In this article from brandpackaging.com, Sheri Koetting discusses the trends in luxury package design, which emphasise materials, shapes, colour, typography and imagery. Below we have summarised the article.
How is luxury created? Beauty brands often use packaging to convey prestige and add value to their products. When comparing leading beauty brands similar strategies for materials, shapes, colour, typography and imagery are revealed.
We have seen in previous blogs on research into luxury packaging that consumers will pay more for products in luxury packaging than for the same product in “middle-of-the-road” packaging. You can read about this research here.
Unsurprisingly, certain visual and material cues have become associated with luxury. If a brand aims to stand out in this crowded space, they might decide to go against these cues. Recently, new trends have emerged redefining what luxury means and looks like.
Luxury beauty displays are easily spotted. They use opulence, crests and emblems to depict royalty. This tends to lead to metallic packaging—gold, silver, bronze— imply precious content. However, no one brand can stand out amid the glitter.
Recent luxury beauty trends do use metallic but in subtler ways. One example is Lisa Franklin’s packaging which is mostly white with a large gold monogram that becomes central to the package design.
Newer beauty trends use soft touch and matte printed cartons to emphasise luxury and encourage consumers to handle products. Kora organics have increased the tactile experience of their products through soft touch cartons. Prismologie has combined soft touch and foil stamping to create memorable packaging.
Brands will go to great lengths to be noticed in retail. Most brands use stock packaging for their products. Luxury beauty brands go further and can afford the opportunity to design custom packaging. Shape is one of the most powerful tools in gaining consumer recognition and increasing brand recall. If you choose to use a custom mould ensure it is truly differentiated.
Some brands are creating products that function like pieces of art that people can be proud to show in their homes. Japanese beauty brand Shiseido has created a curved, tapered bottle for some of their products that is reminiscent of Brancusi sculptures. This form alone expresses luxury and performance.
Jewels convey luxury. Some luxury beauty brands are creating memorable complex, crystalline shapes. Swiss brand La Prairie released a premium product, the Platinum Rare cellular cream, which costs more than $1,000. Its crystalline container is a work of art in itself.
Another new trend creating a seamless profile from bottle to cap. A sleek silhouette suggests luxury. Giorgio Armani uses black caps and bottles in several of its creams and serums. Nars uses the same technique in its skin and makeup products. This breaks from pumps and collars in the standard metallic colours by using black and white components in a sophisticated manner.
One of the most memorable details of printed cartons is colour. Traditional luxury beauty packaging uses of gold and silver. White, black and rich jewel tones are often used as well.
It is well known that luxury beauty brands avoid primary colours and fluorescents. However, recently, there has been a trend toward pastels and muted tones. Pinks, lavenders, peaches and minty greens are often combined with a black type. Cosmedicine, a premium skincare brand, has effectively used muted tones with metallic accents to suggest a luxury experience.
Another new approach is to use colour gradients in packaging. Sai-sei, a Japanese bath brand, has used this method to depict hydration, which is the core benefit of their products. The colouring of the container spans from a rich teal to white, resulting in a stunning carton that is reminiscent of the consumers experience.
For luxury fragrance and skincare brands, the key is to have transparent or coloured glass. The formulas are clearly visible, conveying elegance and honesty. Beauty brands have added entire ingredient specimens inside clear formulations, highlighting their unique qualities. For example, NARS Monoi Body Glow II beauty oil has a tiare flower suspended in the liquid. This gives a magical effect, suggesting a similar result for the costumer.
The text is important, but so is the typeface. In the case of lavish beauty brands, the rule is usually the fancier script, the better. Classic ornate typefaces are used to imply a timeless and refined product.
However, several brands are avoiding ornate script completely. Selecting a simple sans serif typeface, set in all capital letters with generous tracking, creates a feeling of sophistication. La Prairie, Prismologie and Herbivore Botanicals all use this technique.
Brands can maintain an open feel to the product by keeping only the essentials on the carton/sleeve. Brands can choose their most powerful messages and create interest. The primary carton will have the logo, product name and required information. Media applications benefit from this method of making every word count.
When photographing luxury beauty cartons or sleeves, typically highly stylized, dramatic photographs that suggest an escape from the ordinary are used. Images for luxury brands depict whimsical and surreal settings. These high-cost, high-production photographs are great for traditional media and advertising. However, it is almost impossible to produce at the rapid pace that social media channels demand now.
By using consistent filters, background colours and materials, patterns and lighting techniques, lavish brands are finding ways to document their cartons and sleeves every day and still assert a distinct point of view to consumers. The same trends of organic shapes, crystalline shapes, soft tones and gradients have been making their way into social media backgrounds. Tata Harper consistently messages with a white background and the brand’s signature shade of green.
Any luxury brand recognises the importance of the unboxing experience – the process by which the consumer opens the box and unveils the product. Heavyweight boxes, set tops, paper liners, special paper inserts etc. have long since been a part of the lavish printed carton experience.
For digital shoppers, the unboxing experience begins the minute the package arrives on their doorstep. According to Dotcom Distribution’s 2016 E-Commerce Packaging Study, 68 percent of consumers said that branded, gift-like packaging makes the brand seem more upscale, and 50 percent said this same style of packaging would make them more likely to recommend the product to their friends. So, traditional brown cardboard boxes are being covered with printed graphics and upgraded materials.
Beauty-box brands like Birch Box have set the trend. Their outer shipping carton is branded with pink on white cardboard. Inside, a gift-like box features unique graphics and patterns each month. The only consistency is the size of the box and the production methodology of four-color printing plus one special production technique. The inner package contains coordinated tissue paper, a printed card and the products themselves. The joy of receiving the uniquely printed outer box has become part of the thrill. Birch Box have become a collectible cult.
The luxury beauty industry generally sticks to established rules in carton design. Consumers familiar with these trends easily recognise luxury brands at retail. However, innovative brands are beginning to redefine luxury through new trends. Variation from the norm can be elegant as well. Brands that find the whitespace in the market will discover new opportunities for their products.