David Airey is an independent graphic designer working with companies of all sizes since 2005.

Minimalism in packaging design

An interesting project from the folk at Antrepo, taking a few examples of product packaging and stripping them back to the bare bones. It’s titled a minimalist effect in a maximalist market.

downgraded brands?

downgraded brands?

downgraded brands?

Do you side with the left, the right, or somewhere in between?

More examples on the Antrepo blog, via the ever-helpful Blairo.

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38 comments about “Minimalism in packaging design”

  1. I actually prefer the middle option. The right ones look too generic and don’t stand out enough. I think that the middle ones are a great compromise between graphics and minimalism.

  2. Super article.
    More often than not the less complicated and fussy the better. Simple idea, clear branding and straight to the message = a clear winner.

  3. Some of these work, others don’t. The cornflakes one definitely doesnt work, but arguably Nutella and some of the others on the website do, such as Lindt.

    The problem with a lot of FMCG packaging is that it has to work in context (in store) and sales go up when relitively small changes are made to the packaging as people seem to think something new and exciting has happened.

    It’s an interesting project, but you can’t treat packaging as just a logo on a pack. Consuming is emotive, packaging has to reflect that.

  4. For the top and bottom, I would go with any of the options. For the cereal I would go with the left.

    One of the first rules about product/food photography is that you have to “show the stuff”. The minimalist designs of the cleaner and the Nutella pull this off because you can see the product inside. The cereal does not pull this off, nor would it if the container was clear because you want to show a delicious-looking bowl of cereal and consumers want to see that.

  5. Definitely agree with Jon. The top and bottom work, but being able to see a consumable product (e.g. cereal) is important for the UX of buying it. Especially if I’ve never eaten it before, I want to see what it looks like.

    Really cool idea though.

  6. I would nearly always side with the center-right designs as I love simplicity. However, I would still expect careful consideration from the designer as I agree with Lee; a logo placed simply on a box or carton does not necessarily mean good design in every instance, even though I do believe that less = more. There will always be products that benefit from the opposite treatment. Nice post and experiment.

  7. Visual identity is not just the logo. Package design is a combination of all the elements that makeup the product. Stripping down those elements takes away its identity.

  8. Love the topic and comments. Initially I was drawn to for the cleaner the last option. For the cereal the first option. For the hazelnut spread the middle option.

    But then I pictured myself in the store buying the cleaner and I think it would get lost when most of the other cleaners would look like the first choice and the generic store brands having less detail. Would the average person appreciate the design emphasis or feel that its was a lower budget product.

    For the hazelnut spread I would still go with the middle option because I think your limiting the use of the product showing the toast.

  9. Wouldn’t designers love it if designers were the only consumers? While design sensibilities tend toward the right, the truth is, in the frenzy of grocery store, minimalist doesn’t stand out. There’s a certain energy that’s lost, and energy that I think translates to fewer sales. So while it might make a better design, this isn’t about aesthetics but dollars, and the proliferation of busy is an attribution to it’s success.

  10. For top and bottom I’d say the right hand side, They’re wonderfully simple, and you can see the product, you know what it is.

    for the cereal, I agree with some others here. It just doesn’t work. I can’t see the product, I don’t know what it’s like (granted I still don’t with a cartoony illustration, but even that is better than nothing). I would imagine a great one there would actually mix the simple version, with the illustration.

  11. Minimalism doesn’t work for that corn flakes box. I think for Nutella too, because the picture helps a person to see how the product is intended to be used. Helps to decide faster and to not forget to buy bread for it. Same for many products.

  12. I forgot. I would choose *left* for all products. I’m betting it will generate more sales.

  13. In the options where the packages are transparent, i prefer the minimal option on the right, but on the opaque box, the left option.

  14. great experiment. Thanks for passing it on. I agree with …. it depends

  15. Really interesting article – despite really loving the minimalist approach, and appreciating the beauty in it, I agree with above comments saying a balance needs to be made – If you’re trying to sell a product with a style like that, you’ve got to really rely on your brand image and reputation – If an unknown business tried that, they’d probably shoot themselves in the foot…
    Very nice find though!

  16. For the first one, I’d be slightly closer to the fence, because what sells it for me is the color of the liquid. Yes, I think like a five year old when I enter the department store.

    But for the other two, it’s the left one all the way. Minimalism, in my opinion, really can’t work in food and beverage packaging. It just cannot rival the epic power of good photography. The pictures on the right make me think, “Hmm, nice design”, but the ones on the left make me hungry. Nuff said.

  17. I like the minimal design, but I like the middle options.

  18. I agree with it depends, bur more importantly for me is the fact that stripped down all the way on the right, the type works by itself. That part doesn’t lose anything in itself for any of the options in my opinion.

  19. I really like the Nutella, although the corn flakes don’t do a great deal for me. Perhaps it’s because Nutella is recognised as a brand, and product, in its own right (at least to me) whereas corn flakes are more generic?

  20. I think that minimalist design is an ideal. I disagree that clear packaging wouldn’t work for the corn flakes. I have seen lots of granolas is clear minimal packaging that work just fine. We see hundreds of thousands of ads everyday…without ever entering a store, 99% of it we do not see or think about because our brain protects us from overload. Simple clear quiet branding can go along way to cut through all the “noise” of advertising that is just overload anyway.

