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How Dieter Rams' 10 Principles of Good Design Apply to Packaging Design

We need to begin with some history of Rams' to give context to why he is so influential in the world of design:

Dieter Rams (born 1932) is an industrial designer who is considered to be one of the most influential designers of the 20th century. He is best known for his work at Braun, where he helped to create some of the most iconic and enduring product designs of the era, such as the Braun SK4 radio and the Braun T3 transistor radio.

Dieter Rams' is one of the most influential product designers of the 20th century
Dieter Rams' is one of the most influential product designers of the 20th century

Rams' design philosophy was based on the belief that good design should be innovative, useful, aesthetic, understandable, unobtrusive, honest, long-lasting, thorough down to the last detail, environmentally friendly, and as little design as possible.

His work has been praised for its simplicity, elegance, and functionality. His designs are often characterized by their clean lines, geometric shapes, and use of high-quality materials. Rams' designs are also known for their durability and longevity. The most impressive part of the story is many of his products are still in production today, and they are still considered to be classics of modern design.

Here's how Rams' 10 principles of design teach us about packaging design for today's markets:

There are definitely lessons to be learned from Rams' principles because his work has stood the test of time for 4 decades...

We deeply resonate with principle 9 as it is paramount in today's design environment.

1 - Good design is innovative

Innovative packaging design can help brands to stand out from the competition and attract new customers. For example, the Coca-Cola "contour bottle" is a classic example of innovative packaging design. The bottle's unique shape makes it instantly recognizable and helps to distinguish Coca-Cola from other soft drink brands.

  • Where can your packaging depart from the current industry norms?

  • Don't think of this in terms of novelty but instead think about how innovation can enhance your packaging experience.

2 - Good design is useful

Packaging design should be functional and easy to use. For example, the packaging for a food product should be easy to open and close, and it should protect the food from damage. The packaging should also provide consumers with all of the necessary information about the product, such as the ingredients, nutritional information, and instructions for use.

  • Think about how you can make your packaging easy to use.

  • We've all tried to open blister packaging and know how frustrating this can be.

3 - Good design is aesthetic

Packaging design should be visually appealing. It should use colors, fonts, and images that are consistent with the brand's identity and that will appeal to the target audience. For example, the packaging for a children's toy might use bright colors and playful fonts to attract the attention of children.

  • Know your audience, and design for them

4 - Good design makes a product understandable

Packaging design should communicate the product's purpose and benefits to consumers clearly and concisely. For example, the packaging for a new type of laundry detergent might include instructions on how to use the detergent and a diagram of the different cycle settings that it is compatible with.

  • Most commonly retail packaging is the touch point where you're saying why your product is better or what problem it's solving.

  • Don't be too wordy, try to keep it to 1-3 features and benefits your product offers.

5 - Good design is unobtrusive

Packaging design should not distract from the product itself. It should be simple and understated, and it should allow the product to take center stage. For example, the packaging for a luxury product might use simple, elegant colors and fonts to avoid drawing attention away from the product itself.

  • Understand what you're selling and who you're selling it to

6 - Good design is honest

Packaging design should not deceive consumers. It should accurately represent the product inside and out. For example, the packaging for a food product should not make false claims about the product's nutritional value or health benefits.

  • Honesty makes one-time buyers into loyal customers

  • Betraying consumers can be far more detrimental in today's social media ecosystem, think about how many times you've seen a complaint go viral.

7 - Good design is long-lasting

Packaging design should be timeless and avoid trendy design elements. This will help to ensure that the packaging remains relevant and appealing to consumers for years to come. For example, the packaging for a product like the iPhone has stayed consistent for well over a decade.

  • Don't design towards the trends of today, let your marketing be the pulse and you're packaging is the heart.

8 - Good design is thorough down to the last detail

Even the smallest details of packaging design are important. Think about the totality of your packaging and the experience you're giving consumers.

  • Remove any friction as friction = choosing your competitor's product over yours.

9 - Good design is environmentally friendly

Packaging design should be environmentally friendly and use sustainable materials whenever possible. For example, some brands are now using recycled materials in their packaging and designing packaging that is easy to compost or recycle.

  • Every brand can incorporate sustainability at some level in their packaging.

"Less, but better. - Dieter Rams"

10 - Good design is as little design as possible

Packaging design should be simple and straightforward. It should avoid unnecessary features and embellishments.

  • Don't overcomplicate or confuse consumers, be purposeful with your design choices.

Here are some examples of packaging designs that incorporate Rams' 10 principles of good design:

  • Apple packaging: Apple packaging is known for its simplicity and elegance. The packaging uses white boxes with clean, minimalist fonts. This helps to create a sense of luxury and sophistication, which is consistent with Apple's brand identity.

  • Method cleaning product packaging: Method cleaning product packaging uses bright colors and playful fonts to create a sense of fun and excitement. The packaging also includes clear and concise instructions on how to use the products. This makes the packaging both visually appealing and functional.

  • Ikea furniture packaging: Ikea furniture packaging is designed to be efficient and easy to transport. The packaging is made of lightweight materials and it can be easily folded flat when not in use. This helps to reduce shipping costs and make it easier for customers to take their furniture home.

Following these 10 design principles will make your packaging design go from average to timeless
Following these 10 design principles will make your packaging design go from average to timeless


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