11 packaging design trends to beat the competition

packaging design trends

Catching and keeping customers’ interest is like a high-speed, high-intensity sport. It’s tactical. It’s fiercely competitive. And it’s incredibly hard to get ahead. 

In this ruthless race to the checkout, one thing brands must focus on is their packaging design. And one way to do this is by staying on top of the latest packaging design trends. 

Of course, design trends are ever-changing. And blindly implementing them for the sake of sheer trendiness is probably not the best game plan for your product or brand. Instead, use them as inspiration. As an insight into how people are thinking, feeling, and buying right now.

The fast way to get feedback on packaging

Get clear and collaborative comments right on top of your packaging artwork.

Anyway, enough of pep talking (and dodgy sporting puns). Let’s dive into the top 12 packaging design trends of 2023, as well as what they can tell us about the modern day consumer. 

1. Sustainable packaging

Image source: Dieline

Remember how I just said that packaging design trends are ever-changing? Well, this one’s an exception, with more and more brands factoring sustainability into packaging design choices. 

This comes as the result of climate anxiety which has seen people around the globe make a more conscious effort to be eco-friendly. These feelings are of course fuelled by the rise in social media. But with billions of tonnes of plastic entering our oceans every year, it’s definitely an important shift. 

But because sustainability is top of mind for so many consumers, brands often go about promoting sustainability purely from a marketing standpoint, without making any meaningful change. “Hacks” for how to reuse old packing materials such as bottles and shopping bags is a novelty, not a solution. 

The best sustainable packaging examples are innovative and authentic. They put substance above style, but often end up being naturally stylish as a byproduct. Some interesting sustainable packaging design trends include things like edible food packaging, downsizing, and minimalistic styles that save on waste materials. 

This example from New York-based clothing retailer, Bscly. This brand stands out from other clothing brands for all the right reasons. Usually, whenever we order clothing online, it comes wrapped in layers of paper and plastic packaging. But Bscly’s minimalist outfit kits come in their iconic sugarcane boxes, which are 100% home compostable. What’s more, sugarcane grows faster than trees, it can be harvested annually, absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere, and returns some nutrients to the soil as it grows. A clever piece of packaging design, for sure. 

2. ‘70s retro design

Image source: Campaign Magazine

Packaging design trends are usually in line with other trends, like fashion and interior design. Because trends are influenced by people and culture, so they often expand across different types of media. And ‘70s-inspired designs are everywhere right now! 

This trend is big and bold. Some of its characterizing elements include: 

  • Warm colors like burgundy, mustard yellow, orange, and brown 
  • Wavy artwork
  • Squiggly brushstrokes and illustrations 
  • Bold sans-serif fonts

This packaging design style has made several groovy comebacks over the past few decades, thanks to its bright, nostalgic feel. When people are looking for a boost, or a break from the bland, the ‘70s re-emerges as a popular choice. This design is funky and playful so if that vibe is something that could work within your brand guidelines, it might be a fun one for you to incorporate into your packaging. 

You’ll see this design trend on almost every supermarket shelf these days (especially now that you’ll be looking out for it!), but one of the most notable examples is Burger King’s rebrand. Its new logo is almost identical to the one it used in the ‘70s, as a wholesome homage to its heritage. Their new packaging ticks every one of the elements mentioned above, for a simple, uplifting feel. 

3. Hand-drawn aesthetics

Image source: McQueens Dairies

Personalized packaging is another thing that’s winning customers’ hearts right now, with people appreciating those little touches that add a human element to the things they purchase. The world is becoming more digital each day, and that person-to-person connection is something that people yearn for more than ever. 

One way this comes to life in the world of packaging design is with hand drawn, handwritten elements. Even if the product itself is mass produced in a factory far from the point of sale, a rough, sketch-like style can do wonders for the way it’s perceived and the way it makes someone feel when they buy it. 

Every industry from beer to cosmetics has been tapping into this style of custom packaging design to build trust with their customer base. But one of my favorite examples is from the alternative milk brand of the moment, Oatly. Its hand drawn typography and bold, simplistic illustrations give the sense that this is a small batch product. Which, with a whopping $722m worth of sales in 2022 alone, we know is not exactly the case. And yet it charms us just the same. 

4. Textured packaging designs

Image source: Dieline

Another thing you can do to help your product stand out (literally) is move away from the traditional, smooth-surfaced packaging that we’re all familiar with. This innovative approach applies various different textures into packaging materials to create an engaging and memorable experience for customers. These textures are achieved by embossing, debossing, and adding pores or grooves to add some extra dimension to the product. 

It’s easy to see how textured packaging is on the rise. Unique sensory experiences are highly sought after, and when a shopper sees a textured bottle or box, they want to pick it up and see how it feels. They pay attention to the packaging which in turn brings them one step closer to popping it in their basket. Plus, more satisfied senses means higher product recall. 

Another good bit of news is that while textured packaging designs can give your product a much more premium look and feel, they won’t necessarily make a massive difference to your packaging and graphic design project management cost. This is because most of these textures can easily be added to the packaging material during the initial molding stage. This will of course depend on individual suppliers and manufacturing quantities. 

