Feature: Packaging


In uncertain times, our human instinct looks for comfort in the familiar and the fun. Ariane van Mancius, of Now New Next, explores how onboard designers are doing their bit to lighten the mood

We are living through incredible times of change and disruption, everything we thought we knew seems to be changing, new norms are being asserted and unsettling transitions are underway politically, economically and culturally worldwide.

For many these seem like challenging and deadly serious times but as marketeers and product designers, like the rest of us, try to work out just which way the future lies, an exciting trend towards lightening the mood appears to be emerging fast.

Fun and playful designs are making their way onto the market and perhaps that’s because during stressful times, we are drawn to things that remind us of our childhoods, things which speak to a more innocent and problem-free time and make us smile.

Increasingly brands are opting for playful, light-hearted elements within their packaging, developing fun design ideas that appeal to the consumer’s inner child.
Here are just a few to watch out for or try yourself…

Flower Power

With the world increasingly connected and even digital natives starting to feel they spend too much time glued to theircomputer and phone screens, a back-to-nature counter trend is emerging which sees the rise of botanical foods and a focus on jungle prints and themes. Exaggerated pineapples, giant banana leaves and lush jungle foliage are all getting in on the act, bringing a little piece of untouched wilderness to our day-to-day product interactions.

Peek A Boo

Traditional staples can be ‘dressed’ to inspire too. Packaging which uses film windows to give a preview of the product inside can be styled playfully – so the pasta can become hair to the friendly face printed on the pack; or the beans can become a bean-filled smile.

Story Time

Packaging is becoming a storytelling device too, it is a place where businesses can add personality to their product and increasingly they are delivering that story with humour, whether that is through the use of fun fonts or with quirkily drawn characters. Humour can be an effective tool to help cement the narrative of a product in the consumer’s mind.


Food itself has become more creative and colourful, with new flavours and unusual ideas and fusions all making their way into the market. Alongside this has come demand for colourful packaging designs to match. Bright and brilliant combinations of colours turn ordinary foods or packaging into something gorgeous and outstanding. Something that can turn heads and get people talking.

Cartoon Time

We never really grow out of the pleasure gained from cartoons and in packaging they can help with storytelling or add a fun, approachable vibe around a product. They can turn the focus away from the serious discussion of the food and its ingredients and instead set a mood around the brand, inspiring a connection with the consumer to which they will want to return to regularly.

Word Play

Youthful graphics, fun and informal fonts and even hand written messages and quotes can create a point of difference between products in the market, transmitting the philosophy and intentions of the brand with clever word play and eye-catching slogans or quotes. Over time consumers start to look to the packaging and the product for new slogans or quotes and are engaged with the word play game, looking out for new games or interactions when they buy.

Play Time

Just buying a product and eating it is no longer enough, now it’s time to play with it. Becks has tried it with scratch-off bottle labels which encourage drinkers to really engage with their beer until they reveal a hidden image; while others have offered origami beer labels to help pass the time; and wine companies have tried adding quizzes, games and crosswords to their labels for added interest.

There are chocolate bars shaped like moustaches and presented on sticks for facial pranks before eating, and cheese pencils you can sharpen into curls before you eat. Lays crisps has added faces to its packs so users ‘wear’ the bag to create a funny-face game after eating, a game designed to tap into the selfie generation and encourage consumers to share the brand through photos with online friends.

Food Labs

Nothing beat a hands-on experience and increasingly consumers are being encouraged to roll their sleeves up and get personally involved with the products they buy. You can, for example, now design your own toast. Toasteroid‘s “smart-toaster” lets you create your own designs via a smartphone app then put your bread into the companion toaster and out will pop your one-of-a-kind toasted doodle. While that might not work onboard, The Gray Malin Sprinkle Carry On Cocktail Kit certainly does – giving passengers a chance to create their own vodka cocktails, complete with decorative sprinkles.

Colour Confusions

There was a time when popcorn came in just one colour, now its flavours are numerous and it is available in a multitude of colours. The same is happening with other food types too. You think you know the colour of a pizza base, at least, but now it may come black to make you do a double take, challenging the norm and bringing surprise to the table. Contrast and the unexpected are becoming the design norm in creative offerings so expect to see pure water in a black bottle, for example.

Shape Shifting

We may not know the shape of things to come but we can be sure the shape of products and packaging is changing fast. Witness teabags shaped like fish or teepees; boxes in interesting and unusual shapes designed to make a product stand out from the crowd, made to make the consumer do a double take and engage.

Get Personal

Nothing speaks to the consumer so directly as a product with their name on and the combination of food printing technologies and package personalisation, is fast making this kind of product increasingly achievable, in small batches at least. Ideal for adding a truly premium touch to the First passenger experience.

Stamping Sets

Who didn’t love a stamping set as a child, the wonder of being able to reproduce the same image over and over again brings hours of joy, so when we see motifs and stamps regularly printed across packaging the simple but effective creation of such designs reminds us of past times.

Mind Games

Increasingly food products aim to surprise us by mixing ideas and creating edible goodies in the guise of something not usually meant for eating; or presenting treats in an unexpected form. So we see edible pearls and chocolate playing cards, or chocolates dressed as sardines and presented in a sardine tin. These products are designed to make the consumer look twice, and smile.

Functional Form

Packaging has to work and if it can add to the function of a product so much the better. So glass shaped packages which contain the wine, ready to drink; or butter servings with an integral knife to use for spreading make perfect sense.

Touchy Feely

Increasingly as consumers we are picking up and studying a product before we buy. Make the product good to handle and add in tactile packaging, embossed or ridged textures or otherwise enhance them so they are nice to touch and you effortlessly decrease the chances of the potential purchaser putting your product back on the shelf. Expect to feel all sorts of new textures in your favourite product range soon. •

Ariane, of Now New Next, has worked in marketing innovation for 15 years. She deals with over 150 airlines and is passionate about translating trends into products. nownewnext.nl