It’s the start of a whole new year, so that means a forecast of the top packaging design trends for 2020!

Now an important part of the marketing toolkit, opportunities for branding and creative packaging design are more numerous than ever for small businesses. As online retail becomes more competitive, increasing numbers of brands are turning to premium eCommerce packaging to gain a competitive edge.

As a result, we are seeing more and more businesses pushing the envelope with innovative designs. From new advances in sustainable packaging to Instagram-worthy illustrations, let’s take a look at noissue’s 2020 packaging trends!

Subscription Box-inspired Packaging Designs

Subscription boxes have gained a new level of popularity in the past few years, as brands such as Dollar Shave Club and Birchbox gained mainstream recognition. With consumers prioritizing a memorable brand experience more than ever before, subscription-style designs are set to be a major packaging trend for 2020.

Packaging design plays a major role in the desirability of subscription boxes, so it’s not surprising that this is having a wider influence within online retail. In eCommerce, the moment of delivery is your biggest touchpoint as a brand. Premium eCommerce packaging has therefore evolved into a clever post-purchase marketing strategy to inspire brand loyalty.

Natural skincare brand TaraLee Naturals showcases this trending packaging style for a more premium brand image.

In practice, executing this design trend successfully requires a strong brand presence, curated product presentation, and plenty of flair! This more thoughtful approach to order fulfillment is akin to the traditional PR package. Why? Because in the age of social media, every consumer is a potential influencer.

Top Design Tips:

The unboxing experience is paramount. Top packaging designs always consider the consumer’s role in the unveiling of a product. A great unboxing is like a piece of theatre - to really wow your customers, you need to create an engaging ritual upon opening. Think tissue paper for a touch of luxury, attractive packaging inserts, or a custom box - all of this adds anticipation and excitement to the purchase!

Consider the spacial constraints you are working with. For a memorable design, it’s important to think about how you will be using your packaging. Different applications allow for some really cool effects. We love how The Book Playbox has printed a quote on their custom tissue paper to line the bottom of the box for a fun surprise!

Be social media-friendly. Do you know that 40% of consumers will share photos and videos of a purchase online if it came in premium packaging? It’s one of your strongest pieces of social media content, so make the most of it! It’s a fantastic visual pitch to potential customers about what makes you distinct as a business.

Eco-friendly Packaging that is User-friendly

It’s no secret that green is ‘in’ where packaging design is concerned, and this trend will continue to grow throughout 2020. As businesses take a pro-active approach at managing their waste output and carbon footprints, sustainable packaging has gone from having fringe appeal to being adopted by every size of business.

As well as protecting the planet, environmentally-friendly packaging carries some serious currency with consumers. 62% now say that they would be more likely to buy from a brand that uses eco-friendly packaging!

The World Economic Forum in 2018 saw over 250 major companies pledge to use 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging by 2025. Yet despite this, 43% of consumers say that brands are making it harder, not easier, to be eco-friendly.

Why? Because consumers are tired of managing packaging designs with difficult disposal needs. eCommerce packaging is the biggest culprit, with its habit of overpackaging and using unrecyclable materials.

From shoppers leaving food packages in supermarkets to mailing packaging back to manufacturers, consumers are feeling more empowered than ever to show their frustration over complex packaging. So, sustainable solutions with easy disposal processes are set to be one of the biggest 2020 packaging design trends.

Top Design Tips:

Downsize! Sustainable product packaging isn’t just about whether materials are recyclable or not. Using less packaging in the first place means that there is less to dispose of! In many cases, extra layers of packaging provide little extra protection. Plastic shrinkwrap in particular are difficult to recycle and won’t protect items if a package is dropped. Instead, try using paper or cardboard elements. This is an easy way to progress to a plastic-free packaging design!

Think compostable. Compostable packaging is definitely on the rise in 2020 as consumers and businesses look more towards plant-based alternatives. The packaging industry has risen to this demand, and there is a growing number of options on the market (like our backyard-compostable mailer bags!) It’s a great statement to customers that your brand is embracing innovative solutions to protect the environment.

Consider reusable packaging methods. By adopting a packaging design with secondary uses, you are helping to create a circular economy that reduces waste and adds extra value to purchases. Furoshiki, the traditional Japanese art of wrapping presents with cloth, is a trending packaging style on Instagram - it makes parcels look great, and provides customers with a fun hair wrap or tote bag to keep!

