The Evolution of Packaging
Where once packaging was arguably only about logistics, the medium has undeniably evolved over the years to be a part of the marketing message for brands.
It’s unthinkable for today’s graphic designer or marketer but once upon a time, singular items would be wrapped in leaves or paper and the idea of branding would be ludicrous. Even when times moved on and items started being more conveniently packaged in wood or glass, though beautiful in their way, it was a purely practical exercise – designed to protect and preserve items rather than sell them.
This was all turned on its head in 1823 by the renowned grandfather of preservation, Peter Durand, the man behind the world’s first tin can patent. It’s a type of packaging that has stood the test of time. Some of the most iconic brands come in tin form – from Heinz Tomato Soup to Tate & Lyle’s Golden Syrup – and though its popularity stems from preservation, it was companies like the two just mentioned that harnessed the power of branding to bring packaging squarely into the 20th century.
Just as tin was taking its place on packaging’s main stage, a new contender was coming to the fore. Plastic was first invented by Alexander Parker in 1838 and presented to the world via London at the 1862 Grand International Fair. It took until 1870 for plastic to be used commercially but the most amazing part about this omnipresent material is that people didn’t actually know what plastic was until 1920. Such was its reputation, those in the packaging world didn’t seem to mind and it rose in popularity until the real boom came along in the 1950s.
If the birth of modern branding could be pinpointed anywhere, it is often said to be the age of mad men. As the world entered a seminal era, a 1949 study showed that less than 99% of Americans could identify a bottle of Coke by shape alone – such was the emerging influence of marketable packaging and branding on consumers.
With the 60s came a whole new take on packaging and with up-to-the-minute production processes, brands had to think about en masse appeal. While design was unquestionably at an iconic time during the 1960s and 1970s, convenience for the paying public was also taking an important step forward.
Released in 1961, no invention quite epitomises this like Tetra Pak, a polyethylene-coated carton paper that was waterproof and allowed for the contents to be heat treated. It was revolutionary – UHT foodstuffs such as milk, juice and preserved fruits could now be stored for up to a year without being chilled, which effectively slashed distribution and storage costs while greatly expanding shelf life.
By the 1980s, pre-formed flexible plastic styles were increasingly seen on the shelves as bulky shapes fell out of favour and consumers craved ease of use. Another great example of a packaging shape synonymous with a particular brand, and so characteristic of its time, the most iconic of these pouch styles is surely the juice drink, Capri Sun. The stand-alone pouch with its notoriously difficult straw became a part of the brand’s very identity, championing a flexible, no-mess, lunch box perfect product that made easy work of keeping kids refreshed.
While the main materials used remained much the same during the 90s, this was undoubtedly the decade of design. It seems every brief taken during that time may have had the words “really stand out on shelf” because never have so many colours and patterns been seen together in one place. The need for more biodegradable options certainly started to rise in importance though, as even the humble packing peanut was developed as a more non-toxic, environmentally-friendly, starch-based version.
With that in mind, the latest word in packaging might strike many as obvious but it’s a worthy challenge for packaging designers everywhere. Ensuring that the way we package our products is environmentally friendly, recyclable and kind to our oceans has become of utmost importance to many consumers and brands have reacted appropriately.
A great example of this refreshing new attitude comes from popular Pepsico brand, Naked Juice. The company recently transitioned to a 100% post-consumer recycled plastic bottle and called this revolutionary step forward, the reNEWabottle™. It is a packaging trend we expect to see a boom in the next few years as brands realise that sustainability is a high priority for consumers. It is the perfect chance to innovate as well as make a real impact on the environment.
If you think your packaging need’s to evolve, why not talk with our Creative Director Tamsyn Port on 0115 981 6276 to see how you can push your brand forward, ahead of the crowds.