The 5 Most Common Packaging Design Mistakes

Posted by Katie Pierce on Mar 23, 2021 9:45:00 AM


Designing for a brand’s product packaging can be incredibly fun and rewarding, but its complicated nature can make it difficult to get right. If you’ve ever designed a coffee bag, electronics packaging, a branded shipping box, or anything in between, you know that there are some learned tricks to getting the end-result you want with a limited amount of proofs. Fortunately for you, some of us have already learned these things the hard way, and we’re up for sharing our mistakes so that you can avoid them in your next packaging project.

Now, time to unpack the most common packaging design mistakes.

Your Design is Too Complicated

Follow the golden rule: KISS (keep it simple, stupid). Packaging can be complicated enough on its own, with lots of folds and hidden cracks to consider. To avoid headaches, utilize white space and keep your design super simple to avoid discrepancies when printed. Trust me on this one.


You Skipped Internal Proofing

This competes with overcomplicating your design when it comes to the most common mistakes. We’ve all had the experience of getting a professionally-made proof back and the color is off, the material looks cheap, or the whole package just doesn’t fold quite right. Not doing physical mock-ups, color tests, and material tests initially can cause a lot of headache down the line. Proofs are expensive! Get it right the first time by doing lots of testing early on.

When designing custom packaging for an oddly-shaped object, grab your X-Acto and card stock and see what works! Make sure you print proofs of the colors you’re working with as well, especially when it comes to Pantones. What you see on the screen is not always what you get.




Your Copy Wasn’t Dialed Before Designing

Last-minute copy changes can throw your design off, so make sure it’s dialed in before designing. Food packaging, for example, can be a nightmare when it comes to copy because of FDA requirements. There will be certain disclaimers to include, rules about using language such as “organic” and “sustainable,” and false advertising missteps to avoid. Also, understand if the product will be sold internationally. You need to plan for the amount of copy after it’s translated into other languages. It can become a nauseating game of design Jenga if you don't. Sometimes this comes down to grilling the copywriter or the client with questions on these topics. If they’re never done packaging before, they don’t know what they don’t know, and your experience can help open their eyes.


Your Bar Code Isn’t the Right Size

Every product that’s sold in a marketplace needs a barcode. And though it might seem like an easy thing to add in at the last minute, it’s not. Bar codes are required to be a certain size and large enough to be scanned. Plus, they require a minimum clear area on either side of the barcode. To avoid any issues down the line, find out what kind of barcode you need, determine its size, and create a place for it in your design at the beginning of your process. For detailed information about barcode types and sizes, this is a great resource.




You Didn’t Design for the Shelf (or Shipping)

It’s important to consider where and how the packaging will be seen, as well as the elements it may have to hold up against. Is it sturdy enough to survive shipping? Could it potentially be displayed outside, subject to wind, rain or lots of sun? Positioning is also important. If the package is going to sit on a shelf in a store, position the most important information (like the logo) in such a way that it can be viewed from above or below. 

After learning about these common packaging design mistakes, you’re already one step ahead of the rookies! If you’re not sure you want to take on this design challenge yourself, contact us here at PRIME. Our graphic designers are experienced in creating striking packaging for a variety of products. Give us a shout!


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Topics: Graphic and Environmental Design

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