mind; it could mean the future will open up for a more individual and human visual impact on packaging and branding in general.

To read the article please visit: "Imperfect is the new perfect in packaging trends"

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