Take a child to the grocery store and ask her what cereal she wants. Most likely, her decision will be based on the box, not the cereal. And, to be honest, many adults make their decisions the same way. Yet a well-designed package does more than improve sales. It can lower costs, improve sustainability, make retailers’ lives easier, and put a smile on the face of consumers. The design of packaging is critically important for the entire lifecycle of a product.
“Co-creation is crucial,” says Mari Sumuranta, Designer, Stora Enso Packaging Solutions. “Our client knows their customers, supply chains and processes. We know about materials and packaging. Together we look at the issue from different angles and can create something ideal for their needs.”
Co-creation is easy to say but hard to do. Many people are involved because the design of a package plays such a large role.
“The design of a package impacts sales, marketing, product management, material development, and more,” Sumuranta says. “Ideas come from everywhere.”
In essence, this is Design Thinking, or creative problem solving. It is applying the principles of design to innovative packaging. Sumuranta stresses that the term “thinking” might be a misnomer, because it also encompasses action.
“Thinking and doing go hand-in-hand,” she says. “We experiment with materials and make prototypes to test things like durability and weight. Design creates something concrete, which you can feel and touch, and this communicates the benefits of the product.”
Like most Stora Enso designers, Sumuranta has diverse design experience in a variety of industries, but she sees some common trends everywhere. Replacing plastics with sustainable wood-based materials is a common goal, but sustainable design goes much deeper.
“Many people want to make sustainable choices, and this is particularly true with young consumers,” Sumuranta explains. “They find uncoated packages more appealing than coated ones, because uncoated packaging feels like a sustainable and natural material. There is also rising interest in reusable packages, such as in the EU’s circular economy strategy.”
Online shopping has been steadily growing for years, but with the Covid-19 pandemic e-commerce has exploded in popularity. This is an opportunity for another innovation in package design.
“A product package is generally shipped inside a transport box,” Sumuranta says. “But what if we could use just one package? What if we also design this package for the end user, not the warehouse? This would save materials and costs for the producer, as well as creating a more enjoyable experience and useful package for the consumer.”
Stora Enso’s Packaging Design Community has locations in China, Poland, Russia, Finland, Sweden and the Baltic countries. They are able to host design workshops for customers on site as well as travel to the customers’ locations. Stora Enso’s designers provide design services, total cost optimisation, improved sustainability, development and unboxing experiences.
Sumuranta is excited about the future of package design. New tools like automation will allow designers to focus on more complex processes and long-term development. They have experience with a broad and growing portfolio of materials, which allows for some ingenious combinations.
“Design in the future will be more proactive,” she says. “We will be able to anticipate or adapt to surprising situations. This will allow us to help our customers in even more innovative ways.”