50 Shades of Gold – Top tips for designing Luxury Packaging
Packaging designers are often asked to help people with their bespoke Luxury packaging design. While the economy seems to be in turmoil, people are turning towards quality and longevity in their product choices as they can see the benefits of spending more now to save money in the future. With the growing awareness of the impact our buying decisions have on the environment, past trends of cheap disposable products is becoming superseded with a different type of purchasing behaviour.
As companies differentiate themselves in the growing personalisation and artisanal craft markets, businesses are reaching for new technologies and techniques to help instil a quality feel in their short run luxury packaging.
But isn’t gold just gold?
While Trends in jewellery for example vary between styles and preferences in fashion choice, design choices in luxury packaging can also follow current trends. Recently subtle variations of foil choices such as gun metal and rose gold seem to be on the rise, but there is a huge range of colours and the choice and availability can be overwhelming, but firstly it helps to understand a little about how these colours are applied.
As the title of this post infers, there are many ways of describing gold, or reproducing the colour of gold the element which can vary from a yellow gold, to a pink rose gold to bronzes, brassy colours and variations in between In reality, gold when used in jewellery can be mixed with other metals or finished to give different colours or textures affecting the way we see it in light. Pantone, has a range of 4 gold colours in their ‘standard coated metallics’ range, which extends to 18 colours in their ‘premium metallics’ range, when you add in just the top 3 metalized film (or hot foil) suppliers in the UK, there’s another 40 or so colours making a total of over 60 variants of gold (if not hundreds) which can be bought off the shelf.
How do we achieve these colours and effects in packaging?
There are 3 things to consider when creating a gold metallic effect. The colour or pigment, the finish or surface texture and the reflectivity. The colour can be created by using an ink (for example the pantone range of colours) which has a reflective or metallic pigment mixed into it, or it can be created by using a combination of ink colours applied to a reflective (e.g. silver) board or substrate. The surface finish can be anywhere on the spectrum from gloss or smooth/shiny through to matt and dull. The textures can be created using varnishes applied after printing using a texture or pattern, a film laminate can be applied or an emboss or patterned texture can be impressed into the surface of the gold pigment. The reflective amount will be affected by the finish of the top coating as well the base material. If a glitter or course metallic pigment is applied to the ink, it might reflect the light creating a sparkle effect as the grains hit the light at different angles on the surface of the material. There are also a number of ‘holographic’ effects which can be created using microscopic patterns to create a multicoloured ‘rainbow’ effect as you might see on the surface of oil for example.
The material choice and the printing process used can affect the type, thickness and opacity of the ink applied. This means that there is a wide range of the levels of reflectivity, metallic or ‘shiny’ effect that can be created giving a range of freedoms to the designer. This variation, however, does give it’s challenges too, as a designer who is inexperienced in using the reflective colours may struggle to be able to visualise the final effect until it’s in production and on the shelf (which might be too late!)
One way to achieve a more consistent effect is by using a hot foil which is applied to the surface of the printed sheet. This can also be combined with a fluted foil such as those produced by lasercomb dies which combines the foil effect with an emboss or pattern. Hot foiling is more suitable for logos and icons rather than big colour areas, but sometimes this subtle effect can add a nice touch to a simple and elegant design.
So with so much choice how do I chose the best method for my project?
As with all creative endeavours, packaging design is subjective in it’s nature, so the look and feel that you have in your mind when creating your luxury packaging design may have a different impact on someone else. As well as the relative nature of luxury (i.e. what are you comparing against or more importantly, what is your product sat next to on the shelf), this can be impacted by market sector, location, cultural heritage and also more technical variables such as viewing environment. The best way, therefore, to make decisions is to compare all these factors in situation using the correct materials, finishes and colours. While a full ‘wet proof’ mock-up might be costly, there are also ways to create ‘3D visual mock-ups‘ and ‘printed prototypes‘ which can help to display the effect in a much more cost effective way before going to press.
By looking at the correct materials along the correct artwork and colours the finished result should be easier to visualise and help with the decision. It’s also important to get feedback from others so that you can account for different opinions or feedback from your target market audience.
How do I create luxury packaging with high impact?
Cheap and tacky vs. luxury quality; sometimes we can look at a product packaging on the shelf and make an instant decision as to the product quality. These things can be difficult to define and quantify, but my top 3 tips are as follows:
1) Use a subtle, but limited pallet
By combining two to three colours which complementary materials and subtle textures, you can create a luxury feel with little effort. Try a minimal approach with contrasting surface finishes and textures and lots of space for the logos and icons to breath, designed carefully, the product will sell itself. Good quality materials and manufacturing techniques, good fit and carefully considered construction can make a huge difference between luxury quality and high Street ‘Kwality’ (my observation is that if a logo includes the words luxury or quality in big letters, it probably isn’t!)
2) Employ cohesive decision making
While there may be things that you can’t change, the brand logo for example. There may be ways that you can display the logo to work in keeping with the rest of the luxury packaging design and the look and feel that you’re tring to create. All the elements must work effortlessly together. Good packaging design is about communication and in this case the materials, colours textures and images should all work together in harmony to give the same message. If you have a subtle texture with clean lines and high quality materials, then a huge shouty brand logo, the mismatch in messages will be enough to confuse the buyer and ruin the whole effect.
3) The little details can make a big difference, so choose carefully
Careful choice in materials and design can be enhanced with textured ribbons and attachments. Additional information can be applied with a high quality label in a contrasting material to add information in a subtle and interesting way. The little details can make a big difference to the whole effect, so make sure that each element is thought about within the context of the overall message. This will help to differentiate your luxury packaging brand from your competitors.