How to be innovative in the global packaging business?

Pentawards: The Package 4 Design Book. pp 400, Hardcover. Published by Taschen, Cologne. Available from Rs. 3,152

Even so, the degree of innovation isn’t the same everywhere, as year after year I’m surprised to see how many astonishing creations come from countries that don’t spring immediately to mind when we think about packaging design, such as Kazakhstan, Cyprus, Peru and Vietnam. Why is that? Let me suggest an answer. In these countries, which are currently emerging in the fi eld of design, marketing constraints are only minimal. Maybe this is something for economically advanced countries to consider.

Grard Caron, Chair of the Pentawards jury

Seven ways to be innovative
After 10 years of Pentawards, it is possible to list seven more effective ways of approaching innovation in packaging design. I won’t pretend that the list is complete, but my analysis is based on creations originating from more than 50 different countries. You will fi nd fresh examples in this fourth edition of The Packaging Design Book. I list them in no particular order.

1. Distort the product’s intended use
This is probably one of the most daring, but also intriguing, approaches, which can’t fail to arouse the consumer’s interest. That is, when it succeeds; it’s all too easy to get it wrong. Take the example of Japanese toilet rolls packaged to look like a piece of fruit—a strawberry, kiwi fruit, or a watermelon (1). And the British “Eggs for Soldiers,” packed in military-style boxes and raising funds for charity (2), or Veuve Cliquot packaged to look like a road sign pointing to cities around the world (3).

2. Ignore the packaging stage
and say immediately what the product is used for. This gives the consumer the feeling of being in direct contact with the product itself, even though the goods are not being sold loose. It’s a stroke of genius, making for maximum shelf impact. Like the Russian beer (4) whose one-liter plastic packaging looks exactly like a glass of beer that is ready to drink; or individual portions of French jam in plastic packaging, tailored to resemble fruits such as apples or pears (5); not forgetting the Marc Jacobs lipsticks shaped like pencils (6).

(3) From book 4, page 305. Veuve Cliquot packaged to look like a road sign pointing to cities around the world

3. Overplay what the product is used for
It’s a well-known fact that packaging must accentuate any specific characteristic that distinguishes one product from another. But here, designers go a step further, exaggerating and distorting this special feature by visuals designed to shock. Of course, the shock should be a positive one – but this isn’t always the case. Nevertheless, it works! Think of the packaging for boots from Kazakhstan on which scary-looking eels wind themselves round the boots to demonstrate how waterproof they are (7). Or, the fruits from Thailand, labeled with a close-up image of each fruit that takes over the whole label (8); and the little bottles of Orangina with their beach theme (9). It takes nerve as well as in-depth knowledge of the target consumer to adopt this type of approach.