From creating a brand identity to enhancing the functionality of a product, packaging design is essential to the marketing of any brand in existence. One of the most important roles of an FMCG packaging design is to influence the purchase decisions of potential customers. With a consumer-centric approach, Design Thinking can help you enhance your packaging design and level up your brand marketing game.

Did you know a consumer purchases a product within 5-7 seconds of their interaction with the product’s packaging? At a supermarket, you are exposed to approximately 50-70 brands pitching almost the same stuff with the same messaging. Yet you purchase only one of them. This is the power of a great packaging design. More than being an attention-grabbing aspect of the brand, FMCG packaging design taps into the consumer subconscious. To be at the top of your marketing game, giving attention to retail packaging design is more important than ever.

As packaging design is driven by consumer experience, keep Design Thinking at the core of your packaging design strategy. The idea is to build a unified brand that communicates to consumers to create a fiery FMCG packaging design.

Packaging can be theater, it can create a story – Steve Jobs

What is Design Thinking and Why Use It To Create Your FMCG Packaging Design?

While you create an FMCG packaging design, always stick to a rule – “It’s never about the brand; it’s always about the consumer”. From the consumer viewpoint, the excellent design translates into an articulate, easy, and enjoyable experience. Brands need to be adaptable and foresee the requirements of the end consumer. Always be prepared for a “next step” product to avoid a mismatch between the brand’s promise and the user experience.

If you merely consider the aesthetics, you are likely to miss out on the deeper connection of the brand with design. We see excellent packaging for poor products far too frequently. It appears that the folks who make the product have never communicated with those who create the packaging. Why do the product and the package differ from one another? There is frequently a reluctance to change packaging procedures that have been in place for years.

Although Design Thinking has been around for a while, it has lately been recognized by businesses worldwide. Design Thinking is a human-centric approach that takes into consideration the consumer experience while creating a solution. In the case of packaging design, it guides the designer to keep the needs of the final user at the core. When applying design thinking principles, incorporating empathy creates the foundation for designing any kind of packaging.

But, how do you apply the process of Design Thinking to the next redesign of your retail packaging design?

Also Read: Importance of Design Thinking for Business 

5 Design Thinking Principles to Enhance Your Retail Packaging Design


The application of design thinking begins with the design team, who asks questions from experts in R&D, product development, production, and sales. Since they have access to all key decision-makers, the design team pools its resources to deliver a seamless product. The above-mentioned packaging approach is followed keeping in mind a strategic five-step process—empathizing, defining, ideating, prototyping, and testing. Let’s examine the five design thinking steps and how to make use of them.

1. Be empathetic 

Empathy is the first phase in the design thinking process. While planning to design FMCG packaging design, ask yourself a few questions about the consumer of your product. “What feeling does the packaging give to consumers who will use the product?” “What challenges are they facing that need a solution?” “What do they want from the packaging?” “What kind of design looks attractive to them for the product?” In a true sense, try to understand the FACE of consumers’ expectations from the product and packaging F-Functional, A-Aesthetics, C-Commercial, and E-Emotional.

As you empathize with the end user of your product, you’re likely to create product packaging that is relevant to the user and not what you think is relevant for them. For instance, take a juice carton. When the concept of a tetra-pack juice carton came into being, it was highly appreciated for its recyclability and how it made porting liquid from one place to another. However, the only thing that was unappreciated was how it used to open which led to unnecessary spilling. Over time, the retail packaging design evolved with the use of technology and now we have a spout cap at the top which makes pouring easy and effective.

The gist is to spend some time learning about the end-users of your product. You can even conduct a survey asking what they want from an FMCG packaging design of a similar product as yours. If you succeed in connecting with your target consumer, they will start to see you as a dependable brand and resort to your products to address their problems.

2. Drawing insights and defining design principles 

Once you understand your consumers’ packaging needs, proceed to the next step: drawing insights and defining design principles. A notable example highlighting the importance of this process is the Tropicana packaging redesign failure. This former American fruit-based beverage company attempted a redesign to refresh its image and attract new customers. However, the new design, which removed the iconic ‘orange with a straw’ imagery and introduced a glass of orange juice with an orange-shaped cap, failed to resonate with existing or potential customers. The brand’s identity as a ‘100% pure orange juice brand’ was lost, resulting in a generic design with no value. This costly mistake could have been avoided if Tropicana had consulted its consumers before making the change, saving $35 million. Utilize consumer insights at this stage to establish design principles and create a range of rough sketches based on consumer feedback.

