10 Elements of Good Product Label Design

 

There are no hard and fast rules that you can follow in order to create a well crafted product label design. However, most of us recognize an appealing design when we see one. Why? Because there are certain elements that will make a product label design attractive and compelling. This article will guide you through the main design elements of a product label design and provide tips on how to use these elements to your advantage.

1. Color

To grab the attention of someone who is casually walking the aisles of the supermarket you need to use color well. The color you choose for your label is dependent on a number of things. What color is your container? If you are using a clear container, then what color is the product? You need to make sure that the colors you choose for the label don’t clash in a negative way to lessen the visual appeal of the entire package. Luckily there are tools to help you choose colors that will work well together. Adobe Kuler (kuler.adobe.com), ColourLovers (www.colourlovers.com) and ColorBlender (www.colorblender.com) are tools that you can use to help choose attractive color combinations for your labels.

2. Graphics

An eye catching graphic will also help draw attention to your product. With stock photography and illustrations so inexpensive these days you can find a graphic for your labels at places like iStockphoto.com or Photos.com for just a few dollars. You can then use these images on your product labels, just be sure to check the license agreement. In the case of iStockphoto you can use most images for up to 500,000 product labels without buying an extended license. A picture really can be worth 1,000 words on a product label as a compelling graphic draws the eye to your product.

3. Readability

Speaking of type, your choice of fonts is a critical decision and deserves just as much attention as choosing color and graphics. Don’t choose one of the standard Windows fonts such as Times New Roman or Arial, and also avoid overused fonts such as Papyrus or Monotype Corsiva. Don’t be afraid to try something new and different – there are thousands of unique fonts available online – just go to fonts.com or 1001freefonts.com. The important point to remember is that you want good looking type that is easy to read.

4. Fontsr

Speaking of type, your choice of fonts is a critical decision and deserves just as much attention as choosing color and graphics. Don’t choose one of the standard Windows fonts such as Times New Roman or Arial, and also avoid overused fonts such as Papyrus or Monotype Corsiva. Don’t be afraid to try something new and different – there are thousands of unique fonts available online – just go to fonts.com or 1001freefonts.com. The important point to remember is that you want good looking type that is easy to read.

5. Material

Before you even begin the design process you need to consider the label material. Your design needs to "fit" the material. Common material choices include white, clear, or a cream textured paper. Clear material allows for a "no label look" that can be very striking if you have a colored container or product. Take a look at Palmolive original dish soap – this is a product that uses a clear label very well. A simple design with white ink, it really shows off the striking green liquid inside. White material gives you the most flexibility with design, because you can make white into any color you like, or you can just use the white background. For an old world look, a textured cream paper can be very effective and is popular with wineries where you want to convey a handcrafted image.

6. Label Finish

Whether you choose a glossy or matte finish to your labels is a judgment call depending on the kind of image you want to convey. A matte laminate can provide a more classic look that is very easy to read, whereas gloss will add some impact to the colors on the label and provide a shiny, reflective look. A good example of the matte look is the Honest Tea brand of bottled teas. In the highly competitive beverage market they have a more subdued look with a simple product label design that works really well with the matte finish. If you can’t decided between matte and glossy then do a small order of both and test it – see what people find most attractive.

7. Label Size

If you are using a round container then you most likely have a choice – do you want one large label or separate front and back labels? Front and back labels allow you to elegantly separate the front branding information from the ingredient and regulatory information but they can be more expensive than a large wrap around label. If you go with a wraparound label then it is important to keep a front "panel" with the vital branding information because that is what the consumers will see as they are browsing the aisles.

8. Shapes

You can really draw attention to your label by using an unusual shape. This will require the initial investment of a new die which can cost several hundred dollars depending on the size and complexity of your design. Heinz ketchup is one example of an unusual shape done well – the keystone label shape has become part of their brand after more than 130 years. Here is one trick that can save you the money of buying a special die. Use a clear label and simulate an unusual shape by using white ink to create your desired shape, so it will appear that your label has a unique shape even if it is a simple rectangle label.

9. A Theme for Different Flavors

With multiple flavors of the same product it is important to keep major design elements of your label consistent. Whether someone is looking at the peach, orange or lime flavor they should be able to recognize instantly that it is all the same company and brand. A company that does an excellent job of keeping a consistent yet different look between flavors is Nantucket Nectars. Each flavor has a simple illustration encompassing the flavor with a similar scene from Nantucket Island in the background.

10. Contact Information

In the 21st century every company should have contact information on their product labels. This is obviously not about making your label design more appealing, but rather having your label be more than just a passive selling and marketing tool. An 800 number, a web site and a physical address can all be easily included on the label. You could provide a special web site on your label for customers to sign up for an email list, so you can gather information and start to interact with your good customers.

When designing your label it is important to take into account what your competition is doing. If most companies in your space have very colorful and glossy labels, then maybe a more plain and subdued look will allow you to stand out on the supermarket shelf. Take many of the elements mentioned here and differentiate yourself from the competition. Providing a new and interesting look invites customers to pick up your product.

As we said in the beginning of this article there are no hard and fast rules for good product label design, but if you stroll the grocery store aisles and look at the labels of products that have been successful you will see that they have many elements in common. Of course, most of these successful products have labels that were created by professional graphic designers, so if you can afford one I firmly believe that is money well spent. But if you don’t have the budget or prefer to do it yourself then consider these ten elements when creating your product label.

(Peter Renton)