In 2021, product packaging is experiencing a renaissance. With a booming e-commerce sector and heightened health and safety expectations, marketing managers and designers need to challenge outdated paradigms to help their products stand out from the crowd.
What is 3D packaging design in 2021, and what packaging design software can help you achieve your goals? These and many more questions will be answered in the following article.
Packaging Design is More Important Than Ever
Depending on the target market and product type, packaging can transmit a feeling of exclusivity and is a crucial part of the overall customer experience.
Just imagine the Rolex in the picture above was presented in a simple cardboard box. How much would this affect your sense of exclusivity and luxury?
Therefore, the right packaging is an integral part of your overall marketing strategy – whether you want to compete online or offline with print material or shelf displays.
“So what’s changed?” you might ask yourself. In recent years, customer expectations towards packaging have shifted dramatically.
The reasons relate to social media, sustainability issues, and health and safety concerns.
1. Social Media
Content creation, production, and distribution have changed dramatically. Influencers such as “Unbox Therapy” share their unboxing experiences with millions of viewers on video platforms such as YouTube. Influencers on YouTube, Instagram, and other platforms have become some of the most important marketing outlets for companies’ products. Accordingly, companies have started to become more aware of their packaging.
Source: Unbox Therapy account on YouTube
Environmental concerns are now mainstream. According to a McKinsey survey, 55 percent of US respondents are extremely or very concerned about the environmental impact of their product packaging. Therefore, companies are increasing their efforts to create sustainable packaging solutions.
3. Health and Safety
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the health and safety concerns of consumers worldwide. Even though there is no evidence that the virus can spread via packaging, many consumers disinfect their packaging before opening a product. According to another study conducted by McKinsey, demand for food industry packaging will likely continue to increase during the pandemic.
Overview of the 10 Best Packaging Design Software
How do I design my own product packaging and which software is best for packaging design? It should be clear by now that you should at least question your current packaging strategy.
The next section will give you an overview of the best 3D packaging design software to bring your creative ideas to life.
Filestage – package design review and approval
Filestage is an approval software for all types of content from designs, text documents, and images to videos. This software makes it easy to share, review and discuss your product packaging designs with colleagues and external stakeholders.
Every reviewer can access the design without the need to log in. Then they can leave precise feedback via multiple comment and annotation tools. Since everyone leaves feedback on the same file, you can see and react to comments from other reviewers allowing collaboration in real-time.
Once the first round of feedback has been implemented, you can easily upload a new version of your packaging design, and each team member can give their approval. Plus, on the main dashboard, you can always keep an overview of all your files’ statuses. This way, Filestage makes the entire content review process easy and fast like never before.
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4PACK – for packaging workflow
With 4PACK, designers and marketing managers can put the complete packaging design process onto a single platform.
The package design software allows you to structure and organize the ideation, concept development and launch phase. Users can integrate product information into the artwork, which minimizes errors and typos when creating product descriptions. With collaboration tools, you can give packaging suppliers access to your database, further streamlining operations across your supply chain.
Streamlining processes is the main selling proposition of 4PACK, which means that some of the advanced design features available to render realistic 3D images might be behind the competition. Therefore, before committing to a paid subscription, you should make use of the trial version first.
Adobe Dimension – creating fully customizable 3D designs
Adobe Dimension is another creative tool from Adobe that helps your designer create customized 3D designs for boxes and cartons. Your design team has access to all the tools necessary to easily compose, adjust and render realistic 3D images. Plus, Adobe Dimensions offers plenty of carton and food packaging templates and mockups, saving your designers time when creating realistic packaging designs and solutions.
Instead of organizing expensive photoshoots, you can create new scene layouts and photorealistic graphics for all your product images – no matter their shape or size. Having said this, as Adobe Dimension caters to those who do not make their own 3D designs, it still lags behind fully-fledged 3D animation tools.
Box It Now – packaging design for non-designers
“How do I design a package in Illustrator?” If you cannot answer this question, you might take a look at the tools of Box It Now. While most packaging software tools are made for designers, Box It Now is an easy-to-use desktop and tablet application that can be used by people with no design background and does not require extensive tutorials.
This solution offers a free template library containing over 150 industry-standard styles for your boxes and cartons, which can be customized to your specific needs. Unfortunately, the number of FEFCO (European Federation of Corrugated Board Manufacturers) designs is still relatively limited.
Boxshot – product design and packaging software
Boxshot 5 is an advanced virtual photo studio software for 3D models that helps designers display accurate and realistic images of boxes, cartons and products. As Boxshot 5 caters solely to designers, this software is not suitable for streamlining the supply chain and processes between organizations.
Boxshot5 offers different preset packaging solutions and a free template library for a wide range of products, such as brochure design software. This means that the shape of your graphics is automatically adjusted to fit the packaging type and size. Additionally, composing tools help you stack, align and distribute scene objects to fit your projects.
With free product and carton templates and mockups, this printing software allows you to render, animate, script, import and export your packaging print designs.
