What is Packaging Design?

Brittney Beermann | February 23, 2021

The concept of packaging design can seem super simple when using an online partner like Xceed. Choose a box, add your graphics, viola! But did you know that each design had to be carefully built to ensure strength and reliability? 

Whether you’re customizing a mailer box or a shipping box, there are countless unique elements to ensure your packaging design is perfect for your products! 

Start by listing out the size and weights of each product. How do you intend to ship? How do you want them packed? Is anything breakable? Is the box printed? What else could you be forgetting? Don’t worry! We’ll break down each step to designing your ideal packaging and include some of our best tips for staying true to your brand. 


Packaging Design Checklist

You don’t need to be a packaging expert to design the perfect packaging. Our packaging specialists have put together the ultimate checklist with key information needed to create a custom box from the comfort of your own home.  All you’ll need is a computer, your product and a tape measure. 

Choose a Style

Mailer Box 

A mailer box is ideal for subscription and ecommerce brands. It offers stability in shipping while also providing a superior unboxing experience with it’s clean design. You can pack several items into a mailer box and add stunning graphics to the interior and exterior to complete the overall presentation. 

Shipping Box

A shipping box is more robust and meant for getting your products from point A to point B. While you can add stunning graphics to a shipping box, these are typically used for quick & easy packing and are less commonly used to enhance a brand experience. 

Beverage Holder

Beverage holders offer a fun and eye catching retail shelf presence and are perfect for breweries, wineries and spirit distributors. If shipping, an additional internal support or outer shipper is needed.

Still unsure of the style you need? Check out these different box styles to determine which one is right for you!


Determine Size 

Product Size & Weight 

It’s always a good idea to keep a detailed list of your product dimensions & weights. This info is helpful when determining the overall size of your packaging as well as the total weight you’ll be shipping. Packaging is measured in terms of Length, Width & Depth. Your custom mailer or shipping box should be able to fit the largest product you offer with room for additional products. 


Product configuration refers to the products you intend to ship together. Your packaging should be able to fit various products you offer keeping in mind the product dimensions discussed above. 


Choose a Material 


Material thickness can vary based on the size and weight of the product. Typically a custom box will be made from a thin E-flute or thicker B-flute material. For heavy duty products, C-flute will be recommended. All of the packaging products on Xceed are made from B-flute which provides decent strength while also offering a smoother finish for print. 


Most packaging substrates will be available in white or kraft. White is perfect for vibrant, colorful graphics while kraft gives a more “green & organic” feel. It’s also more cost effective so if budget is a concern and your print is minimal, kraft is still a great option!


Aside from the color, your white substrate will also come in a Premium Gloss or Standard White Matte finish. Although gloss is slightly more expensive, it does give the ultimate high-end feel without breaking the bank. Matte is still a great option if the finish is less of a priority.


Print & Graphics

Simple Logo On Exterior 

This is perfect for the “less is more” brands. A single logo graphic may illustrate the minimalism, simplicity and uncomplicated vibe of your brand. This strategy is common with clean skincare and cosmetics products.  

Full Color Graphics

Take the opportunity to wow your customers with full color, high quality graphics.  If your brand is all about individuality, self expression and wild imagery, then your packaging should compliment that! With printing technologies such as digital, there are no limits to what you can print on your packaging.

Product Details on Interior

This is our favorite way to reduce brochures and pamphlets that just get in the way of the unboxing experience. Save space and money by printing your product info, regimen or how-to directly onto the box. 

Artwork Guidelines 

For more tips on how to design print-ready graphics, check out our artwork guidelines here.


Will the packaging ship? 

Whether your packaging ships or sits on a store shelf there are some sealing options to consider to avoid the theft, loss, damage or opening in transit. 

Custom Insert

A custom insert is ideal for breakables or high end products such as skincare. It offers a clean, beautiful presentation and keeps the product secure inside the packaging. 

Additional filler material

This can include crinkle paper, foam, butcher paper, tissue paper and more. Filler material helps fill the box which keeps product from shifting. It also adds a unique & fun flare to the overall unboxing experience.  

Tape Seal

A tape seal reinforces the seal of the box keeping it shut during transit. While some packaging designs offer unique locking tabs, a seal is added security that you can feel good about. 


Determine Quantity

The quantity you order is based on a few factors: usage, storage space & budget. You don’t want to order too many or not enough so keep these three things in mind when determining your order quantities. 


Usage refers to the average monthly units shipped. If you’re only shipping 100 boxes per month, you don’t want to order 1000 boxes as you will be holding that inventory for 10 months. You also don’t want to order only 100 as you’ll be reordering almost immediately. As a general rule, order no more than 3-6 months worth of packaging components. 

Storage Space

Space can also be a deciding factory. If you’re packaging your product in your home, space may be very limited compared to a warehouse. 


The cost of packaging is completely customized to you. The size, print, material and quantity determine the price per each and it’s no secret that the more you order, the less expensive each box will be. Keeping this and monthly usage in mind will help you determine the ideal order quantity for your business. 


Designing Your Packaging for Your Brand

Understanding your customer and their need for your product can be easily portrayed in your packaging. Maybe your customers are looking for all natural ingredients or stylish fashion trends. The graphics and materials you choose can easily represent your brand, your products and your style. What do you want your customers to think or feel when using your products? This feeling and engagement begins at the unboxing experience. Try some of these creative design tips to build overall brand awareness and create a lasting impression: 


Sustainable/Green Products

There are numerous ways to portray sustainable, green, organic or clean products. Using a kraft material is truly sustainable as the paper is in its natural state and color. Minimal ink & graphics show the simplicity and minimalism of your brand. White ink is also trending which can give a high-end look without the high-end price. 


Luxury vs Necessity 

There is a difference between packaging for products that are for luxurious use vs. products that are a necessity. Luxury product packaging may include dark, bold colors, golds and metallics, or even a high-gloss sheen while everyday necessities may be packaging in a standard white box with images and graphics, product information and specific use instructions. 


Fun & Playful

The possibilities are endless when creating fun and playful packaging. Whether you opt for kraft or white material, there are no limits to the graphics you can create. Because custom packaging is typically printed on a digital press, you can get as creative as you’d like! Bright colors, patterns and images can be placed on the outside and inside of the box for an exciting unboxing experience with a  consistent brand message. 


Change it up!

Don’t be afraid to try different styles. With no minimum order quantities you can change your packaging design as often as you’d like. Created themed or seasonal packaging, product specific packaging, or various configurations can be as simple as an artwork change. Other considerations when choosing your packaging include: 


Damage in shipment

Before committing to a bulk size order, consider purchasing a 1 off sample to test its ability to withstand shipping as well as the total weight and internal support of your product. Various materials and styles offer unique benefits for your product. 

Size variability 

You may launch with only one size box, but as you obtain historical order data, you may start to notice that a second size box could accommodate half of your order shipments better. This may reduce shipping costs and product damage in shipment. 

Monthly usage 

As with any new product launch or startup, budgets may be tight. However, as your business grows you can review the monthly order data to either increase or decrease your packaging order sizes. Inventory that sits for too long is wasted money and inventory that depletes before the next shipment arrives is wasted time. Eventually you’ll find that sweet spot where you can adjust order quantities as needed. 


Design with Confidence 

Whew! There you have it! With this ultimate guide, we know you’ll be off to a successful start when designing your packaging. Following each of these steps will ensure your product arrives safely and in style, and you can feel confident that you’re ordering exactly what you need, when you need it. Go you!


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