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A Little Brand (Goes A Long Way)

Now more than ever, designers and makers are finding ways to get more bang for their brand buck. In particular, branding of products has become increasing focused on less packaging and more creative ways to highlight the company or designer. Whether it is a budget issue, a commitment to being conscious to environmental impact or just a desired aesthetic (or perhaps all three), there is no shortage of ways a little bit of brand is going a long way these days. It’s a topic brimming with inspiration and possibilities so a ‘Part Two’ might be required! For now, let’s explore a couple of these packaging approaches.

Hang tags, or tags in general, are a fairly traditional way of branding a product yet they are constantly being re-invented. They are reasonable budget-wise and provide a great hit of brand. A watercolour matching the product’s collection, a letterpress kraft paper tag on a handmade piece, die-cut shapes, a black and hot pink typography card that screams modern fashion — hang tags have big impact for an often minimal cost. With so many beautiful ones out and about these days, I have designated a big chunk of my desk to a growing collection of inspiring tags.

If a one or two-sided tag doesn’t tell the whole story, a folded card or booklet should do the trick. I love that Selfridge’s example as the purple pops against the yellow bottle top and that same yellow appears inside the folded tag. Little details like that create a fantastic and united brand identity, don’t you think?

The basic form of tags make them ripe for exploring different materials and shapes. A fabric tag could be created from studio scraps while a wood tag could be a keepsake that lives long past your product’s delivery. I love the Emersonmade design above as the beautiful handmade flower and little flag with the company name will almost certainly be worn or kept as a decoration. It may not be the cheapest or quickest way to mark your product but these unique approaches are sure to grab attention and can be created out of recycled materials.

image via dapperq

I have seen a mini trend lately of these loop paper tags. They remind me of chic airport luggage tags! No need to fuss with strings or expensive paper, these loops are undoubtedly cheaper and provide a great modern detail.

image via miss design

Call me crazy but I often feel that the poor tag string is an ignored avenue for design. Sure, the tag is the focal point but that doesn’t mean the string can’t be a brand colour, unique texture or match a pattern from a product collection.

I had to post one of my very favourite tag examples. MT masking tape packages their Japanese washi tape in very simple white paper tied with a piece of twine – a perfect canvas to a fabulous tag. Using the same order of colour and pattern stripes as the packaged stack of tape, the tag is not only eye catching but serves as a wayfinding system of sorts. A very smart way to keep the product protected in its wrapping but still highlight the vibrant hues and patterns. I have a rather scary number of these tags in my inspiration pile!

Stickers are another big trend and a great avenue for bold branding at minimal cost and waste. Whether in combination with designed paper or simply placed on a plain background, a sticker can be more than enough branding if designed as the focal point. I love the use of bright colours, on brand typography and humourous images (like that wonderful deli meat example above from Vancouver’s La Charcuterie).

Bands (or belly bands) are very inexpensive to produce and easy to customize to different product shapes. They seem to be popping up everywhere on products that previously had bags and/or additional packaging. In most cases, a band is more than enough to convey information and a dose of brand. I love examples that use a contrasting pattern.

Last but not least is a trend that is a design darling at the moment. Like a similar love affair with custom stamps, this trend of custom tape is full of flexibility. Simply design a roll of tape and you have the ability to brand anything you want. A bottle, a mailing envelope, your dog — there is no limit to the possibilities.

A little bit of brand, whether it be a tiny sticker or large hang tag, can have a huge impact in making products look cohesive and attention-grabbing. Gone are the days when glossy packaging programs were absolutely required to make an item seem well-designed or high quality. From large companies creating a minimal branding program to small-scale designers handcrafting tags and stickers, there are far too many great examples to post. A ‘Part Two’ will definitely need to come to life! Do you have any favourite examples of minimal branding? I would love to hear what they are.

As always, I am off to the shops to do some research… – Chloé

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  1. […] an impactful and creative way? I wrote an article for Rena Tom’s site on that very topic so please take a look if you are interested. There are plenty of inspiring images if you are looking to brand your […]

  2. I’m in love with all these packaging ideas!

    You are so right that the trend has moved towards less packaging that is more custom. I struggled for awhile to find the right balance and have started using hang tags myself. I decided on that path because they are so versitle. I can punch one hole in the corner to hang them from necklaces or bracelets with a thin turquoise ribbon, I can punch two holes to use them as an earring card or I can leave them without punching a hole and glue them to the top or inside of a gift box or on the front of brown paper bags for shoppers at craft shows. It’s the perfect way to make sure every piece of packaging has branding.

    Thanks so much for sharing this great inspiration!

  3. Rob says:

    Love this article- having been through design education yet never learning about packaging design, I’m always on the lookout for ‘good’ examples in shops and craft markets. So far I’ve designed box artwork only for a mass produced consumer product- totally different requirements to what I’m hopefully working towards now.

    I’m thinking along the lines of hang tags for my products now, but love the idea of tape! Does anyone have any recommendations of where to get started with custom designing tape and production on a very small scale?

  4. Shenee says:

    Now I want to develop a product and create a great tag for it :)

  5. […] I discussed in a previous post, so much can be communicated with just a wee hit of brand. The same goes for gift cards and how […]

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