Packaging: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Being the judge of something or someone´s beauty is a complicated exercise, always subjective. Art is the perfect example : the very same painting could either inspire deep enthrallment or horrific disgust, depending on one´s sensitivity and perception.

But the goal of Art isn´t to be beautiful but to stimulate, to provoke sensations, good, bad or ugly. When applied to the world of packaging, we must admit that we are facing the exact same conundrum: while most creations generate a consensus around them (positive or negative), some spark heavy controversy.

And that is exactly why working with a design agency is crucial to make sure your creations and designs tilt towards the Good side. You will find below a few examples of what we, at Little Buddha consider good, bad or ugly packaging executions.


The Good

“There´s two kind of packaging in this world…”

Let´s start on the positive side of the spectrum. More than explaining what constitutes good packaging, we will try to inspire you through a couple of outstanding projects.

First case study: Smeaton´s Gin, the liquor brand recently deemed Best New Product Packaging during UK´s Packaging Awards 2018. Let´s have a look:

Picture: Packaging News UK / Smeaton´s

We are touching here the epitome of good packaging: becoming a true extension of the content, almost as important as the product itself, if not more. Here, the creative concept stays true to the values and history of Smeaton´s distillers, based in Bristol, UK. Every single detail of the bottle, produced by Allied Glass Containers, links back to the story behind the brand.

The blue glass is synonymous with Bristol, the handwritten recipe inspired the typography and a botanical illustration celebrates the Arts & Crafts movement of the late 19th century. A bespoke print provides an unusual way of highlighting the distinctive long neck of the bottle and led to creating a unique paper wrap. The inside reveals the distillation story and adds to its appeal for the gifting market. Really impressive holistic packaging design. The bottle shape & finishing, the supporting graphics really hit the mark for the brand, the substrate selection & font on the label adds further value.

Second installment of the Good side of packaging: practicality. Because this is also what packaging is all about: allowing the consumer to easily use its contents, or even better: enhance the whole product experience. The link below will take you to a few examples of what can inventive packaging truly mean for its brands and users:


“I always follow my (bad) ideas through”

For the sake of this article, we will qualify a packaging execution as BAD when it has a severe unpractical or boast an egregious concept going against common sense. (We´ll tackle visually awful packaging in the ´Ugly´ chapter of this article).

Unsustainable packagings

In an era when our consuming society finally wakes up and puts a major emphasis on sustainability, packaging designs failing to optimize the natural resources available have us fuming. Not only they shouldn’t be allowed, but they also give the packaging and designing industry a bad name. Unacceptable! Here below an anthology of such bad, bad creations:

How many trees would have been saved if this pastries company, that will remain nameless, went for a packaging option actually fitting the product?

A packaging wasting time and the environment

US-based Calavo decided to go double dumb on us by offering an avocado that is already split in half. Problem is: it takes twice as long to free the product from it container than actually having to cut it in half. Needless to say, it also generates useless plastic waste.

The root of all evil

No extra comment needed.

Deceptive packaging

We also need to collectively point our finger at one of the packaging industry longest-lasting trick: using the outside shells of a product to deceive the consumer regarding the volume of the product contained. Here are a few BAD examples:

Tesco’s lasagna sheets:

Infuriating to say the least. And once again: what a waste of material.

Lindt’s Lind’Or choco candies:

Freshly open flex-box. The actual product represents 30% of the package´s capacity. Shame.

Jordan’s Strawberry flavored Country Crisp:

This has to stop.

Unpractical packaging:

Let´s also talk about designs that defy any sense of logic. We all have come across a few scratchers in our lives, here are a couple of our favorites:

Loctite´s colour threadlockers:

I am looking for a red-colored binding. Which one should I grab?

Unknown company

stop struggling packaging

Stop struggling indeed, oh the irony…


“If you miss, you better miss really well”

While the previous chapter was focusing on poorly thought designs on a practical level, we´ll now showcase designs that had better not be created at all, from a purely visual standpoint. Let´s get underway with Chick, the beer for chicks:

chick packaging

The use of the grotesque Curlz font, combined with the extreme colour code is just excessive, if not mind boggling. The result, instead of drawing the attention of the female audience, is off putting to say the least. Subtlety goes a long way if you want to reach out to the ladies out there, Chick… Plus, anyone who happen to know what on earth the “witness the chickness” tagline means, please give us a call.

Lack of creativity in a packaging

But worse than just an ugly idea, what do all packaging designers fear most? You guessed it: lack of creativity or lack of originality. Like the blank page syndrome for a writer, this is branding agency´s biggest enemy. Let´s illustrate this with two direct competitors on the digestive cookies segment, both showing little to no difference in the way they expose their products to the consumer on the shelves:

digestive packaging

With an oversaturated market, it’s important that your product can stand apart from the rest. If your branding looks too similar to the competition’s, you’re missing an opportunity to reach customers. While your branding should stay in line with your competitors, it’s important to find the unique traits that help you stand above the rest.

Another ugly design initiative with Kraft food this time. The famous FMCG company decided to part ways with its long-standing iconic logo and to replace it with a juvenile, flamboyant logo:

kraft foods logo

The newer logo is composed of nine opposing colors and results in a more expensive, complicated design that just left customers confused. Kraft eventually saw the error of their ways and redesigned the logo and branding to something that better aligned with consumer expectations, but this example should also remind us that simplicity is and will always be a key element behind any powerful design.

Little Buddha.

June 11th, 2019 | Packaging Design
Little Buddha Brand Design Agency

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