Although my job title is packaging designer, my work goes much deeper than that. My experience from working in the worlds of advertising, branding and communications helps me take a more holistic approach to what I do. I'm also a consumer myself, so I always try to think like one when I'm working on a design for a brand owner.
I don't want to design packaging concepts that merely look nice; I want to create functional, attractive and sustainable packaging that draws the eye on a crowded store shelf, where 90 percent of consumer purchasing decisions are made. This means I have to leave my inner designer at home when I go to work in the morning!
Another common mistake is to jump straight onto the computer as the first step. In our process we typically start with a physical whiteboard to put down ideas, keywords and drivers around the concept. Only after that do we start planning and designing on the computer.
In my role I often work directly with brand owners to discuss packaging for a new product or the rebranding of an existing one; I also work a lot with converters, and then the discussions are more technical because we're talking about things like the runnability and printability of a material.
In our co-creation projects these days it's hard to think of a discussion that doesn't involve sustainability. Looking for paperboard alternatives to plastic is a hot topic, especially in food packaging, as are innovative packaging solutions with improved recyclability to increase convenience for consumers. Another trend is multipurpose packaging, literally 'thinking outside the box' to develop packaging materials that can easily be resized or reshaped without special tools and used for a variety of different products.
At our Excellence Centre in Äänekoski I'm lucky to have some of the best tools in the business to help me do my job. One of these is our virtual store, where we can use advanced eye-tracking technologies to test how different packaging designs perform on the store shelf and use the data from these studies to test new ideas or refine existing concepts. We also have a range of tools to create packaging mock-ups for customers and a fully kitted out lab to test material structures and performance.
Touch and feel are a huge part of the design process and the overall packaging experience, so it's a shame that the pandemic has prevented us from welcoming customers to the centre in person. Despite this, I've been involved in some successful online workshops and am looking forward to when everyone can be in the same room again, innovating something new and exciting.