Impact – specialized 3D packaging design software
Impact by Arden Software is a digital packaging design software with a track record of over three decades of success. In comparison to other modern packaging software, Impact is not a cloud-based solution, but an actual desktop application for Windows. This could have a negative impact on flexibility and cooperation features.
However, with Impact, all components, manufacturing layouts, and 3D models are linked together within the same project. In addition to providing a free design library, Impact can also facilitate the review and approval process. You can create virtual 3D samples and animated carton templates and mockups which can be shared easily with your customers.
ManageArtworks – packaging design for pharma, food and cosmetics
ManageArtworks caters specifically to the pharmaceutical, food, cosmetics and personal care industries. This advanced cloud-based printing and package design software offers an Adobe Illustrator software plugin that allows users to pull text from ManageArtworks to the Illustrator application, thereby easily dragging and dropping text onto artwork instead of pasting it from documents.
Basic design review and approval features enable designers to access annotations and remarks made by other artwork reviewers, even when opening the artwork in Adobe Illustrator. While most reviews of ManageArtworks are positive, some customers complain about glitches or a lack of simplicity of the user interface.
printQ – packaging design workflow
PrintQ is a leading edge packaging and graphic design tool that can substantially improve your graphic design process. Its advanced shape library allows you to make use of a wide range of ECMA (European Carton Makers Association) packages, which can be further customized through the addition of brand elements and labels. Within a matter of seconds, you will receive 3D preview models as well as PDF and CF2 files for production. This streamlines your packaging design workflow and enables you to produce better results. Most critics of PrintQ complain about its pricing model as well as unsatisfying customer service experiences.
Strata – packaging design tool catered to Adobe users
Strata offers a wide range of creative 3D package design software tools with a gentle learning curve, especially if you are already familiar with Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator. Whether you need to create shelf displays with your labels or integrate your packaging with scene composition features, Strata has your needs covered.
With Strata’s graphic toolkit “Design 3D CX 8” for Mac and PC, you can manipulate polygons, splines and primitives from scratch or insert existing 3D assets to the platform. Plus, you can easily apply complicated surface textures to produce photorealistic images. Although Strata receives generally positive feedback, some reviewers have complained about relatively long rendering times.
TOPS Pro – for pallet and packaging print designs
With TOPS PRO, you have all the creative graphic design tools needed to design your packaging or pallets outline. You can optimize your virtual packaging design by including quantity, arrangement and product orientation as part of the design process.
Additionally, TOPS PRO allows you to determine the most appropriate master carton size for maximum pallet layout efficiency. Furthermore, you can use this digital package design software to trim your box inventory and select the optimal shape of your existing boxes. However, keep in mind that TOPS PRO has an outdated interface and is not the most modern state-of-the-art software.
Best Practices for Better Packaging Designs
When optimizing packaging print designs, a capable software tool is indispensable. Now we are going to review best practices of packaging design and shelf displays so that you can gather inspiration for your next project.
Create unique packages that stand out
Even though this should be obvious, it is astonishing how many boring, standard packaging materials are still on the market in 2021.
There are way too many examples that demonstrate that a marketing team did not put any emphasis on the packaging. It is important to realize that your packaging catches the attention of your customers and can be one of the main reasons whether they opt for your or your competitors’ products.
Just take a look at the marketing material of Halo Brewery. The packaging of their alcoholic beverages not only catches your attention, but its design is perfectly in line with the brand’s exotic recipes.
Engage your customers
Depending on the industry, there are multiple ways to actively engage your customers with your packaging ideas.
For example, augmented reality (AR) solutions from companies such as blippAR help companies upsell their products. With blippAR, children can scan the QR code on Kellogg’s products to turn breakfast into a fun and interactive learning session. Through augmented reality, a cereal box can be transformed into an interactive jungle island hosting different mini video games.
These games were created to enhance the hand-eye coordination as well as math and science skills of children. The campaign was launched on 16 million cereal boxes across four brands in the EMEA (Europe, the Middle East and Africa) region.
Upcycle your packaging
How can you create loyal customers? One way is to let them keep your packaging materials so that they are exposed to your brand on a daily basis.
You can achieve this by adding value to your packages – this is where upcycling comes into play. Upcycling is not only a way to boost your marketing efforts, but also to save the environment and to reduce waste. Instead of throwing away your packaging, customers can become creative.
A very impressive upcycling example comes from Samsung’s TV packaging. The packaging box is imprinted with a dot matrix pattern as well as a QR code. After scanning the code, users can download a folding guide. The production template includes a lot of creative ideas for upcycling the box, including creating a newspaper stand, a tool box and even a cat house.
Packaging is about much more than just a paper box. You can be sure that a successful packaging project will contribute to the top line of your business. We hope that we have inspired you to boost and streamline your packaging design and content workflow. With the right packaging design software features, you can create unique, engaging and sustainable solutions to display your brand in the best possible way.