The Latest in Package Design

Each year, the packaging design experts at The Dieline round up the best consumer product package designs and forecast the latest trends in their annual report. This year, we’re thrilled to share an exclusive preview of our findings with the IHAF community, specifically two emerging trends in packaging.

In analyzing patterns across the increasingly dynamic landscape of design, we spotted one unifying concept: idealism. What we’re seeing is not simply optimism or a celebration, but a longing in the designs themselves—as if they are attempting to preserve a lost world or an echo of what was.

Perhaps it’s a sign of the times that there is an underlying theme of escapism going on among designers, as if anywhere is better than where we are today: childhood, nature, the past. The duality of idealism in design is interesting because it implies discontent on one end and hopefulness on the other.

As we analyzed the top package designs of 2016, five distinct visual categories emerged along with eight consumer shopping trends. We are excited to share the first two categories below, inviting you to follow us at or subscribe to our newsletter for the full report, available later this month.

Nature IdealizedThe aesthetic of the natural world seems to be inspiring many designers. Color palettes, textures, shapes, and proportions speak the language of the great outdoors. In the crowded aisles of supermarkets, sparse shelves of curated stores, and scroll of online shopping, these packaging designs transport consumers to another place. Pantone’s color of the year, Greenery, evokes the start of spring and new beginnings. This color, along with products in simple packages trimmed with light, floral illustrations paint an idealized picture of the world. This works because of how we experience nature today. We are shopping for a purified version of the natural world, one that is "insta-ready," clean and well-composed. We may not actually want nature or even have time for it. This idealized experience enables us to opt in or out when we feel the urge. This is nature, pre-packaged.

An Idealized Past.
 Vintage block type contrasted by hand lettering. Blind embossed background patterns. Ornate crests. Lithographic illustrations. Packaging design is newly inspired by visuals of the past. Rather than repeat the past however, these designs are a refined, selective look back—an idealized past. Driven by nostalgia, they fetishize hand-crafted, rugged, intricate ornateness. They harken back to when there was time to spend on painstaking details like setting type and carving woodblocks. Interestingly, this trend is particularly present in the food and beverage industry, born out of customer desire for food to be made in smaller batches by hand instead of by machine. In today’s hyper-processed world, we long for simpler times. We are nostalgic for an age when producers knew and cared for their products. Many brands have picked up on this, generating products and packaging that elicit such emotions. Some brands have even gone beyond packaging, rediscovering the craft of producing goods that are indeed good.

There’s much to be gleaned from the world of design, especially when it comes to packaging. Be sure to download our full report, released later this month by The Dieline. We will also be discussing these trends and more in a panel discussion entitled “The Death of the Supermarket” at this year’s HOW Design Live. Register by Tuesday, January 24 using promo code IHAF10 and get 10% off your ticket price.

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