Take the time to educate your customers. Putting only a recycling symbol on your packaging provides little clarity to customers, as many materials still can’t be collected in regular curbside recycling. Ensuring that customers have access to detailed information about your packaging helps to ensure that your efforts at being eco-friendly won’t be undermined by incorrect disposal.

Storytelling Through Packaging Design

Packaging has an irreplaceable role in brand storytelling, which is why we have listed it as one of our top packaging design trends for 2020 after first including it in 2018. As retail becomes increasingly virtual, custom-branded packaging provides a tactile counterpoint that is sure to get your customer’s attention.

We live in a world where our attention spans are growing ever shorter, and catching a person’s eye on saturated platforms like Instagram is becoming a bigger challenge.

Being a successful brand is no longer just about the products you sell - but how you can give them a point of difference through brand presence.

In particular, we are seeing the adoption of custom packaging by newly-launched online brands to give them a stronger identity from the outset. When the vast majority of eCommerce packaging is generic, putting effort into a packaging design that reflects your identity will really help to set you apart.

It doesn't matter whether you’re inspired by flat illustrations, bright colors, or the latest graphic design trend; custom packaging shows that your brand offers a premium brand experience, not just a product.

Top Design Tips:

Think about what parts of your story are likely to resonate with your audience. Every brand has some fun anecdotes behind it. Capitalizing on these in your packaging design is a memorable way of showing customers that your brand is special and unique. Paper goods brand Tay Ham, for example, puts old family photos on their packaging to draw attention to the fact they are a family-owned business.

Words than be just as good as images. Including a short quote or saying on your packaging that sums up your brand’s mission is a great way to engage your customers!

Surface Pattern Designs

Where a paired-back packaging design was once a fantastic way to stand out from the crowd, it’s increasing popularity in lifestyle branding has made it more difficult to be unique. While minimalism is still trending for packaging design in 2020, we are also seeing a big rise in heavily patterned designs.

Ornate packaging designs give your brand a lot more room to get creative and portray your brand story in a really interactive way. It’s not about slapping your name or logo wherever possible, but using imagery that expresses your values as a brand.

This trend also makes it easier for your brand to channel a luxury vibe. Intricate detailing allows product packaging to become a piece of artwork in its own right, to be treasured by customers when their order arrives. As we’ve already mentioned, consumers are prioritizing the customer experience much more in their purchasing decisions. Pattern designs are evidence of a more thoughtful approach towards delivery, which will really impress your customers!

Top Design Tips:

Channel your brand’s aesthetic for a cohesive style. To make the most of this top packaging trend, you need to make your brand personality really tangible. Look at your product range and take note of any recurring themes or styles - this will help your design to spark familiarity with your customers.

Make use of repeating designs and patterns. Trying to bring in too many elements can make your design look chaotic and cluttered. Sticking to a handful of items on repeat will allow you to execute this trend seamlessly.

Think about color combinations. You want to use colors that are going accentuate rather than dumb down your packaging design. Using white on a darker color, for example, is an easy way to make your illustrations pop!

Neutral Color Palettes

Taupe, off-white, rose, baby pink…there is no doubt that soft shades are a go-to design trend for 2020. It’s a new twist on minimalism that is a noticeable step away from the traditional black and white packaging that is common within high-end retail.

Although the latter is stylish and timeless, it isn’t a good fit for every brand. Where classic monochrome can leave your brand feeling a little flat, soft neutral tones on packaging is warm and welcoming while maintaining a classy feel.

Although these shades might feel a bit safe and conservative for packaging design, there is a lot of room to liven them up with patterns or geometric shapes for a more modern effect!

Top Design Tips:

Consider using more than one shade. Including multiple neutral tones in your packaging design helps to add more depth and interest. Try consulting the Pantone color guide for some inspiration.

Take advantage of the subtlety. A low-key packaging design will help your goods to take center-stage in your product photography, rather than consumers focusing on the packaging itself. Consider using it in flatlays for a more upscale look!

Add a statement color. If you are using a neutral base, including a contrasting color in the form of a sticker or packing tape will help to draw attention to those key branding elements.