    But from a design standpoint, in the end I don’t think the corn flakes make it, because the design, in and of itself, is not all that great. Balance, color, typography, style, and branding (corn flakes is not a brand anymore), were better to start with in the other two products.

  21. Have you ever bought a cigarette pack? I haven’t, but there are no pictures of the product, that is inside the box, displayed on the packaging.
    I personally think the Nutella packaging is really awesome! The right Cornflakes packaging is something missing, because you don’t get an idea of what it is all about. There is no message. Is it good for your health or your vitality etc.? I think some little basic elements could help.

  22. Perhaps it has something to do with my Asian mindset. We generally strive for a perceived sense of prosperity rather than affluence or style, so our visual interpretation of success is very elaborate, very full, very….VERY. I don’t quite remember seeing any local brands or designs that involve minimalism.

  23. I agree with Lee Newham-interesting as an exercise but packaging requires the designer to know the product and the consumer.
    Minimalism might work on certain projects if the product/service dictates.
    Applying a rule or system to a project just doesn’t work. This why we have designers-to interpret the given information and give the consumer a clear understanding of what the product is and why they would want it.

  24. I like the examples on the right the best every time. The only thing better than minimalism in web design in my opinion is minimalism in package design. Simply beautiful…

  25. “I like the examples on the right the best every time. The only thing better than minimalism in web design in my opinion is minimalism in package design.”

    I can’t say that the corn flakes box is very appetizing in the minimal packaging.

  26. Love this article. I am a HUGE fan of minimal designs. Most of my designs are minimal. The first one I like the minimal, but the other two i am a fan of the middle.

    GOSH, yes i still love this article. Thank you for sharing this.

  27. Wow, I never really realized it until looking at these graphics – but I’m definitely a “minimalist” is more person. In other words, I would (as a consumer) gravitate toward the product on the right, every time.

  28. I prefer the right hand side. The minimal designs would be very effective amongst over-designed competitors. But if everyone did the same, it wouldn’t work. It’s the comparism that’s striking.

    John

  29. Great subject David… humm !!! Nutella!

    For me this kind of minimal packaging is most effective when we actually see the product such as the Nutella, Mr Muscle and Schweppes examples. But for examples like Corn Flakes where you can’t see the cereal until you open the box I think it’s less effective even if the brand is widely known. I must say however that most of the examples shown are attractive regardless that they are pertinent or not but that’s mainly because that is the kind of design style that I prefer.

    Cheers

    Joe

  30. Loved it at first, the cool product not trying so hard, then the more I imagined it on the store shelves the more I thought of bargain brands. The cyan packaging with the yellow writing that just says “Corn” or more recently the yellow box with the black writing. Less is not always more.

  31. I really like the 3rd one for Nutella, it looks really striking and quite classy. For the corn flakes I prefer the 1st option, it feels like the visualisation of the product being missing from the 2nd & 3rd options would negatively affect the brand and they look a bit generic when compared with competitive brands. As a few people have already said, not being able to see the product affects the effectiveness of the minimalist design.

    With Mr Muscle I’m torn between the 2nd and 3rd options, both look really good.

  32. Very interesting indeed. I think I also side with the middle option on most of the above. I’d imagine that although with my designer head on I prefer the far right, its main audience may think this to be a ‘basics’ or cheap ‘own brand’ version rather than a well designed option.

  33. It would have been interesting seeing the products in their natural environment in the shelfs, only then would it be possible to judge how well (or not) it works. I think the Nutella would have looked great, but the Mr. Muscle with its transparent content could be worse.

    That being said (written), I agree with Jon regarding the importance of seeing whats inside.

    Anyways: this is a interesting project, as stated by Airey.

  34. I think it works depending on the brand itself and the style of the company logo.

    Nutella for instance I think this is an amazing look for them. But on Cornflakes I feel it’s all wrong and just looks cheap.

  35. I think the fully simplified design works well on products where the contents are visible. It definitely doesn’t on the Corn Flakes imo.

  36. There’s certainly something to be said for minimalism, but sometimes it completely purges the iconic nature of the brand.

    Nutella, for instance: I feel very passionate about Nutella! Not only do I love the logo and the black/red/white colors, but I adore the contents inside. The clear container with white lettering has “raped” the product of its symbolic colors, not to mention the relative “sentimentality” that goes along with holding the container.

    Thanks for an interesting juxtaposition.

    Robin P.

  37. It’s an interesting project and a good argument for packaging being about more than slapping a logo on a container. The designs on the right look too generic for most of the items but I do like the all blue Red Bull can on the website.

    At first the simple Nutella design seems to work but if you look closely it’s overly simple almost “naked”. The product looks a bit like makeup and not at all appetizing; you need the picture of Nutella spread over toast.

    I had no idea that Nestle made cereal.

  38. They do say that less is more!

    Considering some of the well known brands/logos – they are basic (amazon, google, BAE).

    Interesting post and great pictures as usual David.

Anything to add?

Comments may be edited or deleted if I don't like the cut of your jib, but that's quite unlikely.