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Packaging as the gatekeeper

How is a new product perceived based solely on the look of its packaging?

How is a new product perceived based solely on the look of its packaging? Is the message clear or does it give rise to misunderstandings? Could an investment in good packaging be a marketing deed that opens doors to export markets?

The impression of a product’s quality, origin and fitness for purpose is created in the blink of an eye. That impression determines whether or not we want to take a closer look at the product. Packaging can also convey values, such as sustainability. Unlike other media, packaging is present at the time when the purchase decision is made. It would therefore make sense to focus efforts on packaging design and the visualisation of information.

In many companies, packaging is seen as little more than a production cost item, but what would happen to demand and customer satisfaction if packaging were to be perceived as a strategic investment in the brand or the experience? Packaging can also be a product’s user interface, making it easy to handle and dose, and affect the product experience. Could new packaging be designed from the viewpoint of service design?

These are the sort of ideas we are batting around at Aalto University’s multidisciplinary Pack-Age packaging design course. Talented students are working in multidisciplinary teams on real-life packaging challenges, questioning – with good reason – many of the industry’s conventions that just won’t die. It is thrilling to co-operate with companies that give the freedom to explore and find new ways for packaging to better serve their users. By daring to rethink and dig deep, we can unearth genuinely valuable creative solutions.

Markus Joutsela
Packaging design teacher and researcher, Aalto University