The ABCs of Packaging Design

Here are some tips I want to share to ensure you have the best packaging for your product. The buzz around sustainability, online shopping, shortages sparked by COVID-19, and the unboxing experience means that packaging has received a lot of attention lately.

ABCs of Packaging Design for Printing Success

These quick tips are grouped to focus on aspects that emphasize the importance of your packaging. This mini packaging glossary can be a helpful reference tool throughout your packaging journey.


Account for Packaging – set a budget and understand the costs and time associated with your final pack. Will you save money if you order in bulk or does ordering in bulk mean you have to pay for storage, buy more than you need, pay for disposal, or require people to package and handle it.

Advanced Planning – Determine what the most important factors are, such as protection, product identity, utility, freshness, or some other reasons to determine what you want your packaging to do long-term.

Ask – Entrepreneurs have an especially hands-on approach and will take time for a crash course in packaging. Time could be spent focusing on product development, marketing, or pitching instead. Don’t be afraid to find and hire a packaging expert. Ask for help, their guidance, and opinions instead of reinventing the wheel (or box).

Attributes – think about what your product need from the package. Is it fragile? Will it spoil? Do customers need instructions? What does the supply chain look like, how will you and the consumer store, ship, and handle the packaging and product, etc… 


Balance is important. Sustainability is a great example; ensure you have sustainability goals for your pack from beginning to end. A fully recyclable pack is great, but it is important to understand if the end-users do not have access to recycling facilities or it costs more to recycle the pack than it is for the recycler to landfill the pack.

Box, Bottle, Blister, Bag, Board – understand the terminology, material, and designs before you make your final packaging decision

  • Primary pack (bottle, bag, carton, box that holds the product)
  • Secondary pack – shipping or storage box that contains the primary pack
  • Other packaging – pallets, protective wrap, caps, labels, etc.

Brand – Identifying your product through shape, color, size, and graphics is important. Packaging can help solidify how your customers find and see your product. Some iconic examples are Coke, Apple, M&M’s, and Starbucks.

Bring Expertise – leverage experienced professionals when working on new packaging or packaging changes, they can save you time, money, and energy that you can dedicate to launching your product.

Budget – it is critical to have a realistic budget. Avoid falling into the trap of using the least expensive pack that adds unplanned time, effort, and waste into your process. Understand impacts that affect your packaging budget:

  • Storage – warehouse space, equipment
  • Labor (time to pack out is part of labor)
  • Damaged or expired product related to packaging
  • Obsolete packaging (unused packaging purchased at a bargain)
  • Outsourcing – do you need to pay for the design, strategy, or packing

Build prototypes of your packaging before you launch, sample packs provide a great visual when pitching, put your team on the same page, and can be used to test production and shipping processes.

Buy packaging that meets your specifications. Buying discounted packaging is great short term, if the packaging checks off all your requirements, anything else will stray from your vision, costing time, money, and ultimately customers.


Check-in with your packaging expert – remember packaging engineers can be great resources through your journey. The time and money you save will pay for itself many times over when your customers love what they see, and the packaging perfectly complements your product.

Concepts – take time to record the attributes you want in your packaging and try your hand at sketching, don’t be afraid to be creative and show your ideas to your packaging expert and suppliers. Be open-minded though, as they will work to create packaging to meet your requirements and can be manufactured, so it may not look exactly like your original idea!

Contain the product – ultimately, the first goal is for your packaging to protect your product and ensure it makes it safely to your customer. The most beautiful or sustainable pack doesn’t add much if the product is broken or spoiled.

Cost – calculate the total packaging cost to make sure your budget stays in line!

Create – Make sure your customer has a fabulous Unboxing Experience! If you ship eCommerce, spend some time and think about what you want your unboxing experience to be for customers. Do you want to impress them with upscale materials, high-quality print, or a custom feel to emphasize and complement the product? Would you prefer a sustainable package or is the ease of opening, protection, or upcycling most important?

Read more from Camille

Camille Corr Chism Packaging Consultant and Print Media Centr AuthorCamille Corr Chism, CPPL Fellow, has a diverse background in packaging engineering, design, supply chain, project management, and new product introductions. Her experience includes a variety of industries including food, e-commerce, technology, distribution, pharmaceutical, industrial, and automotive. Earning an MS and BS in Packaging, Camille earned a Six Sigma Black Belt (2019), and a lifetime certification as a Certified Packaging Professional in 2006. She was inducted into the IoPP College of Fellows in 2014.

Camille is the owner of Indigo Packaging and Consulting. She is the go-to person for all your packaging products and packaging design needs. Connect with her on LinkedIn, LinkedIn Company Page, Twitter @indigopkg, and Instagram @indigopkg