This example from Honour Essentials, a brand selling premium coffee and coffee-based skincare, is a lovely one. It combines a minimalist palette and style with different textures for a wonderfully luxurious finish. 

The fast way to get feedback on packaging

Get clear and collaborative comments right on top of your packaging artwork.

5. Transparent packaging

Image source: Amazon

This packaging design trend does exactly what it says on the box. It creates a sense of transparency between you and your potential customer. As a society, we’re always looking for honest and authentic brands. And being able to see the actual product before purchase makes people feel more confident about its quality. When it’s done right, transparent packaging will help build a stronger bond between your brand and your customers.

This design trend is usually most commonly seen with food and drink products as well as health and wellness. The clear space can also offer an opportunity to touch and smell products. Engaging almost all the senses, so there’s a fair chance no one’s licked your new pack of pre-sliced cheese. Yet. 

Like all packaging design trends, however, working with transparent materials is an art. And having a skilled packaging designer who specializes in creating designs that compliment the natural product is a non-negotiable. This cookie packaging example from Crimbles strikes the perfect balance between transparency and messaging. 

6. Minimalism

Image source: Bulk

Less is more. Enough said. 

7. Mascot variations

Image source: Bored Cow

This is one of my favorite trends on the list. Brand mascots have been popular for yonks. But until recently, they’ve mostly remained the same across all brand touchpoints, including packaging. They wore the same clothes and had the same stature. But now we’re seeing brands add variation to their mascot’s appearance between product types and flavors, with new clothes, movements, or attitudes. 

Bringing a beloved brand mascot to life is a wonderful way to put a twist on familiarity. These designs also often convey a fun sense of playfulness, like this example from Bored Cow. 

8. Wraparound designs

Image source: Bathing Culture

If you’re looking for a packaging trend that directly encourages customers to pick your product off the shelf, this could be the one for you. Wraparound label designs are tactically created to pique curiosity by having the product name, details, or patterns span around the packaging so that the full effect can only be experienced by holding the product and having a closer look at the full design. 

Wraparound designs also create a sense of freedom and fluidity by defying expectations that designs should fit neatly onto the front of the product. Taking things a step further, these designs become even more appealing to the eye when the patterns themselves come together and line up when the products are displayed side-by-side on the shelves. The chef’s kiss of clever design, right there! 

9. Big, bright colors

Image source: Packaging of the World

While minimalism is trending right now, so is the use of ecstatic colors. Grabbing people’s attention these days is harder than ever, with the world moving at such speed, and so many things competing for our attention. 

First and foremost,  these loud colors are there to get noticed. Packaging designers haven’t figured out how to make their designs talk yet. But if they could, this one would most definitely be shouting, “Hey! Look at me! I’m fun and exciting!”. 

But there’s more to this trend than meets the eye. There’s an emotional factor at play, too. Colors can have a profound impact on our mood. Brands are capitalizing on this to create an emotional connection with consumers, making them feel happy and uplifted before they’ve even opened the box.

10. Cartoons and comics

Image source: Design Week

Another style that’s been cropping up on our shelves is a kind of comic book design. I say comic book because the illustrations are often minimalistic, with a hand-drawn vibe.

And there are a lot of reasons why this is an effective design approach.

Firstly, this style plays with nostalgia – something that many Millennials and Gen Zers are fond of. For many of us, cartoons and comic books were a cherished part of our childhood. By incorporating this beloved style into their packaging design, brands can tap into something that really resonates with consumers on a personal level. 

Another reason is the way this style lends itself to storytelling, something which instantly helps humanize a brand. Using illustrations and character-driven narratives to tell your brand story and touch on different features and benefits is an engaging way to communicate with customers. 

And finally, this style allows the brand to appeal to a wider age range, as cartoons and comics speak to children and adults alike. 

11. Designs inspired by nature

Image source: Savon Stories

It’s a sad fact that with life moving at full speed, getting out in nature can often fall to the bottom of the to-do list. But humans have an innate connection to nature. And it can do wonders for our physical and mental wellbeing. As a result, people are on the lookout for alternative ways to reconnect with good old Mother E. So bringing natural elements into your product packaging could help you appeal to this type of audience. Depending on your specific product and brand guidelines, of course. 

These packaging designs also reflect society’s growing interest in clean, natural, eco-friendly products. For both personal wellness and environmental reasons. And at the end of the day, we’re somewhat simple creatures. Show us a box covered in leaves, landscapes, or earthy colors, and most of us will associate this product with nature. 

Industries like food, beauty, and homeware are leading the way with this design trend. But it can be weaved into any product category once it’s done in a genuine, honest way that’s authentic to the brand. 

Final thoughts 

In 2023, successful packaging design goes beyond mere aesthetics. It’s a tactical blend of innovation, sustainability, and emotional appeal. Embracing these trends while staying true to your unique identity and values will help you stand out from the competition and forge meaningful relationships with their customers.

I hope this article gave you a better idea of how consumer trends can impact packaging designs. And inspired you to strategically incorporate them into your next packaging design project. If you’re looking to simplify your packaging design review process, Filestage can help you out by streamlining your workflow for faster, more effective results. Start your free trial today.