  1. Ideate

Continue to expand on the first solution you came up with! This stage is often referred to as the “yes, and” step. At this point, you should build a solution by fusing your extensive knowledge of the consumer with the issues you are attempting to address (or any gaps that may exist) while creating your FMCG packaging design. Finding a comprehensive answer for your customers is unlikely to come from a single brainstorming session with your coworkers in a conference room. Make sure you’re being diligent and going the extra mile to meet the needs of your customers.  

While creating an FMCG packaging design, ask yourself these questions: Do you have any further thoughts to add to this? Are there any other approaches you might use to advance it? Can this also integrate a different problem? Continue until you run out of ideas. There is no such thing as a terrible idea, so remember that when you’re in the ideation stage, you can never predict where a proposal might lead.

When ideating the designs, try to tell a story through your packaging that tells your brand’s vision and connects it with the consumer. For instance, the famous blue box by Blue Tiffany & Co. has been the symbol of gifting since its inception in 1878. The famed Blue Tiffany & Co. box has evolved into a universal representation of wealth and sophistication, and collectors and jewelry fans today covet it nearly as much as the jewelry itself! Given that it is, to put it simply, just a blue box, the fact that it has been called “the most recognizable and most sought retail container in history” is evidence of its enormous success.

Many believe that the founder Charles Lewis Tiffany chose this shade of blue because affluent women of the period were fond of turquoise jewelry. At the time, the color would have been associated with the finer things in life, and once the luxury brand had made a name for itself as a high-end product, it was fairly challenging to overcome such a reputation. In essence, a number of factors were at play in this situation, including the widespread use of turquoise, the color’s association with luxury around the world, and the brand’s continued promotion of this notion. All of these elements combined to make those tiny blue boxes more of a status symbol than a means of packaging.

4. Prototype

This step is the most exciting one! It’s not always easy to see a design’s flaws on paper or a computer screen. By building a prototype, you can actually see a working example of your retail packaging design and assess which elements are effective and which ones require improvement. This is your opportunity to collect more precise requirements and market input.

While prototyping, the goal is to fail as quickly as you can because, in design thinking, failure still counts as success. When a prototype fails, it usually means that you received the proper input to enlighten the areas that need improvement and have a better understanding of what would work.

Generally, FMCG packaging can be created using CNC machining, injection molding, and 3D printing. You must take into account if the plastic material you have chosen is appropriate for the specific prototype procedure. For instance, polypropylene is a plastic that is perfect for machining, whereas ABS is a substance that is better suited for 3D printing. Will the material be suitable for injection molding if it is not suitable for the other two processes?

While designing the FMCG packaging, the maker must also take into account the material to be used during the making of the prototype. Consider using a material that can be recycled to create the final packaging. Manufacturers typically advise thermoplastics over thermoset materials to ensure the plastic may be recycled or reused.

5. Test, and keep testing!

As early in the process as you can, test your innovation prototypes while still making sure that what you’ve created appropriately reflects the course you’re taking. You can optimize a successful design more quickly the earlier you can pivot in response to feedback.

While taking feedback for your FMCG packaging design from customers, chances are you start to feel like your approach is going back once you start putting these designs in front of users for feedback. If you feel so, there is nothing wrong with that! Simply continue to Ideate and Prototype while incorporating what you learn along the way. This also indicates that you have reached the last stage! Keep iterating until you have a successful design that meets user needs. Precision comes from testing and incorporating feedback. Even if it takes multiple tries, you’ll create a design that customers truly need

The Bottom Line


A retail packaging design and marketing strategy take a lot of work to develop. In the end, applying design thinking to your strategy of creating an amazing  FMCG packaging design can be incredibly beneficial. The content emphasizes the importance of investing in high-quality packaging, highlighting that all customers will interact with it. It highlights that packaging is vital for your brand’s image and can shape buyers’ perceptions, even without ads or website visits. Therefore, it encourages investing time and money in outstanding packaging design that resonates with customers.

If you follow the above-explained stages of design thinking to create your retail packaging design, you will be able to make the biggest impression on your customers and earn lucrative sales for your business!

About the author

Anuradha is a passionate Design Thinking practitioner with 10+ years of industry experience. She has dived into the field of Design and Design Thinking, where she is trained to design experiences. She is the Founding Partner and Design lead at Humane Design and Innovation (HDI) Consulting. Her professional career spans across various roles in Advisory, UX Design, Service Design, Engineering Design, Design integration, and Training. She was the lead designer of the Design Thinking and Innovation practice at KPMG. She has designed multiple digital experiences by conducting strategic UX workshops and design experiences that add functional and emotional value. To her friends & peers, she is the Bonding Agent of the team and always a go-to person. She is an avid reader, blogger & painting enthusiast.

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