Part 3 Of 4

Cosmetics and Personal Care Packaging: outside inspiration

By Deanna Utroske

- Last updated on GMT

Design expert Leslie Sherr is well known for her work as a writer, editor, and brand consultant.
Design expert Leslie Sherr is well known for her work as a writer, editor, and brand consultant.

Related tags Personal care packaging Design Creativity

Packaging design that’s functional, compelling, and elegant seems intuitive but requires a special combination of powers: observation, creativity, technical knowledge, and an historical appreciation for the cosmetics industry.

Packaging makes a first and lasting impression on consumers, and, in the beauty business, that impression is everything. For this, the third in a four-part series on contemporary personal care packaging, Materials and design expert Leslie Sherr, who is also a co-author of the forthcoming Material ConneXion book, Material Innovation: Packaging, spoke with Cosmetics Design about wide-ranging sources for inspiration and how tiny tech is impacting beauty packaging.

Well done

Packaging designers for cosmetics and personal care brands adeptly create containers that work because, Sherr says, they excel at three key tasks:

  • Expressing a vision of the target customer’s lifestyle
  • Cultivating desire
  • Embodying a set of brand values, especially when the goal is to make luxury accessible

Smart packaging takes product design into consideration, and in no small measure. Sherr explains further, “effective packaging design combines 3-dimensional form with graphic design. The ideal discipline for learning about how to create a beautiful and highly functional container is product design. From conception to ergonomics, material expertise and production craft, a grounding in the concepts of product design provide a springboard for packaging innovation.”

Beyond beauty

Finding inspiration, Sherr tells Cosmetics Design, is paramount early in the packaging design process: “Learning to step beyond obvious solutions and uncover unexpected sources of inspiration as a way of increasing the potential for innovation is among the primary challenges of the design process, specifically the ideation phase.”

She advises designers to brainstorm without limits and come up with as many ideas as possible, and she recognizes that “many of the most exciting packaging ideas are coming from individuals working outside of the packaging profession; students, scientists and inventors who, motivated more by passion and innate curiosity that corporate imperatives, are arriving at ingenious solutions that are also sustainable.”

While there’s a fair amount of overlap between confectionary and cosmetics packaging, a sturdier industry, like architecture, links up well with beauty too.  “Both are a direct response to the human body and human activity. Retail spaces, especially, can be viewed as yet another form of brand packaging, with the same communicative power as a design that can be held in one’s hand,” ​Sherr tells this publication.

Tiny tech

Contemporary materials themselves inspire new packaging design. “The miniaturization of technology…allows digital components to be embedded in packaging designs. They provide an enhanced layer of communication that can be triggered by external stimuli,” ​says Sherr.

While this tiny tech is “predominantly seen in liquor bottle designs whose illuminated surfaces take advantage of a nightclub’s dark environment, the potential for designs that emphasize glowing surfaces or a luminous progression has obvious conceptual carry-over for beauty packaging.”

And that’s not the only responsive packaging option. “Mechano-active materials can change their shape, rigidity, elasticity and permeability in response to various stimuli, such as moisture, heat or electricity. A hair or face mask, for example, that is optimally applied when heated can be packaged in a container that folds down flat for shipping and hardens into a vessel when hot water is poured into it,” ​explains Sherr.

In tomorrow’s instalment of this four-part Cosmetics and Personal Care Packaging series, Cosmetics Design digs up the latest on sustainable materials.

Read part one, material solutions​, and part two, top trends​.

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