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10 Packaging Design Trends to Look Out for in 2021

Apr 26, 2021 by Nikita Verkhoshintcev

Have you noticed an uptick in exquisitely packaged consumer goods recently? You’re not imagining things. Brands across the world have been pushing the limits of packaging design to satisfy the demands of online shoppers and stand out from competitors. 

Last year saw an overwhelming shift towards e-commerce platforms thanks to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, opening consumers up to an almost endless world of products. Faced with increased competition, brands have adapted their packaging designs to offer consumers better and more unique experiences.  

So, which trends are working, and how can you adapt your consumer goods to boost sales? We’ve put together a handy list to inspire you:

1. Textured packaging

Packaging design experts have long overlooked the importance of touch. While visual beauty may attract and seduce us, textures have the power to evoke strong emotions and nostalgic feelings. The shape and texture of leaves, for example, may summon feelings of calm and a love for the natural world. Smooth surfaces, on the other hand, may conjure up suggestions of opulence and high-end style. In 2021, brands are waking up to the power of touch and using features such as embossed labels and glossy panels in their packaging.

2. Intricate sketches and anatomical drawings

Forget minimalism. This year is all about leaving consumers with breathtakingly gorgeous packaging they won’t want to throw away. Brands are achieving this by encasing their consumer goods in intricately sketched designs such as engineering blueprints or anatomical drawings, offering intrigue and a slightly nostalgic feel. 

3. Packaging design that tells a story

We’ve known for a long time now that storytelling is an effective way to garner brand loyalty. As a result, brands are starting to tell visual stories on their packaging, incorporating comic book designs, elaborate scenes, and recurring characters that never fail to catch the eye. The trend is particularly popular amongst craft beer producers but is suitable for many kinds of consumer products. Just remember to think outside the box and offer stories that have not been told before.

4. Neutral Color Palettes 

Although there has been a marked backlash against minimalism over the past twelve months, many brands are choosing to stick to neutral color palettes to satisfy widespread concerns about climate change. Earthy and neutral tones tend to appeal to eco-consumers as they’re associated with recyclability and natural materials. If you sell consumer goods centered around sustainability such as natural cosmetics or eco-friendly garments, you may wish to cultivate a branded color palette featuring shades of brown, beige, off-white, green, and pastel blue. It is also, of course, imperative that you source recycled and recyclable materials to form the basis of your packaging.

5. Vintage designs

Most of us have experienced an intense longing for the past in recent months. Remember nightclubs? Hugging friends? Worry-free air travel? So-called “normality” feels like long ago, and many of us are feeling much more nostalgic than usual. 

As a result, many brands are incorporating nostalgic images in their packaging design. Vintage photos, old-school typography, and colors such as pastel shades and rustic browns are quickly making their way onto packaging for sweets, alcoholic beverages, and over-the-counter medical products.

If you sell timeless consumer products such as chocolate or coffee or own a brand with a long and compelling history, this trend may be for you. In fact, it could be linked up to the storytelling trend if you want to delight customers with narratives of simpler, more whimsical times. 

6. Abstract designs

Young consumers love investing in products that speak to their creative side. One way packaging design experts are achieving this is through bold abstract designs and prints. Forget sleek minimalism and boring fonts – if you’re looking to appeal to Generation Z, vibrant colors, eye-catching typography, and abstract shapes will boost interest in your brand.

7. Symmetrical patterns

Although many brands are playing around with imperfect abstract shapes right now, others are utilizing tight, perfectly symmetrical patterns that appeal to consumers’ desire for order and neatness. This trend has gained popularity in recent months, helping us deal with the demands of a chaotic world and offering consumers a way to de-stress and indulge their inner Marie Kondo. Perfection is key to successfully pulling off this trend, so remember to measure your designs to the nearest nanometer. 

8. Transparent windows

Consumers are becoming increasingly savvy when shopping online, making the most of product descriptions and reviews to make informed decisions. If you’re hoping to increase consumer trust in your brand amidst the noise, therefore, incorporating transparent windows in your packaging could be a smart move. Allowing buyers to catch a glimpse of what they’re purchasing – particularly for food and drink products – will boost confidence in your company and ultimately drive sales.

9. Color blocking

Color blocking represents an easy way to get your packaging to stand out from the crowd and convey your brand personality. Say, for example, you’re selling loose-leaf teas that are healthy, organic, and eco-friendly. Adorning your packaging with bold blocks of green or white will quickly indicate your product’s unique selling points. Remember that color blocking may also represent an economical way to package your products, as it tends to be less costly or time-consuming than creating intricately designed packages. 

10. Personalized packaging

After a year of social distancing and minimized human contact, many of us crave more meaningful interactions. To satisfy this itch, brands are emblazoning their packages with friendly messages that promote a sense of personal connection. 

Even simple sentences such as “open me and discover a whole new world” could encourage consumers to feel included in your brand’s message and promote further purchases. Indeed, such messages are particularly suitable if you’re selling a subscription service or consumable products that may be purchased several times a year. 

Another way to embrace this trend is to include personalized engravings or special gift tags with your consumer products. With fewer people giving gifts face-to-face nowadays, allowing shoppers to add their own message to products is an attractive feature that will help them stay connected with friends and family members.

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