Colour in packaging design

At the time of yest, I’m asked by students to answer questions about my career choices, path and packaging design as a subject.

I love to oblige, it actually means that I stop to think! Plus I LOVE to give back as I know how precious that time as a student is.

This is the second set of questions; from Lily Walker.

How important do you think colour is in branding/packaging design? And why?

Super important! Colours are used to evoke a feeling in the consumer. Something bright, bold and vibrant can instantly have a different feel to something pastel or dusky – even if they used exactly the same logo and typefaces.

Beyond this, colours for packaging can often be used to indicate flavour or scent; how strong something is or the tasting notes.

What are the main components that you take into account when choosing a colour palette for a product? For example, the age of the target audience.

Age is a big component- for example I recently worked with a client who wanted an element of fuchsia in her packaging design but we had to be very careful that it wasn’t too barbie (or child-like) We made it more grown up by edging towards a coral fuchsia (adding some yellow to the palette instead of a blue based pink.)

I consider flavour or scent profiles as the major factor, particularly when working with food brands. Freshness cues and also current trends are also in the mix. (Ie millennial pink! To ride that wave.. or not, for example)

Do you think negative associations with specific colours (e.g. red is associated with blood) are important to take into account when choosing a colour palette? Are there any colours that you have to be careful with when designing for products?

I’m not overtly aware of them on the surface but I think these come up on a case by case basis (and I’m probably subconsciously aware of them now.)

I’ve recently used red on a brand project called Wild Escape and never once made the connection to blood.

However I think it depends on the product and what you’re trying to communicate and the context. Sometimes red can be seen as a STOP sign, or perhaps cheapens the outcome, but it all DEPENDS!

If you’re working on something foody that needs to evoke lush rustic feels; then a bold red wouldn’t be appropriate; but generally I don’t hold that many associations front of mind. (Perhaps I do this intuitively now?)

I am always always careful with pink. As much as I love it, it can be very polarising. (Too young, too girly, some women will feel that it’s based on stereotypes.) I love designing with pink but I’m always careful to handle it delicately, with consideration and then make sure justification is clear as to why it will work.

I would also be careful to look at competitors and make sure that we don’t use colours that are similar – it sounds obvious but that is lesson 101.

What is your most used colour in packaging design? Why is this?

Most used is probably white.

I lean towards clean packaging design with lots of white space. It’s a challenger-style approach; you have to be quite brave as a product to use white because it’s a skill to make packaging really clean (yet balance that with patterns and colour profiles for flavour etc) If you look down a supermarket aisle, there’s so much shelf busy-ness, so white does stand out. (It’s also risky because they get dirty easily too, but that’s a different story!)

I also use pink / coral a lot. Not sure if I have a proper reason for this, other than it being a personal favourite. ????

Does your company research into colour psychology before choosing colours for products?

My company of one ???? doesn’t research colour theory any more; nor do I remember researching as such before, when I worked in agencies, but I feel it becomes intuitive after working on lots of brands.

There are category cues that are typical for packaging design.

For example purple is often luxurious…blue is used for pork (there’s a whole range of meat colours), lilac for garlic… then of course yellow is always a positive/uplifting colour, white can often be scientific/pharmaceutical based.

I’d say it’s usually about flavour or scent profiling plus the use of category codes/cues so that the consumer knows what they’re buying quickly. They’re used to picking up the same or similar colours (think the milk lids) and so aligning with this recognition helps .