If you're a handmade business owner, you might be thinking about how to level up your packaging.
It's really cool how we have so many options for how to design our product packaging, but when it comes down to it, it can get really overwhelming, right?
If you’re the kind of person who already loves to design, creating beautifully branded packaging will be one of the most exciting parts about starting your own business.
But if you prefer pouring over numbers and figures than over color swatches (and your Christmas presents always look like they were wrapped by a toddler) then this MIGHT be a bit of a challenge.
But hey, you started a business!
You’re used to a good challenge.
Regardless of whether you’re a novice or a packaging pro, we hope designing your custom packaging will be a little easier with our step-by-step guide.
So without further ado, let’s get started!
Discover how to transform your packaging into a storyteller for your brand and deepen your relationship with customers using this step-by-step guide.
Step One: Assess your current branding
Packaging is another investment in your brand.
Before you pay for a single sheet of tissue paper (let alone custom boxes and inserts!) you want to make sure you really love the brand you currently have.
Gather together your existing branding materials such as your:
- branding color palette
- font type
- list of feelings you want to evoke
Assess each branding element with packaging in mind.
- Will the color palette for your packaging look good with your product in it?
- Will your logo print clearly onto a box?
- Would it look better as a stamp? A sticker?
- What elements of your website translate best?
If you don’t think it’ll work, this may speak to a larger issue with your brand and you may want to consider a rebrand.
Overall, think about the story your current branding elements tell, and whether it’s the right one for your business.
Step Two: Create your ideal customer
If you’ve been operating your business for awhile, you’ve probably started to analyze your customers already.
For packaging, focus on your most profitable customers.
If you're new in business, don't worry about it. You can dream up an ideal customer that you think will love your products.
Who are they?
What do they like?
Create 5-6 personas and give them names, jobs, and hobbies – almost like you’re creating characters for a book.
Consider what motivates them to buy and what makes them happy with a purchase.
Then think about what impression you want to leave on this customer.
When they receive your product in the mail, how do you want them to feel?
What are three keywords you want them to associate with your business?
Keep this ideal customer profile handy, and refer to it continuously throughout the following steps.
Step Three: Collage, collage, collage!
Ok, it may sound like an arts & crafts project for a 7-year old, but it really does help.
Now that you have your ideal customer profile and branding materials, it’s time to start putting together your packaging ideas – hooray!
Really, this is the fun part.
We're going to be using Pinterest for this step because it's a great way for you to put together a mood board, collage or space for inspiration.
Pin anything that inspires you, including packaging from other brands, magazine sheets, photos, ribbons, ornaments, etc.
Create a cohesive story.
Two things to keep in mind at all times as you narrow the board down to a few key elements:
First, are you fully incorporating your brand materials like logo, color palette and so on?
If you’ve strayed too far from your brand, you’ll need to start over (or perhaps, ask yourself why you weren’t inspired by your current branding to begin with!)
You want the packaging to tell a cohesive story about your business by matching it to the style of your website and other customer-facing materials.
The second thing to keep in mind is the ideal customer profile.
How does each element stack up to that ideal customer profile?
How do they contribute to telling your brand’s unique story?
You may end up revising quite a bit, but that’s ok.
You’re in the planning stage.
Step Four: Gather your materials, find a space and get wrapping
You may have been able to accomplish the previous tasks without a designated space, but when it comes to actually assembling your packaging, you’ll need room (and lots of it!).
Shortlist a few of your favorite boards from Pinterest and go out shopping online to buy some materials and packaging supplies you need to create the packaging from your boards.
Clear out a big space – your living room, your bed, an office if you have it – and lay out all the materials you've bought from your favorite mood boards.
Try to create three options for your design and consider the merits of each one.
Now you need to ask yourself:
How does each mock-up packaging stack up to your brand story?
How will your customers respond?
If you have any trusted friends who have experience with design or small biz ownership, ask them what they think each one says.
A little constructive feedback never hurts!
And if your tissue paper skills are not up to snuff, there’s always YouTube & Pinterest for tutorials on what you're needing to do.
Step Five: Now for the inserts…
Do you want to add a note card describing your brand’s origin story?
Or throw in a discount card for a future order?
Both of these are good ideas, so long as the design of the stationery fits within your brand’s new packaging style.
If you want to think a little outside the box (pun intended!), consider throwing in a more unique element that will leave a stronger impression.
Dried flowers, ornaments, reusable pouches, scented paper – these are just a few ideas for what you can include depending on what suits your brand.
Make sure you consider the arrangement of the materials as well.
What do you want your customer to see first?
How will it all stay in place?
You definitely want to ensure items won’t become a jumbled mess when they’re mailed.
Step Six: Time is of the essence
Once you’ve decided on the design, from custom boxing to packaging materials to inserts, take one moment to consider the time needed for wrapping each package.
If you’re a small business, you may be dealing with small orders, and therefore have time to invest ~10 minutes into a stunning packaging job.
But if your orders become too large, you may need to figure out how you can deliver similar quality without the time constraint.
A custom printed box can cut back on a lot of the detail needed to make a plain box look presentable.
Pre-printed notecards may not feel as personal as a handwritten note, but if your copy is quirky and inviting, it may still be enough to leave a nice impression without risking major hand cramps.
Little shortcuts like these will go a long way as your business grows.
You have a package that tells your customers exactly what your brand stands for.
Well, maybe not ‘voila'.
It’s actually quite a bit of work, but if you stuck with your ideal customer profile (and the three keywords you chose at the beginning) then you’ll hopefully start to see a return on all the paper cuts and torn-up magazines.
At the very least, strong packaging will help encourage word of mouth and make your product shareable in an Instagram-friendly way.
If you end up using a Packlane box, be sure to share!
We’d love to see all the beautiful designs you come up with.
Find us on Instagram at @PacklandHQ or Twitter @Packlane.