Writing a packaging design brief can feel like an overwhelming task.
After all, what information do you include and is there any information you can leave out?
If this is the first time you have created a packaging design brief, then we understand your confusion.
However, this is a vital document that facilitates smooth communication between you and your chosen agency, to ensure the design of your packaging hits the mark.
Product packaging is an absolute priority as this is the first thing customers will see on a crowded shelf.
From displaying the necessary information, to presenting your brand identity, to having the right look and feel, every part of your product packaging needs to be right.
The only way you can be sure that every point has been ticked, is to create a comprehensive packaging design brief.
This leaves no stone unturned and ensures you have carefully thought about what you want to achieve, so that you can communicate these goals with your chosen agency.
It’s a two-way communication and both parties need to understand what the final result needs to look like. Without understanding your vision, and what you want to achieve, your agency is working blind.
Now that we’ve emphasised the importance of this document, let’s dive into what a packaging design brief is used for.
What Is Packaging Design Brief Used for?
We’ve touched on this slightly in the intro, but a packaging design brief is created by a client to communicate with their chosen agency.
It details each and every part of their packaging design project, so the agency knows what to work towards.
Essentially, it tells them everything they need to know about the packaging, so that they can start designing it with no ambiguity.
Your agency shouldn’t have to guess when it comes to your packaging design.
They should never be sat thinking ‘Do they want to use this colour palette or that one?’
‘What information do they want to display on the label?’
All of this should be included in your packaging design brief.
As you can see, creating this document saves a whole load of time and stress later down the road, as these two questions would already have been answered.
All your agency would have to do is to refer back to the packaging design brief. There’s no need for phone calls, or back and forth emails, as the answers are all there waiting for them.
As such, it facilitates a much smoother, hassle-free process.
And, no business owner has time for unnecessary stress.
Why Is a Packaging Design Brief Important?
Essentially, a packaging design brief keeps both you and your agency on the same page.
If your agency has made a mistake on your packaging, they can’t come back to you and say ‘oh we didn’t realise you wanted that’, as it should all be outlined in your packaging design brief.
This reduces the chance of setbacks or delays to the project as your agency can simply concentrate on creating the very best design.
Furthermore, it helps drive a better understanding of the project from the get-go.
When contacting design agencies, you’re hoping for several things:
- They know about your company
- They know about your industry
- They’re excited about your project
However, ask yourself the following questions…
How can your chosen agency know about your company?
Enter: Your packaging design brief
How can your chosen agency know about your industry?
Enter: Your packaging design brief
How can your chosen agency get excited about your project?
Enter: Your packaging design brief
Whilst the agency might have previous experience in a similar industry, unless you’re a global brand like Coca-Cola, then the chances are, they haven’t heard of you.
What’s more, no agency on earth can know the ins and outs of your entire business.
You know your business, and your product, better than anyone else.
Whilst you might know the direction you’re going in, and the vision you have for your packaging design, this needs to be communicated with the people you’re putting in charge.
Essentially, you’re handing a huge part of your business over to your design agency as you’re trusting them to create your product packaging.
As such, you need to make sure they understand exactly what you’re trying to achieve which is communicated through your packaging design brief.
Who Should Write a Packaging Design Brief?
If you or your company are looking to partner with a design agency on your product packaging, then you need to write a packaging design brief.
With SMEs and larger companies, it’s usually the Marketing Director, Marketing Manager, or someone on the Marketing Team that would be in charge of creating or writing the packaging design brief.
Then, Marketing Executives would use it when reaching out to potential agency partners.
In smaller companies, it’ll usually be the owner/operator of the business. In this situation, they’re usually quite time poor, and the brief will be less comprehensive.
And that’s not a problem either!
This doesn’t have to be an extensive document to be comprehensive.
As long as it includes all of the key information that your agency needs to design your product packaging.
We’ve mentioned this earlier in the post, but your chosen agency shouldn’t be left with a load of unanswered questions when it comes to your design.
They should understand exactly what is required for them, otherwise they’ll be straight on the phone taking up your precious time.
Therefore, getting this document right from the outset will reduce any confusion and will ensure you achieve the best possible result.
It’s important to note that your packaging design brief should focus on the problems you’re facing, not the solutions.
