Packaging Trends to Watch in 2016

A new year is just around the corner, which means we can expect to see new trends, styles, and movements within every major industry or field. Packaging design is no exception! Consumers are growing increasingly savvy and knowledgeable, and packaging design is constantly shifting in order to reflect changing perceptions and shopping habits.

With 2015 coming to a close, my team and I put together a list of some of the emerging design trends that we’ve been seeing more of. If there is one word for 2016 it is AUTHENTICITY. Packaging, being only one part of a total marketing mix, has to connote and communicate authentically the values, benefits and purpose of the product it carries. Here are six packaging trends to watch out for in the New Year – some support the theme of authenticity, and others focus on transparency and individuality, but together there is no hiding the fact that companies must pull back the green curtain and share what they’ve got whole-heartedly.

The “Artisan” Look

Hand drawn fonts and graphics on packaging are expected to make a big return in 2016. A handmade look or design gives off an artisanal, handcrafted feel that speaks to a more authentic, high quality, perceived better ingredients, and a rich tradition or heritage. Packaging with a handmade or artisanal look gives the impression that each product is unique or made in small batches with more attention to detail and quality – the opposite of a big brand commercialized product. Be wary though, just because it looks handmade does not mean it is. Get to know the company, their culture, and whether they are truly authentic or not.

The Nostalgic or Retro Influence

Lately, we have been noticing a lot of brand redesigns that utilize a historical, vintage or retro aesthetic. This style goes along with the handmade feel that was mentioned above, but it harkens back to heritage, tradition and time, not production methods. Packaging inspired by history is meant to foster loyalty with customers by evoking nostalgia for past glory days. Hey, if the company has been around for a while, they must know what they are doing, right? Brands recall their history by using images from their archives or by creating “retro” packaging that takes us back to our childhood and easier days. Some companies create this historically-inspired package through minimalist design, illustration, and simple fonts. Although these designs may appear to be a “thing of the past,” they actually come across as relevant and new in 2016. You know what they say, “What’s old is new again.”

Abstract Design

Abstract art is making a big comeback on labels and packaging design, particularly for premium products and luxury items. Abstract design draws upon shapes, forms, colors, and lines to create patterns and compositions that appeal to buyers, mainly because it forces them to think about, engage with and interpret a package on their own without being spoon-fed the information. By using abstract art on packaging design, the package acts like a canvas. The result is a very art-focused, elegant looking, and high quality design that stands apart on a crowded shelf and has a more individual quality.

Transparent Windows – what you see is what you get

Transparent cut outs or windows in packaging design are becoming increasingly more common. These small windows are both appealing and functional, allowing the consumer to actually see what it is they are about to purchase. The whole principal behind this design trend is that “seeing is believing.” Consumers want to know that what they see is what they get, and that they won’t be fooled, shocked or surprised when they open up the box. This trend is fueled by the fact that more and more shoppers are searching for clean, natural, and healthy foods than ever before. They are searching for authenticity and honesty in every way they come in contact with the brand.

Eco-Friendly, Sustainable and Functional

Eco-friendly packaging is quickly becoming a necessity in today’s “green” world. Shoppers want packaging that they can ultimately repurpose, reuse, or recycle after consumption. This is one area within packaging design that is extremely innovative and constantly evolving. For instance, there are companies whose packaging can be planted after use to grow flowers, and coffee cups and pods that are durable like plastic but are made from biodegradable material. It is very simple – many consumers prefer to buy from companies that care about their social or environmental impact. It sets companies apart and will increase long-term profits.

Generational Packaging – who are you talking to?

With multiple generations in the market all with strong buying power, speaking directly to your consumer will become more and more important. We used to market to an 18-65 year old consumer – this is not the case today. Today, we need to speak directly to our target consumer, in language and visuals that THEY understand. Gone are the days where we can use packaging to say how great the product is. Now we have to create packaging that tells the consumer WHY they should buy it. Why does it matter to them, how will it solve their problems and how will the product contribute the greater good? That is a huge responsibility, and a bit of a paradigm shift for brand managers.

What other major packaging design trends have you noticed? In your opinion, what trends are on the brink of popularity? What do you, as a consumer, look for in packaging design or functionality? Let us know what you think in the comment section below!