The brief on branding and packaging design

The brief on branding and packaging design

Branding isn’t just the label on your packaging or your store logo. Branding has come to encapsulate so much more. The term captures how a business expresses itself, how it speaks and how it makes people feel. Branding is all the outward facets of a company’s identity.

Designing a brand is a bit like designing a person, says Kathleen Casford, founder of Brisbane based design and branding agency By Ninja. Kathleen has worked with companies from around Australia, designing branding for industries from hospitality to skincare.

“We look at the brand like we’re creating a person. How does it talk, what does it have to say?” says Kathleen.

Branding establishes who you are as a company, and is one of the most important ways to connect to your customers.

“Branding and packaging is important because it’s what’s going to differentiate you from everyone else,” says Kathleen.

“For a customer, they’re looking at a shelf and they’ve got all of this choice, and now they’ve got more choice than ever, so it’s really important to use that to the best that you can to differentiate yourself from everyone else and communicate your core ethos.”

With endless choice now available to customers, it’s more important than ever to focus on what sets you apart.

“Looking at what your competition does, what you stand for. Finding ways that graphically you can communicate that. It might be a choice of colour that’s different, it might be your design approach that’s very different, or your language,” Kathleen says.

For businesses, there is a lot to consider when investing in branding. Budget, target consumers, sustainability and function all come into play, and the options may seem overwhelming. Hiring a branding agency, although a higher end option, can save time and produce a high quality, consistent design output. For a more conservative budget, online graphic design services like 99desgins may be the way to go. The most important thing is finding a good fit for your company, says Kathleen.

“If you are going to invest in branding, finding a good alignment is important, understanding the difference in values. You can go to 99designs for things, and if that aligns with what you need to do, then that’s fine, that’s what it’s there for.

“Really focus on that alignment, because that’s where the best results are going to come from. If you don’t feel like they get you, then it’s probably not right.”

Taking unique approaches to packaging is one of the best ways to set your brand apart and show your customers that you understand their needs and the journey that the packaging goes on once it leaves the store. Kathleen and her team at By Ninja worked with Brisbane cafe Goodness Gracious, and explained the importance of understanding the function of your packaging.

“Something interesting that we uncovered when we were working with Goodness Gracious is that they were getting two normal cake boxes and stapling them together to get the height to fit these cakes in. And we thought hang on, you’re creating these incredible cakes that people were paying a pretty substantial price for and taking them to an event in something that was honestly quite hideous. So, it’s about understanding that process of what needs to go into it and then what that journey looks like.”

Once you’ve got the function sorted, experimenting with beautiful or inventive packaging can be a great way to help customers see that your brand is different.

“If you can, looking at thinking, ‘Ok, well instead of having a box, could I have a cylinder, or could I have a different shape. When it opens, is there something inside that’s unexpected that’s going to be a nice surprise for people.’ Just finding ways that you can break the mould a little bit,” says Kathleen.

If you’re considering a re-brand, we’ve gathered up a few ideas and styles for inspiration, with some inventive packaging designs from around the world!

The ‘Unboxing’

The ‘unboxing’ video is a YouTube staple. Videos of YouTubers opening boxes to reveal products garner millions of views online and routinely crack YouTube’s top ten videos of the week, side by side with mega pop stars. There’s something about a nicely packaged box that we can’t seem to resist, and beautiful, novel or inventive packaging can help your brand stand out. In a COVID world, the unboxing experience is more important than ever.

“Quite often for a lot of brands now, particularly with COVID, receiving something in the mail is the first physical encounter customers have with a brand. So, how can we make that a really memorable experience? How can we make them go, ‘wow, this is amazing, this brand really cares about me, I want to take photos of this, I want to record this. I want to have this experience again,” Kathleen says.


When US bakery chain Thelma’s came out with their ‘oven box’, customers went wild and the bakery won international recognition. Their boxes, capitalising on the love of ‘fresh out of the oven’ cookies, were an instant hit. Closer to home, Australian bakery sensation Lune knows the value of a recognisable box. With galaxy themed lettering and cut outs reminiscent of a Star Wars hyper-dive sequence, the box is its own experience. A recognisable packaging design promotes product recall and can be an effective form of marketing. The design is part of Lune’s larger brand narrative—the creator is a former aerospace engineer with an enduring love of croissants.

Think Sustainable

 Sustainable packaging will always be ‘in’. A 2018 study from HP Australia and Planet Ark found that over 90 per cent of Australians are concerned about the environment and sustainability. On top of that, two thirds of consumers surveyed were willing to spend more on environmentally sustainable products.

“There are some really interesting movements towards environmentally friendly solutions,” Kathleen says.

Transitioning to more sustainable packaging, like compostable or recyclable containers can be a draw card for customers and a great way to reduce your environmental impact. UK-based bakery Roberts launched a 100 per cent recyclable bread sleeve that can be thrown straight in the home recycle bin. Tip Top Australia has rolled out recyclable bread tags in New South Wales and South Australia to eliminate 400 million pieces of single-use plastic every year. In a climate where sustainable practice is more important than ever, these small changes can make a big difference.

Seasonal and occasion designs

While holiday branding seems to be creeping in earlier and earlier (hot cross buns in February! Christmas décor in September!), it highlights the power of seasonal design. Holiday branding is a fun way to engage customers throughout the year, fulfilling the desire for convenient gifts and helping your product stand out. Seasonal and occasional designs show customers that you’re in tune with their needs.

If Christmas clichés fill you with dread, consider other seasonal or occasional designs. Much loved Sydney franchise Bourke Street Bakery teamed up with video game creators to celebrate the release date of a special edition of Skyrim, a hit video game. Bourke Street Bakery produced quirky, video game inspired packaging for their Sweet Rolls, advertising that the scrolls added ‘+5 health’, mimicking the gaming language.

Australian Gelato empire Messina has capitalised on COVID-19 blues by creating ‘lockdown snack packs’, special bake-at-home editions of their treats branded towards lockdown cravings. Their creations sell out weekly.

Designing new packaging can be time-consuming and expensive, but there are ways to embrace the seasonal spirit without going over budget. Holiday packaging can be as simple as adding custom stickers, gift tags or holiday themed ribbon to existing packaging.

Minimalist + Modernist = Luxury

Many brands are finding luxury in simplicity, embracing the minimalist design movement.


Minimalistic design thrives on Instagram, and is a go-to aesthetic for social media influencers. Some of the most successful brands in the world, from clothing to technology, are driven by minimalist design principles—consider tech giant Apple, who have built an empire on their simple, sleek designs. The world of baked goods is no different! In 2012, Newtown’s Black Star Bakery hit the jackpot on Instagram. Their strawberry-and-watermelon cake went viral, becoming one of the most Instagrammed desserts in the world and launching the bakery to national treasure status. It even got a write up in The New York Times. The picture in question? A cake with crisp, parallel lines against a plain pastel background. The cake is a testament to the way simple colour palettes shine on Instagram.



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