For example, perhaps you’ve rebranded and you’re unsure how to introduce your new brand to your consumer. Or perhaps your product isn’t standing out in a saturated market, and as such, sales are decreasing.
Whatever the issue, it’s the job of your chosen agency to look into it and find a solution that works.
Trust their expertise, and rely on their services.
After all, that’s what you’re paying them for…
What Sort of Projects are Packaging Design Briefs Used for?
Any company which requires product packaging should have a packaging design brief.
Whether you’re wanting your chosen agency to design boxes, envelopes, bags, tissue, or wrap, they need to understand what you’re trying to achieve.
At Canny, the majority of packaging design briefs we see come from brands in the FMCG market.
Take a look at two of our clients below.
We’ll start with McKinna – a vegan dog food brand.
See full case study here
Their packaging faced two big challenges. To begin with, they needed to stand out in a crowded market place, where lots of their competitors are fighting for attention.
Secondly, they need to instill a sense of trust in pet parents who might be reluctant to change their dog over to vegan food. There are still a lot of negative connotations surrounding vegan dog food, and it’s important to provide owners with total reassurance.
Both of these points were achieved by creating a playful packaging design, featuring hand drawn dogs. Essentially, this sells ‘happiness’ as cartoon-style dog designs create a friendly, calming impression, reflecting the dog friendly and safe nature of the food.
Next up is OPI Frutta – a healthy food snack.
See full case study here
The snack sector is wildly overcrowded and the shelves are filled with “organic looking” products. Our challenge was to create a brand that positioned their fruit snacks as an exciting, vibrant, alternative choice for people looking for a healthy snack alternative.
Because OPII’s snacks are a game changer in this space, we designed bright, eye-catching packaging that avoids organic and health food design trends.
We also used real-world images of various fruits to give Opi a clear cut advantage over the competition.
However, packaging design briefs should be created by any business, across any sector, that is packaging their products.
For example, if you work in the IT industry, you might need to send pieces of tech equipment to your customers.
As such, you would need a packaging design brief.
Packaging Design Brief FAQs
Just so we’re clear, let’s do a bit of a recap and look at some frequently asked questions on packaging design briefs.
What is a packaging design brief?
A packaging design brief is a very important document that provides an overview of the design request that you would then hand over to an agency. The agency then takes that brief and begins the design project.
People Also Ask: What are the four main principles of effective packaging design?
The four main principles of effective packaging design are as follows (be sure to keep this in the back of your head when coming up with your own briefs):
- Packaging must compete
- Packaging must engage
- Packaging must communicate
- And packaging must be memorable
What Should I write on my packaging designs?
What you choose to include in your packaging designs depend entirely on you, what you’re selling, and who your audience is. That said, just remember to keep everything as brief as possible.
If you can explain what your product is/can do in 50 words instead of 150, then do so.
Remember, you won’t have a lot of room to play with in most instances.
What packaging design examples should I share?
We’re about to get onto the topic of packaging design examples, but let’s give you the quick 101 now while we’re on the topic of FAQs.
What design examples you share will depend entirely on what you’re looking for.
If it’s relevant to you then it makes sense to include it. After all, the agency you hand this brief too might need a point of reference if what you’re trying to describe is quite complicated.
What Should be Included in a Packaging Design Brief?
First things first, exactly what should be included in your packaging design brief?
Writing a good packaging design brief is no easy task.
And if you’ve never done it before, expect to spend a good chunk of time writing and reworking it to make sure you’ve included the key pieces of information.
You need to make your brief easy to understand, compact enough to retain interest, but comprehensive enough to give a good overview of your project.
As a top level overview, a well-written brief should include:
- An Overview
- The Objectives of Your Packaging Design Project
- Your Target Audience and Market
- The Problem You’re Facing
- Project Specific Information
- Examples of Work You Like
- Competitor Information
- Project Timescales
- Project Budget
- Project Deliverables
- Contact Information
- How the Project will Be Awarded
- Required Response
This is also the format of our packaging design brief template, so it’s very easy to follow.
So, without further ado, let’s take a look at an overview of your business.
Every packaging design project relies on all parties having a clear understanding of what is required from the outset.
The more you can offer your agency in the first instance, the better.
You should start by providing details around the product, the challenges you’re facing, what you’re hoping to achieve from the design, and the expected deliverables.
