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Minimalism is the most subtle packaging design cue that communicates a brand's quality. Through different periods of history it has been associated with classy design and respected reputation. The "less is more" concept, however, is complex for designers in the sense that it really comes down to the specific product and how it relates to a premium experience.

Evolution of Premium Packaging

Researchers have found that test subjects equate extraordinary packaging with lack of instrinsic quality. That means designers should focus on basic shapes and limit the amount of imagery and text on the package. Studies from the early 1970s indicated symmetry and unified designs commanded more aesthetic appeal than abstract imagery.

One of the keys to premium packaging last century from the perspective of designers was to focus on aesthetic value, which was believed to have a positive effect on people's perception of product quality. The use of chic font yields a more subtle design that consumers perceive as more harmonious for premium products than much fancier font styles.

Further studies have shown minimalistic designs associate with purity and are perceived as less commercial. Premium wine companies, for example, can achieve a better connection with target consumers by emphasizing product quality than elaborate packaging. This "de-marketing strategy" helps create impressions of substance over style. The Sourcy Pure Blue bottle is an example of this concept, as the bottle has a basic shape and with no extravagant design on the label.

Since the seventies cultures around the world have appreciated technology as the driving force behind progress. While premium food items are more likely to connect product quality with minimalistic premium packaging, an electronic gadget needs more innovative packaging to convince consumers of the product's quality.

Branding and Minimalism

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Once the brand name is established and widely accepted as delivering premium quality, it can command power on its own in shaping positive perceptions of products. Apple, for example, has become a leading brand of this era, yet its logo is merely an image and doesn't include text.

The logo needs to match the personality of the brand, while simplicity helps it become widely recognized and associated with specific values. Grandiose use of color, such as Apple's rainbow logo of 1977, can be overwhelming, which is perhaps why the company shifted to one color by 1995. Meanwhile, the company retained its minimalistic "bite out of the apple" imagery as a subtle metaphor for the "bite of knowledge" one gets from using the product. The company's use of flat-color logos as well as chrome and curved imagery helps convey style, sophistication and sleekness, which summarize the brand.

A more recent study published in the Harvard Business Review found logos that include a clear visual reference such as Apple or Starbucks connect better with consumers than abstract symbols. While minimalism is still an important factor for certain premium brands, the most effective logos use a textual or visual design element that associates with what the brand offers. When consumers aren't able to make an association between a logo and a brand's products due to lack of descriptive design elements, they may be unimpressed or confused by it.

Conclusion

Over time perceptions of a product may change once a consumer becomes familiar with the brand and develops a sense of expectations about it. Keeping the packaging design elements simplistic is a way of conveying the product speaks for itself in terms of quality. But each premium product associates with a variety of images, emotions and experiences, so designers must remember to craft the packaging to fit the intended values associated with the specific product.

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References

[1] "Desjardin Cataloge (2020)", by Eric Stefan Kandelin Koons

[2] "Designing a Premium Package: Some Guidelines for Designers and Marketers(2014)", by Ruth Mugge, Thomas Massink ,Erik Jan HultinkLianne van den Berg-Weitzel

Topics: Metal Packaging, Luxury Packaging, Packaging Design, Fancy Tins, MetalPackagingInSocialMedia