How to design and produce cosmetic packaging

How to design and produce cosmetic packaging 900 900 Studio Concept S.r.l.

Do you think you’d be able to recognize one shampoo from another without seeing the label, like some master sommelier of shampoo? Thankfully, we don’t need to be able to do this because in practice, just one look at the packaging is enough to tell us plenty about the product. It’s for this reason that it’s important to have packaging that’s consistent with your brand image, one that is original and strategically designed, but also logistically viable and practical, simultaneously.

Packaging for your beauty products that aligns with your marketing strategy

The starting point for designing your packaging is always reflecting on your marketing, and therefore your budgeting as well. Having some fabulous packaging would still not be any good if it eats up the budget for other essential things such as distribution and advertising, for example. So, it’s important to always begin from the balance sheet, with your feet firmly on the ground. From there, we move on to thinking creatively about the person we want to be attracted to the product. Do you go for packaging with bright colors or a rigorous and elegant feel? Will people like glossy details or a rustic, natural air? Answers to these questions must consider the personality of the brand as well as that of the potential customer. Only by taking both of these factors into account will you find the right design for your packaging.

Functional cosmetics packaging: what you need to know

The packaging being seen by the customer is only the last stage of the process. Cosmetics products must first of all be protected by appropriate and safe containers that support their weight, keep the contents covered, and are easily applied to the product, all while adhering to health and safety laws as they apply to cosmetics products. Here we’ll be focusing on the more external parts, namely the box, which in most cases is used to hold bottles, tubes, vials, and other boxes.

Practical steps for beauty packaging

Always keep in mind that packaging must respond to various practical necessities, the main three being time, space and money. The packaging’s design must optimize use of the print sheet, which at times can be achieved simply by something as simple as moving the seal to a different part of the packaging. Remember also that the shape of the packaging must ultimately be easy to handle, resistant, and make efficient use of precious shelf space. Another key feature is how photogenic your packaging is. Today, even when you’re not running expensive advertising campaigns on TV or in newspapers, products must constantly be filmed and photographed for posting on websites and social media. How does your packaging look in photos and videos, including on small devices like mobile? Does your packaging make for a star product?

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Beauty packaging: virtual or physical mockup?

The mockup, a 3D model of the packaging, is made in the design stage. Virtual and physical versions have different characteristics.

  • 3D virtual mockup: Essential for the conceptual stage, especially if you consider many different design bases. Being digital, this method allows you to make presentations that are more spectacular, as well as being able to put them on a screen or even do them remotely. It is therefore the ideal route if you’re intending to present your ideas to a large company and want to put on a good show for the client’s team.
  • Physical mockup: Perfect in the final stages or when asked to put a label or some other information on some existing packaging. The physical version shows off the idea in a concrete way and is a very useful option for the creator, who could also make use of this method for their own purposes. It will also be good for entrepreneurs with small or medium-sized businesses, who like to personally control every detail and trust in what they can hold in their hands.

The first task of beauty packaging: information

The box is the point of contact between the consumer and the product that is inside it. Because of this, it must provide information, both on the product inside and on what that is mandated by law. The INCI, International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients, is a list of ingredients that must be included on all cosmetics packaging. Also think about any certifications you may wish to display; perhaps the BIO logo, for example. In most cases it is worth putting them on the packaging. For important content you can always include a specific symbol, for example “paraben-free” or “98% ingredients of natural origin” logos.

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Set up cosmetic packaging graphics with a “development test”

Faced with a sea of possibilities, are you unable to decide on anything? Start with a practical test. Take some packaging suitable for the dimensions of your product and open the box, ungluing the glued parts and spreading it out flat. This is the ‘development test’, where you’ll also be able see where all the tabs were placed to seal the box. Now that it’s laid out in front of you, try to insert the various visual elements:

  • product name and logo that are part of the brand identity
  • description of the product (e.g. for dry skin, for oily hair, etc.)
  • legally required info the INCI and other such things
  • labels with certifications or other information you want to put front and center, such as “Not tested on animals”

Obviously, you can divide the contents between the 4 sides of the box, leaving things that are the most striking at first glance on the front, keeping of course enough space for an image of the contents.

Want packaging that works? Attract attention and surprise

We can think of packaging as an object of desire. The packaging must be appealing at first glance and depict traits of the product desired by our potential customer – luxurious, eccentric, ecological, minimalistic, traditional, innovative. How does the consumer we’re speaking to want to feel about our product?
Cosmetic packaging really reaches the top when it becomes a symbol that is shown off proudly. The goal is to have packaging so pleasant to look at that it won’t be thrown away even after the product’s been used. This happens much more often than you’d think, for example with perfume boxes from the big brands.

Graphical tools for packaging: Adobe Illustrator

For the design and production of packaging for cosmetic products, most creators use Adobe Illustrator, using the following process:

  1. The fundamentals: the 4 sides. By testing a cube or a parallelepiped you can create 4 equal parts and place them side by side.
  2. The upper and lower part: the seals must connect to both.
  3. The side seal: an additional seal that joins the four sides together, it will be closed with glue dots by the printer.
  4. The path for die-cutting: with Adobe Illustrator you can create the path that will allow the perfect cut for your box.
  5. The path for creasing: this refers to the dotted lines that mark out where things are to be folded.
  6. The graphics: at this point you apply the graphics in line with your vision of the outcome. Always check the printing budget – there are box that involve very complex processes comprised of many steps, combining full color and pantone, with hot finish in overprint, with embossing or with glossy or opaque parts.

One last piece of advice – whatever your product, consider the advantages of sustainable packaging.

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