Essentially, your overview should outline the basics that lay the foundation for your packaging design project.
Think of this like your pitch, as you’re introducing your brand and your product to your chosen agency.
As such, you need to provide your brand name, story, and how you plan to communicate and establish your brand through your products packaging.
For example, if we use the examples of McKinna in this case, their overview would look something like the below:
- McKinna produces vegan dog food for environmentally conscious pet parents who want their dog to be healthy and happier.
- Our products need to stand out on a shelf in an oversaturated market, so that they attract the attention of dog owners.
- We want our product packaging to be engaging, friendly, and visually appealing to mitigate some of the stigma around vegan dog food.
As a result, this gives your chosen agency an overview into what your business does and what your packaging needs to achieve.
The Objectives of Your Packaging Design Project
For your chosen agency to design packaging that meets your business goals, they first need to understand what those goals are.
Of course, this will be totally different for every business so it’s about sitting down and working out what you want to achieve.
Start by thinking about how your product packaging currently looks, and how you want it to look moving forward.
It’s not about what you think looks ‘good’ for an aesthetical point of view. It’s about identifying what works best with your audience. Unless you’re planning on buying all of your own products, it’s your audience that is important. These are the people buying your products so it’s their needs you have to serve.
Essentially, your product packaging needs to help you achieve your wider business goals.
This might be increasing brand awareness, informing customers about a new aspect of your brand, launching a new product, or improving shelf appeal.
By understanding what you want to achieve, you can communicate these goals through your packaging design brief.
This equips your chosen agency with the information they need to design packaging that ticks all of the right boxes.
Your Target Audience and Market
Before your chosen agency can start designing your packaging, they need to understand who it’s aimed at.
Who are you wanting to pick your products off the shelf?
This affects every part of the design process, and it will change how your agency approaches the project.
Again, using the example of McKinna, we know that their target audience is dog owners – some of whom might be sitting on the fence when it comes to the suitability of vegan dog food.
Due to the negative stigma surrounding vegan dog food, we had to soften these anxieties through the product packaging.
Make way for the happy, playful, cartoon-style dog designs.
All of these dogs are happy and energetic which represents that vegan dog food is good for your pooch.
To ease these anxieties even further, we included key pieces of information on the packaging such as the dog food being 100% organic and containing 28% protein.
As such, this gives pet parents reassurance that the dog food still contains all of the nutrients their dog needs to thrive. The stats are immediately visible on the packaging to instill a sense of trust and confidence.
This all ties back to understanding your audience, and what they need from your product packaging.
Many people fall into the trap of thinking an agency’s job is to make things look pretty.
Whilst this is true (to some extent), their job is to create a brand which serves a purpose. Therefore, it’s not enough for your packaging to simply look ‘good’ as it also needs to work in a practical sense.
“Whilst your branding needs to be visually appealing, it’s vital it serves a real purpose. This comes down to your strategy and understanding the needs of your end user. It’s not about what looks pretty and appealing to you, as the aim is to engage your target consumer. Having a ‘nice’ design just doesn’t cut it, and you should never choose style over substance.” – Glen Millen, Creative Director at Canny
Perhaps you’re unsure about who your audience is? If so, then you need our free customer persona worksheet as this drills down into each characteristic of your ideal customer.
We ask you to list out the basic information about your customers, but also:
- Brands/influencers they buy or follow
- Their fears
- Their goals and objectives
- What challenges they’re facing
- What objections they have to your business
- What their hobbies and interests are
Knowing this information will help inform your packaging design project.
The Problem You’re Facing
The objective of your packaging design project is one thing, but the problem you’re facing as a business is something else entirely.
Goals and objectives focus on where you want to be, as opposed to where you currently are.
The problem you’re facing focuses on the here and now.
Here’s an example:
“Our product packaging is getting buried beneath other brands on the market.”
Whilst this is a common problem that we hear a lot at Canny, you need to dig a little deeper to understand the core of the issue.
- Does your product packaging look engaging and visually appealing?
- Does your product packaging have the correct logo and branding?
- Does your product packaging clearly present all of the relevant information?
- Does your product packaging feel high quality?
- Does your product packaging have anything that sets it apart from competitors?
