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Aside from the excellent beer and awesome burgers at New York City bar, Idle Hands, Packaging & Label Design: Opportunities For Design Innovation: Part 1 discussed the importance of packaging and label design as marketing differentiators, especially in highly competitive, high end and niche markets. In part two we continue the conversation with Devon Wade, a Digital and Interactive Marketing Manager who completed a graduate thesis on niche marketing while studying at NYU and Carmela Davis, Branch Operations Manager and Recruiter at creative placement agency Update Graphics.

Trend spotting and analysis are part and parcel of graphic design. It’s important to know what the market is responding to and why, as well as knowing when to be on trend versus breaking from it. I asked Devon to share her thoughts on current packaging design trends: “Packaging is always a very important part of any brand, and the most critical factor in brand recognition. This is especially true for brands that find themselves in very dense, competitive markets, such as beer or wine. If a customer is standing in front of a shelf with dozens of options, most unfamiliar to them, the logical course of action will be to start with the packages that are most visually appealing.

Packaging trends in the beverage industry have been leaning toward clean, modern looks, with focus on typography and minimal graphics. Consumers seem to be drawn to labels that look current, but are not overly trendy.” Devon also offered advice to keep in mind when designing for high-end markets. “When dealing with products that serve a discerning group of adults the visual brand should always maintain a certain level of class, but if the designer can simultaneously accomplish a slight feeling of whimsy or intrigue, then they would me much more likely to pull focus on those very crowded shelves.”

Since market trends potentially translate into hiring demand I was curious to investigate whether or not increased competition in the market would correlate with an increase in demand for packaging designers. Anecdotally I had already noticed that there seemed to be an increase in the number of graphic design jobs calling for designers to have packaging design as part of their skill set, but job search site Indeed.com showed demand for the actual title “packaging designer” in decline, and on LinkedIn’s skills page the term “packaging” has a slightly down percentage rating of -5%. The discrepancy between what my trend antennae were telling me and the data made me wonder if the “packaging designer” role had become integrated into the general design title.

Carmela Davis from creative staffing agency Update Graphics was gracious enough to weigh in. The question I posed to her was: “My experience indicates that there seems to be an uptick in the number of graphic design jobs calling for designers to have packaging design as part of their skill set. But, Indeed.com shows demand for the actual job title “packaging designer” in decline. Have you noticed any increase in a demand for packaging design skills from your clients?” To which Carmela responded, “We have been seeing an uptick in clients requesting designers with packaging. The pharma and wellness industries (boutique & private) seem to be moving away from hiring packaging companies to create for their product to creating the look/feel in-house. They may hire someone else to execute it, the concepting for it and the brand are being generated at the ad agency level.

I think the packaging market place is trying to differentiate itself and upgrade how its function is seen; a requirement and perfunctory, versus driving a product purchase. In order to get great designers (who don’t want to be marginalized in packaging for their whole career) involved, there needs to be a new team spirit involved in this market. Packaging will always be relevant, because your goods have to be housed in something to get them from the marketplace to the home.

There has been some stagnation in the field, because the pool of people who focus on it has decreased. It is hard to lure new talent to join permanently. Perhaps building a concepting or brainstorming team, that mixes general Art Directors and packaging Art Directors (sometimes they do this in Pharmaceutical Advertising) would infuse the creative juices forcing thought outside of the typical and reorganizing their design process.”

Devon and Carmela’s comments provide interesting insight and perspective on packaging. Meanwhile, sustainability concerns continue to be an important factor in packaging design as shown by comments from Adam Avery, President & Brewmaster, Avery Brewing Company in an article on Marketwatch.com regarding their choice of Ball Corporation’s Graphics Center of Excellence and use of aluminum can packaging “Aluminum cans offer a 360-degree billboard for brands to establish and build upon their brand message, and are the number one recycled beverage container in the U.S.—a fact that is increasingly important to sustainability-minded consumers.” Read more about sustainability at Ball here.

Let us know what you think by posting your thoughts and comments below.

Disclosure: Nicole Spiegel-Gotsch is registered with Update Graphics and is a fellow alumnus of Devon Wade in the M.A. program in Graphic Communications Management & Technology at New York University.