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illustrative packaging

Could it be we are missing the human connection in the products we use everyday due to technology?

With an ever growing need to stay connected to digital devices and social media, there is still a little piece of us trying to hold to what we once knew as natural, honest, real and authentic.

Current corporate branding is losing its grip on this generation due to the digital age. As consumers get more information about the products they buy freely and easily over the internet, they start to expect more from the brands they know and their packaging design.

The first contact a consumer has with a business is with the product. One of the most common forms of contact used by businesses to deliver their products is packaging. Consumers are trending towards packaging with a natural handmade feel, even vintage or retro inspired, which give them the unique individuality they are craving.

In this article I will discuss and identify key components of this trend and why this style of packaging is so popular with today’s consumer. Graphic designers also need to be aware of what skills are involved to maintain this style of packaging design. So I will also outline the skills required to keep up with this demand.

As our work, school and family lives are consumed by technology every day, it’s little wonder we look for something tangible to hold with a real and authentic feel. Technology is not the only reason for this trend in packaging. With access to information at our fingertips via the internet, the average consumer has a greater understanding and knowledge about the types of products they want to buy.

We now look for products that illustrate trust, honesty and have strong ties to a movement known as conscious living.

Conscious living is another story in itself, but in the nutshell it is being in touch with our surroundings and ourselves. Consumers want to be environmentally friendly and healthy, so we see a stronger trend towards packaging that displays, trust, honesty, simplicity and self-focus offering a sense of realism. This style of packaging is usually constructed with either organic or recycled material.

Packaging illustration is not a trend itself. It has always been around and makes a resurgence with popular trends. This style of packaging is also known as Visual Authenticity and has been popular with small boutique brands for quite sometime. As the market moves away from corporate branding this style of packaging moves to the forefront. We start to see big brand names embrace this style to keep up with consumer demand and make their packaging feel more real and authentic.

To achieve Visual Authenticity, graphic designers incorporate a number of handwritten, free form, or sketchy styles of typography, sometimes mixed with hand drawn simple or intricate illustrations. The colour palettes are kept either natural or bold with flat bright colour, depending on the client brief and what they are trying to achieve.

Why use illustration in packaging?

Packaging with illustration is eye catching and is a very successful way to draw people’s attention to a product. Research has shown that when consumers buy a product, they do so emotionally and then on price. Illustration when used with hand written typography are said to influence feelings of joy and happiness.

The illustrations don’t need to be complex, simple drawings can have the same effect presenting a more natural feel to the packaging. Food, personal hygiene products and health and wellbeing packaging are leading the industry in this style of packing. Illustrations with rendered graphics, hand drawn images, coloured pencil paintings seem to invoke in us feelings of comfort, satisfaction and leisure leaving us with a sense of expectation of what we are about to open or consume.

Naturally a good hand and eye for drawing and sketching with a sound knowledge of illustration is required to produce the homemade illustration effect. In saying this, a graphic designer with good skills in Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator could comfortably come up with a similar result. Keep in mind this style of packaging is all about making the consumer feel like they are getting an honest product so hand drawn images and lettering are the desired outcome.

It is not only the hand drawn illustrations and type the graphic designer needs to use to accomplish this outcome. A good understanding of printing inks, materials such as recycled or uncoated card and paper is also important, as the packaging is being created with the conscious living consumer in mind.

Skills for the job:

A good way to acquire the skills required to produce this type of packaging is to participate in drawing classes face-to-face. There are a number of very good tutorials on drawing, illustration and handwritten techniques available online. For the Graphic designer who struggles with hand drawn illustrations and type. It is not the end of the world, Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator have the technology to produce illustrations and type with that homemade feel.

But remember to keep the feel real and stay true to this type of packaging. Everyone can draw, practice makes perfect.

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