A brand is nothing without solid visuals, and as a packaging designer, you’re a frontrunner in maintaining a company’s image. Not only do you have to maintain that image and the image of the product through your design, but you also have to make the product appeal to specific demographics. No pressure, right?
Creating packaging design for women – or any specific demographic – is a challenge. Do you stick to stereotypes and risk offending a segment of the population? How can you reach baby boomers without completely alienating millennials? Finding a balance within your design while still creating an attention-grabbing impact is possible.
Even though women are bringing home more of the bacon – thanks, equality! – we’re still often the ones doing the shopping. According to the Wall Street Journal, we’re in control of 80 percent of the spending. That means that not only do you have to design a male product for men, but keep an eye on how the design would appeal to the ladies in their lives who might be doing some of their shopping, too. Tricky, huh?
Here’s where you should focus your attention.
Identify Her Market
Your first step is to define your core market after women. Are you interested in targeting women from ages 16 to25, 50 to 65 or everything in between? Rule one of marketing will serve you well when struggling with a challenging design: Know your market and your consumer.
Here are the factors you need to keep in mind while you select your target segment of the public.
If your default color is pink or black and pink, please think before you pink. As a child, I was almost hostile to the color pink. The idea that all little girls want to be a princess is true, but only to a point. All princess meant to me was that someone was special, could do whatever she wanted and got whatever she wanted. It had absolutely nothing to do with pink, frills and makeup.
As an adult shopper, I still don’t feel drawn to pink products. I cringe a little over black and pink products or any combination of black, pink and leopard print. Yes, it sells if you’re targeting a select subset audience, but don’t expect it to be an easy sell to the masses. For me, pink screams cheap.
Nevertheless, there’s a but here. There’s a way to properly use pink, and as long as you don’t revert to the old-school pink it and shrink it method, there is hope. For instance, Weagroup created the multicolor design for its product Vagheggi Happy Sun – Special Edition using base shades of pink. We’re talking fuchsia, red, pastel pink, purple and the hottest of hot pinks. The design is a winner for me.
What did they do right? The pattern is eye-catching and near hypnotic. The contrasting yellow – which inspires feelings of joy or serenity – used for the label adds to the feeling that summer is here.
How does this differ from the old pink standby? It isn’t solid, matte Pepto-Bismol pink, and it doesn’t scream Mattel. Weagroup pulls of this design because it thought retro summer fun, not Barbie Girl.
Because women tend to buy based on emotional connections, paying attention to the meaning behind your color choices isn’t just optional, it’s required. “Because it looks good,” or even worse, “because women like pink” is a terrible response for any designer. There needs to be a logic behind your choice.
The goal in shape design is to make your package stand out from the others on the shelf, but it also needs to be functional.
When possible, a unique shape can add to branding, but it’s even better if the shape is a call to action, like with the brand Water in a Box. The downsides to plastic water bottles are multiple. They take a long time to biodegrade, and I hate it when the bulk package breaks and I have to chase bottles across the parking lot. These box-shaped boxes look sharp, will stand out from other bottled water, won’t roll away and utilize bright colors that further draw the eye to the package.
Keep in mind, packaging that gets too oddly shaped won’t store with other products easily. Water in a Box will comfortably fit in a fridge or shelf, but I’ve come across toiletries packaged in unusually-shaped bottles that make them hard to store off the counter. When dealing with women – or honestly anyone that likes a little order in their lives – the functionality of the packaging shape is critical.
Just like text, less is often more when it comes to symbols and images on packaging. When balancing the entire design, it’s easy to have too much content. Mason & Co.’s chocolate packaging has a well-placed balance of images with text and color.
The symbol on this package is a cacao bean. It’s noticeable, but not overwhelming since the bright color at the top draws the eye to read the text before sinking to the bottom of the packaging.
Bright, abstract shapes are a useful way to draw attention to packaging, especially with women. Just make sure your content stays readable, something that Mason & Co. also did well through their use of bright, rectangular shapes.
As far as the types of female models used on packaging, it depends on the product. I expect to see beautiful women on beauty product packaging, and yes, the gullible part of me expects all makeup to look just as lovely on me as on the model.My warning with using images of women, though, is solid words-of-wisdom for any life situation: Be wary of overtly comparing women.
A part of me might want to look like a supermodel, but the realistic side has accepted that most women– myself included – are not made that way. Plus, we’re the ones wielding Photoshop, so we know how imperfect many of those models’ photos start out.
Don’t expect women to buy a product based only on a beautiful woman on the box. She needs to appeal to us through more than beauty. We need to relate to her to expect the product to work for us. Instead, focus on showcasing an emotion. Your model should be suggesting “do you want to be happy like me?” not just “I’m gorgeous!”
Bubbly, curly or script fonts are obvious giveaways towards designing for women, but it’s not always needed and can negatively impact sales. For me, I find script or overly flowery typography irritating, distracting and a bit insulting in the same way that most of the design world eye rolls Comic Sans.
If I still wanted to buy Lisa Frank products – products which use everything including rainbow colors, glitter and a combination of curly meets bubbly type – I’d have stayed in the ‘80s.
Masculine fonts are generally considered serif fonts – even fonts like Old English. Find the balance by pulling in a serif and a sans serif font, like the design for Aromababy Therapy Kitchen Hand Wash.
Here there is a masculine but chic background color with a serif font for the title, but the majority of the font is script. This design stood out to me as elegant, clean and professional. Plus, from a marketing perspective, the dark colors will stand out on shelves generally lined with clear bottles with pastel contents.
Ready to play dirty? Use the above information to hack into female emotions. Your goal with marketing based on emotions is to make women feel good. Whether it’s a good feeling from perceived cleanliness, attractiveness, intelligence or from relaxing, we will keep coming back to a product if we feel positive after using it.
There’s no getting around the fact that products that make women look or feel pretty are always in demand. According to Package Design Magazine, 59 percent of women are motivated to be attractive, while 60 percent of baby boomer women feel they’re expected to be attractive.
Honestly, whether I’m feeling motivated to be or expected to be attractive, there are times where I’d pay good money just to feel comfortable, and that’s another reason why there are limitations on glamming up products for women. A makeup-free model napping on a sofa in a comfortable bathrobe could make me opt for a new sofa or bathrobe. Anything that helps me relax is a good thing.
Don’t be afraid to embrace stereotypes, just learn to incorporate them into more gender-neutral designs. That includes newer stereotypes, like designs based around women’s empowerment.
Believe it or not, even focusing on this strong, positive movement can fail if you’re too heavy-handed. Skipping back to focusing on us emotionally, we know that we’re capable of being strong, motivated and independent, but if you tell us we have to be – have to be anything – we’ll dig in our heels. Always make sure the consumer is the one making the decision, not the packaging screaming “Buy me.”
As another example of bending stereotypes, the Zuc product line was designed for a new line of organic fruit juices and, while it’s geared toward younger girls, everything from the bottle shape to text and image choices are feminine. The glass bottle allows the juice to choose a pastel color palette, the font is simple and the most interesting choice is to put the calorie info on the very front and center of the package, which brings us right back to the idea that women feel motivated to be attractive. Yes, calorie counting is something many women actively participate in.
Effective packaging design toward women is about forming a connection. Creating a loyal brand following takes solid market research, but by identifying what the product demographic is like, you’ll be able to find the right heartstrings to pluck.
If you opt to use stereotypes to target women, remember not to bash them over the head with their femininity. Women know what it is to be a woman without your product telling us. Increase the odds of your product’s success by tapping subtly into emotions via color, symbols, text and shape and you’ll see your product resonate with the market.