New Call-to-action

Deep in every consumer's mind are perceptions about the world. These perceptions don't just develop randomly, as they are shaped by multisensory input. This input comes from thousands of experiences over time stored in memory and then are triggered by associations. These associations also develop over time based on experience with a product and its corresponding packaging.

New Call-to-actionKeys to Multisensory Packaging Design

Packaging design should be a reflection of what product values communicate. If the product's attraction is that it's economical, the package should convey efficiency without necessarily looking cheap. Multisensory perceptions come from the senses of sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste. Research shows people have strong memories of aromas. When it comes to food products, smell is very important, as it contributes to perceptions of taste.

Visual stimuli is obviously vital since it's the most relevant sensory function for shoppers with vision at a physical retail store. Meanwhile, the sense of touch plays a much bigger role in purchasing decisions than designers might imagine. Texture is sometimes overlooked as an important part of packaging that connects the shopper with the product. If the packaging doesn't match the consumer's expectations in terms of how it feels, they might change their mind about buying the product.

Multisensory Factors that Affect Purchasing

Researchers have identified "need for touch" (NFT) as a dynamic that's part of the human evaluation system for judging products. But not everyone shares the same NFT triggers when it comes to shopping. The term "haptic" refers to the relationship between the sense of touch, perception and manipulation of objects. Researchers use the term to explore how touch relates to nonverbal communication through physical contact.

Earlier this century various haptic studies, such as those conducted by Peck & Childers, looked into different forms of NFT and how they connect with consumer purchasing behavior. They found that "autotelic" touch involves consumers seeking fun without a purchase goal. For consumers seeking to make a purchase, essential factors that shape purchasing decisions are visual presentation, weight, texture and firmness or compressibility. These factors all influence consumer expectations.

The term "tactile" is also used by multisensory researchers to refer to a type of haptic feedback divided into two strands of touch: tactile (feelings felt with fingers and skin) and kinesthetic (internal muscle impulses). Tactile feedback involves the brain interpreting vibration, pressure and texture. Measuring the effects of this stimuli can be very challenging and expensive for researchers, which is why there's still a big gap in this area of knowledge.

New Call-to-actionA Designer's Focus

Packaging designers should be aware of the relationship between multisensory perception and consumer response to different types of packaging. Despite the need for deeper studies, researchers have learned that each individual consumer has their own unique perceptions that associate with the five senses. Although no two people have the same exact associations, generalizations can be made about certain market segments.

So it's not necessary for a designer to study the deep science of consumer psychology, but he or she should understand that people judge products by how packaging appeals to the five senses. The designer should focus on the target market with an understanding how consumer values and expectations of sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste affect purchasing decisions. From this knowledge, the package should be designed with appropriate colors and textures that fit expectations of the product.


Multisensory perceptions are more important to packaging than many designers realize. Utilizing studies on consumer tests can help inspire ideas for packaging that resonates with target consumers. Remember that all five senses are active and influential parts of human communication.



[1] "Haptic Aspects of Multisensory Packaging Design (2019)" , by Charles Spence, Crossmodal Research Laboratory, Department of Experimental Psychology University of Oxford

[2] "Multisensory Packaging Design (2017 - today)" , by Charles Spence

[3] "From Disgust to Desire: How Products Elicit Our Emotions (2004)" , by Pieter M. A. Desmet, in Design and Emotions, edited by Dena McDonagh et al.

[4] "Luxury branding: the industry, trends and future conceptualisations (2015)" , by Yuri Seo and Margo Buchanan-Oliver

[5] "Food packaging: The medium is the message (2010)" , by Corinna Hawkes

[6] "Multisensory design: Reaching out to touch the consumer (2011)",  by Charles Spence and Alberto Gallace

Topics: Metal Packaging, Packaging Design, Fancy Tins, Multisensory Packaging Design