- Does your product packaging reflect the price tag of the product?
Although it can seem a little self-deprecating, deep diving into the real world problems you face as a business is the only way to solve them.
Try and get to the heart of the matter, rather than skirting around the edges. If you know there are deep rooted problems, get them noted down. It’s better to paint the fullest picture possible.
You’ve done the hard part, which is realising the problem you’re facing.
Now, steer into it, and with a professional design agency by your side, you’ll be able to overcome it.
Project Specific Information
Project specific information can be tricky to outline in your packaging design brief.
This happens because more often than not, it’s beneficial to have your design agency make recommendations, rather than adding restrictions from the outset.
On top of that, you might not actually know what it is that you need.
However, there are always some things to consider such as:
- Where your brand is positioned in the market
- Your brand guidelines
- The message you’re trying to convey
- The type of products you’re going to be packaging
- The type of material you want to use
- The information that needs to be displayed
- The size of the packaging
- How the packaging will open/ close
You’re going to your agency for their talent and recommendations. So don’t be completely closed off to changing things!
The more project specific information you can share about your project at this early stage in the process the better.
Examples of work you like
Showing your agency examples of work you like gives them an insight into what you’re trying to achieve with your own packaging design.
For instance, do you like dark and edgy branding? Or do you prefer a white, minimalistic aesthetic?
By giving your chosen agency this information, they can visually build a picture of the type of packaging design you want to create. Otherwise they could go totally off track which will delay the project further.
Therefore, make sure you include some packaging design examples that you like the look of. This could be in the form of links to other websites, screenshots, or a Pinterest board.
Packaging design examples are great reference points that give the agency you’re talking to a better read of what you’re hoping to produce.
For example, let’s say that you’re looking to sell drinks to a sports-oriented market.
In which case, the examples you might look at could include brands like Lucozade, Powerade, Vitamin Water, and other brands that run in the same circle.
That said, if you like the design of another bottle (let’s say you like the packaging design of a not-so-healthy drink), there’s nothing stopping you from talking that design example and sharing it.
Any reference is a good reference, basically.
Whether you’re designing for the first time or you’re undergoing a rebrand, it’s important to be aware of your competitors.
Regardless of what you’re selling, there will always be other companies in the same space who are competing for the attention of your customers.
For example, when it comes to fizzy drinks, do you prefer Pepsi or Coca Cola?
When you’re choosing where to go for lunch, will you choose McDonalds or Burger King?
These are examples of brands that compete with one another, and as such, they need to devise creative strategies that attract their target audience.
Packaging is a huge part of your differentiation, as it has the potential to set you apart from other companies offering the same thing.
Therefore, make note of your competitors and pay particular attention to what they do well.
Are there any gaps here that you could take advantage of?
Is there something they do really well on their packaging that you would like to incorporate on yours? Or is there something they do terribly bad on the packaging that you would like to avoid on your packaging at all costs?
Knowing your competitors is a good thing, as it feeds your creativity.
You should never be scared of your competitors as they can also become partners or trusted allies.
- Can you partner with them to offer something new?
- Are there learnings you can take from their product packaging?
- Do you want to be like them, or completely different?
All of these are fantastic starting points, and enable your chosen agency to position your brand in the right way.
This question often helps design agencies to decide whether they can be involved with your project or not.
If you’re looking for a rapid turnaround time, and the agencies you reach out to have a lot of work on, they might decline the offer to work together.
And that’s fine. It’s best you know that at this stage instead of being disappointed further down the line.
“ASAP” is not an acceptable answer when talking about timescales either.
There needs to be a reasonable level of understanding here, things don’t just happen overnight.
At Canny, we usually estimate that it will take 6 weeks for a relatively small project, and this includes 1 or 2 products that need packaging.
If there are more products/ product ranges then it would usually take up to 12 weeks to work out how everything fits together in a product family.
Ah, project budgets.
Something no business ever seems to want to talk about!
However, for your agency to spend their time wisely, they need to know your project budget from the get-go. We’ve dedicated a whole post to project budgets, and why it’s important to share your budget with your design agency so give it a read.
Consider the following scenario:
Design agencies get approached regularly to design packaging for clients.
Amongst the requests, there’s often a lot of rubbish, some half-decent leads, and sometimes, a real diamond in the rough.
