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Packaging for Luxury Goods: What Makes It Different?

Packaging design is one of the most crucial brand touchpoints to any customer's journey to buying a product or interacting with a brand. Why? Because it's what we call a "brand moment of truth".A brand's moment of truth is a point in a customer's journey where the brand can prove its values, mission, and perception. So, it's pretty safe to say that you must ensure your packaging hits all the marks. In today's post, we will focus on luxury design in packaging, the perception of it, and what makes it different from other design forms.
5 min read
26 November 2023
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Perceived value and luxury

Perception is all a brand has in today's world. The art of 'branding' is simply managing that perception of your business and brand through various touchpoints. Whilst no perception is wrong or bad, you just have to ensure your perception is aligned with what your company is doing, its values, its mission and ultimately, what your customers expect.

A few perceptions that a brand may manage are:

  • Affordable
  • Luxury
  • Convenient
  • Advanced
  • Innovative

For example, let's take Apple. Their brand is valued as luxury and innovation. Could you imagine a world where Apple store employees were rude, their website wasn't seamless, and their packaging was a cheap box that fell apart in your hands? All of these touchpoints scream "affordable" and not "luxury", so you'd be pretty annoyed if you came to the checkout and they asked for £1,200 for a phone, right?

This is where perception, expectation and brand actions need to be aligned. If they're not aligned, it only results in dissatisfaction.

Great packaging design has many benefits. Luxury packaging and luxury design not only have these same benefits but also enhance the perceived value of a product and brand. It does this through various ways, such as material choice, packaging form, artwork and how the packaging interacts with the end user–all things we will get into later in this blog.

On top of this, brands need to understand that consumers build their social identity by purchasing from specific brands they value. For example, someone wanting to come across as fit and healthy might buy from Nike or Gymshark. Another instance is if someone wants to come across as successful, they might buy a Porsche or Mercedes.

Understanding this will help brands become more aware of how their brand identity might fit into their customer's lives.

BrandCustomer Identity
NikeAthletic
AppleInnovative
PorscheSuccessful
PatagoniaEnvironmentally conscious
The North FaceExplorer
McDonalds

Convince

Brand Identity Grid
Brand logo grid with relevant customer identities

Materials and finishes in luxury packaging

Premium material choice in luxury packaging design is one of the most essential elements. Packaging is one of the few physical brand touch points, so aligning the martial choice for the perception you're trying to build is crucial.

You want the end user to interact with the packaging and feel like their expectations and your intended perception have been met and, in some cases, exceeded.

Let's think back to Apple packaging. Apple has perfected their packaging over tens of years. When you touch the iPhone or Macbook packaging, you can tell it's made of premium materials, from the thick cardboard to the soft-touch frosted shrink wrapping–it's luxury from the off, just as you would expect.

Some examples of premium materials in packaging

  • Glass
  • Aluminium
  • Premium cardboard
  • Recycled paper
  • Textured paper
  • Wood

Finishings

Something to also consider is the finishings of luxury packaging. Finishes such as embossing and soft-touch coating can add to your product and brand's perceived value in a customer's hands.

Finishing

What is it?

Embossing

The process of physically raising some aspects of the packaging.
DebossingCreated an indent on some of the elements of the design.
FoilingA stamping process that adds a metallic film to printable elements.
Spot UVA printing process that adds a glossy layer to certain elements.
Soft-touch coatingAdds a thin layer added after printing to create a soft-touch feel.
Embossing | Credit: Pakfactory
Debossing | Credit: Weavable.co.uk
Foiling | Credit: Packly
Spot UV | Credit: PakFactory
Soft Touch Coating | Credit: PakFactory

Design subtleties in premium products

Packaging designers around the world work tirelessly to make great design, and you know design is great because it goes unnoticed. When talking about luxury packaging and luxury design, some design elements don't necessarily slap you in the face. Aspects such as how the packaging opens up and the choice of typography and colours.

Let's again take Apple as an example (you can probably tell by now that we're big fans of Apple). Disregard the materials, the products and the brand–the visuals around the packaging are impeccably premium.

White Space

There is a perception within design and print design, especially that more white space increases the perception of value and luxury. This is because it's no secret that printing packaging is a significant investment. So, a brand that can afford to print so much white space is perceived as high-end and premium.

Other benefits to having white space on your luxury packaging include the communicative benefits. A famous statement goes, "Say more with less," and white space is an excellent example. Nothing says luxury packaging design like some white space.

Artwork Design

Another subtle design cue of luxury packaging is the actual artwork. You tend to find that typography is sans-serif and simplistic with varying degrees of weight. Helvetica Nueu's and Futura are a popular choice.

Colours tend to be restricted to two or three choices to restrict complexity. Colour trends will come and go, but what always stays the same is the number of colours used within luxury design.

Copy within luxury design is simple and to the point. There's no rambling (pun intended) about stuff that doesn't matter. Copy has personality injected into it to relate to the brand and the end-user.

Imagery is stripped back to the basics. Product images are simple on a plain background or with very little surrounding the product, but whatever is around the product in photos is almost always purposeful.

Patterns and icons can also be a key ingredient in luxury packaging. However, they are subtle and play an actual part in communicating a message.

End-user interaction

How users interact with packaging with a luxury value can also be quite subtle. Apple, again, has been a master of this for a long time. Have you ever opened an iPhone, iPad or Macbook and thought, "God, the lid is taking ages to come off". Most people are shocked to find out that Apple engineered that slow release into their packaging.

They measure their top and bottom cartons to within millimetres of each other and then form a vacuum inside, opening the parcel slightly slower than your average packaging.

This slow release creates suspense around the product and adds more perceived value to the brand and product.

iPhone being opened
iPhone being opened

Summary

In the world of luxury packaging design, it's much more about the whole experience. As a packaging design agency, we believe it's only from the way the packaging looks, but how it feels, how we interact with the packaging and how it even smells. If you truly want luxury packaging, you need to start thinking about how you can create a memorable moment for the end user and spark real emotion.

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