You want to be that diamond!
Now, telling an agency your project budget isn’t the only way to do this. But, it’s another thing that you can do to build trust and transparency from the start.
Nobody wants their time wasted.
For instance, let’s say you have a 1 hour call with your chosen design agency, and then you send them your packaging design brief – with no budget information.
Your design agency reads through it, and comes back to you with a proposal.
It’s 5 times over what you thought you’d be paying.
So what happens now?
Well, you’ve lost an hour of your time and so has the agency as they’ve spent time writing out the proposal.
By being clear with your budget early on, you can make sure everyone is on the same page before you get deeper into the project. And, that’s the fairest way of doing business.
Now, you don’t need to list the budget to the penny. But just giving some indication of what you’re working with goes a long way!
Also, whilst we know budget is important, you shouldn’t scrimp and scrape on the quality of your packaging design.
As we’ve touched on earlier in this post, your packaging makes the difference between people walking past you on a shelf, or stopping to pick up your product.
As such, quality design costs money.
But, the value you get in return will be worth it as you’ve a professional brand that will generate more customers.
You need to consider the different elements that you require to complete your packaging design project.
For example, you need to consider:
- What you expect to receive at the end of the project
- The type of file for the artwork (i.e. PDF, AI)
- The sizes and resolutions that are needed for the artwork
- Do you require print production?
- How many units will be produced?
- Do you require prototypes or physical mock-ups?
This ensures that you are equipped with all of the right assets at the end of the project.
You don’t want to be left resizing things because you haven’t given your agency the specifics.
To ensure smoother communication throughout the project, you need to detail the main point of contact for the agency.
This should be someone within the company who knows the ins and outs of the entire project.
They should understand the goals, timelines, competitor information, target audience, and anything else that is relevant to the project.
As such, your chosen agency will know exactly who to contact if any problems or questions arise. This saves any delays as the agency should be able to get in contact with the right person.
This responsibility doesn’t just fall onto you, as the agency should also state their main point of contact.
This is someone within the design agency who will be able to answer any of your queries regarding the packaging design.
Maybe you have a new idea, or you’ve seen a design that you like and you want to discuss how it could feed into your own packaging. By knowing who you can reach out to at the agency, you can easily pick up the phone and have those discussions.
Usually, this person will be an ‘Account Manager’ who will act as your guide throughout the process.
How the Project will Be Awarded
If you’re considering a number of agencies, or sending your packaging design brief to several agencies, then you need to make sure they know how the project will be awarded.
For the record:
We don’t believe in distributing your brief to a huge number of agencies as it’s not respectful of their time.
That said, we appreciate you’ll want to collect several proposals and opinions to make sure you’ve found the best team for the job. Between 3 and 5 agencies is a fair number to approach.
Not sure how to choose an agency to work with?
Check out this post about choosing a graphic design agency.
Now, how will your project be awarded?
Typically, there are several elements at play including:
- Cost/Value for Money
- Quality of Work
- Previous Experience
- Alignment to the Design Brief
- Suitability of the Agency
There are any number of factors you could use to judge the responses.
It’s normal to write into your packaging design brief, the percentage and weighting of each of the awarding criteria.
This helps to show your design agency what’s most important in your decision making process and allows them to tailor their responses accordingly.
The required response section of a packaging design brief is pretty straightforward to write.
You need to let your agency know what you’re expecting back, by when, and how to submit it.
It’s simply a case of listing out what you expect to receive back.
Perhaps this is as simple as:
- A written response to the brief
- Examples of relevant work
- Testimonials from happy clients
Tell the agency how to submit their proposal, what to include, by when, and you’re off to the races.
Before you dive into the process, let’s take a look at some things you should never do when writing your packaging design brief.
The “Do nots” of writing a packaging design brief
Now that we’ve covered the ins-and-outs of writing a good packaging design brief, let’s look at three things that you should avoid in the process…
Do not send your packaging design brief to everyone
As we’ve touched on earlier, sending your packaging design brief to 3-5 different agencies is a good amount.
If you’re just sending it out to anyone and everyone, this is not respectful of their time or work. Agencies will be very busy, and it’s pointless reaching out to them if you have no intention of choosing them moving forward.
You need to be selective, and think about which agencies you truly want to partner with.
Also, the more agencies you reach out to, the more ‘kick off’ calls you will need to have to discuss your project.
Unless time is something you have in abundance, think about this carefully before bulk emailing 20 different agencies.
Do not skip over the budget section
Design budgets are important. They help to align expectations between your agency and your business.
You don’t need to list every single detail out, but having a rough idea of what you could possibly invest, is better than no idea at all.
Also, don’t be closed off to being at least a little flexible. There might be much better solutions available at a higher investment level.
Remember: High quality, professional work costs money.
Do not forget to include a timescale around your decision
Nothing is worse for a design agency owner, than projects stuck in the “possibly / possibly not” pile indefinitely.
In a design agency, you’re trading time for money, so being able to plan your workload is key.
Make sure you’re clear around when decisions will be made, and stick to the timescale you set.
It’s time to reach out to design agencies
Now that you’ve learned how to write a packaging design brief, and created your shortlist of design agencies, it’s time to start reaching out.
If you’re still not sure on how to find a design agency, you should contact us to discuss your design project.
At Canny, we work with clients from the UK to the US to design product packaging that not only fulfills, but exceeds, their packaging design brief.
Now, it’s time to get the whole process started!
How to Write a Packaging Design Brief (Free Template Included!)
Hopefully after reading this blog post, you’ll feel more confident when it comes to writing your packaging design brief.
Remember, this doesn’t have to be war and peace.
Your brief should simply tell your chosen agency the key details of your project, and explain what you hope to achieve.
Whilst this might seem a tedious task, it really doesn’t need to be. Plus, by creating this document now it will save you a whole load of time later in the project.
Unless of course, you want to be getting 4 or 5 calls a day from your agency because they haven’t got the information at hand to make key decisions?
Getting everyone on the same page from the outset is the easiest way of making sure the project runs smoothly.
At Canny, we’ve designed product packaging for a range of clients from vegan dog food to healthy snacks (some of the best packaging design examples you’ll come across). We get inside your brand and design product packaging that has both style and substance.
Product packaging should never be overlooked as it creates suspense and excitement. When people see a beautifully packaged product, it entices them to open it which engages them in your brand.
Other Design Brief Templates in the Series
As well as The Packaging Design Brief Template we’ve also created a whole range of other brief templates that you download and use completely free.
So, no matter what sort of creative project you need to write a brief for, we’ve got you covered. Check them out below:
The Design Brief Template
The Design Brief Template will help you get the foundation for any design project right. It’s a good all rounder!
From graphic design to interior design, no matter the type of design project you need – The Design Brief Template is sure to help you out.
The Branding Brief Template
The Branding Brief Template will help you get the brief for your company branding project right.
From straight up branding projects for small businesses, to the full scale branding of larger companies – The Branding Brief Template has all types of branding projects covered.
The Web Design Brief Template
The Web Design Brief Template will help you get the brief for your web design project right.
Whether you’re creating a new website for your business, or redesigning your existing website – then The Web Design Brief Template is going to be useful.
The Video Brief Template
The Video Brief Template will help you get the foundation for your video project right.
Whether you’re embarking on a corporate video, documentary, explainer, or any other type of video project – then The Video Brief Template is sure to help you out.
The Marketing Brief Template
The Marketing Brief will help you get the brief for any of your marketing projects right.
Whether you’re looking to grow traffic to your website, or increase conversions from existing traffic – then The Marketing Brief Template is here to help.
The Content Brief Template
The Content Brief Template will help you to generate interest in your brand/business in no time!
This brief is perfect for marketers out there looking to work with an agency to strategise, create, and market their content. With content marketing becoming a must in business – The Content Brief Template is designed to help you progress your own content marketing strategy.
The RFP / RFQ Template
The RFP / RFQ Template will help you to create an easy to understand document that communicates the needs of your project.
Whether you’re embarking on a branding, web design, brochure design, packaging design, or any other type of design project – then The RFP / RFQ Template can help.
The Creative Brief Bundle
And, if you don’t want to download all of our templates individually, then we have you covered with The Creative Brief Bundle.
Our brief templates are far and away the most downloaded resource on our entire website, and now we’re bringing them to you as one big bundle.
To find out how we can help, simply get in touch.