Food box packaging design ideas

How to create great box packaging designs

Estimated reading time: 12 minutes

Box packaging helps your products get to buyers. But boxes aren’t just about protection, transport and storage: they’re also one of the best ways to spread your brand and promote your business. 

Using the right mix of colors, textures and creative touches in your packaging can give customers an unboxing experience that will wow your customers. Choosing the right box design means thinking carefully about materials, printing and assembly, as well as your products and their audience. Get it right, and you’ll ace one of the biggest touchpoints you have with your customers. And they’ll be more likely to come back to your business again and again.

Read on to learn how to design the best box packaging for your products.

Everything you need to know about box packaging

Understanding your product

To understand what box packaging is best, you need to figure out what you need from it. Start with the basics:

  • choose packaging that’s large and strong enough for your products’ shape and weight—remember to include leeway for documentation, inner wrapping and accessories
  • consider whether each product has its box or if multiple items will be packed together 
  • assess how fragile your goods are and the impact of breakages to choose the right wrapping or padding
  • if your products will be sold online and shipped, your boxes should be a snug fit (to keep products safe) and meet the requirements of your delivery company
  • if your product’s packaging will be displayed in stores, an eye-catching and distinctive look is more important
  • don’t forget storage: while most boxes are easily moved and stacked in warehouses, unusually shaped boxes may make logistics harder
  • consider your budget and scale—simple packaging will reduce friction and cost

What do you want your box packaging to say?

The surface of your box is a blank canvas: work with colors, patterns, logos and slogans to upgrade a simple brown cube to a glittering work of art. What you display will depend partly on your target audience. Are they old or young? Are they looking for luxury or budget products? Do you know what they do on the weekend or what they care about? For example, bright colors and jarring designs work well for kids’ products, while a minimalist understatement is more suitable for an upmarket range.

What is a target audience, and how do you identify yours? Our guide to surveys, psychographics and buyer personas explains it all.

Captain adventurer box packaging

This box design is targeted at kids who want to have fun in the great outdoors. Source: Lucadia via 99designs by Vista

Think about the theme of your design. Is it going to be futuristic, dynamic, comforting or functional? Do you want to stand out from your competitors, be familiar with customers, and echo their look? This also applies to your box’s shape and size: you can make your sunglasses box the same shape as everyone else’s so it fits on the shelf easily or create a unique package.

Much of this is up to you and your vision for your brand. But there are some design non-negotiables. Barcodes, addresses and ingredient lists (for food and beverages) are legally required. Be sure to research if small print is needed for your product, and know it may change based on where your product is being sold. You’ll need to leave space for these essentials or work them into the design.

Types of box packaging

Boxes have to do a lot at once, from selling your brand and stopping your bespoke vases from getting smashed to following local regulations. If that seems like too much for one folded piece of cardboard, don’t despair: different package types can perform different tasks.

Product packaging

Product packaging is also known as “primary packaging.” It’s the first layer: the box with the phone, the bottle that holds the wine or the vacuum pack of dried apricots. Product packaging may take the form of a box, but often, it doesn’t—you need to choose the best form for your product. This is likely to be the container your customer reaches for again and again as they use your product, and it may be the packaging they see in stores. This is the packaging layer you need to put the most design work into.

Product boxes come in a range of sizes and are versatile and easy to personalize via designs, but they’re not reinforced and will need secondary packaging for dispatch and storage.

Looking for a different type of box for your product? Our guide to types of packaging provides information about bottles, cans and more (even goat’s milk soap packets).

A wine bottle and box packaging

Oak trees and gold foil give this bottle (product packaging) and box (outer packaging) an abstract, arty feel. Source: Esteban Tolosa via 99designs by Vista

Inner packaging

Your box may also contain inner packaging—a sleeve, foam or individual wrappers, to keep your product safe and fresh. These can be purely functional or designed more carefully so that they can be reused, recycled or used to store or display the product. 

Outer packaging

Outer packaging protects your product, allows it to be moved in bulk, and almost always takes the form of a box. Sometimes, as with a display box for store use, it overlaps with product packaging.

Boxes in a warehouse

As secondary and tertiary packaging, these boxes are designed to be functional, not fancy. Source: via Depositphotos

Most businesses spend less time on the design of this secondary packaging and instead focus on cost, logistics and displaying practical details such as product names and codes. But you can still personalize them with colors, logos and backgrounds. For example, mailer boxes (designed for posting) can be designed with different colors or styles such as front-tuck

Tertiary packaging is even further from the spotlight. It ensures multiple outer packages can be handled, stored and shipped as a single, self-contained unit. Designs here tend to be even simpler: besides shipping or product information, the most important element might be “this side up.”

Why boxes rule

Boxes are robust, stackable and easy to store (whether folded or assembled). They’re cheaper than most other packaging options, come in a range of shapes and sizes and offer a large surface area for designs. That makes them a good option for product packaging and the dominant form of secondary and tertiary packaging.

Mailer box from VistaPrint

Opening this front-tuck mailer box is a tactile experience. Source: via VistaPrint

Tips for box design

There’s no one best approach to box design, and you have many different options to consider: 

Your logo

If you’re uncertain or on a budget, a basic approach may be best. Simple designs with lots of space are also helpful for designing a template for multiple package types because your design needs to work on differently shaped boxes and will have room for tweaks for different products or territories.

Rachel Made Studio box packaging

This box shows how a logo can leap off your package. Source: via Vistaprint

The easiest place to start is with your logo. Most design portals will let you upload it and see what it looks like in different positions. You can also experiment with different background colors (which can be applied to the whole package or individual sides) and add essential messaging, such as a slogan. This simple approach, without too many distractions, can make your logo pop and is a good fit for no-nonsense brands who prize authenticity over anything elaborate.

Personalize with fonts 

Once you move beyond a simple logo and background, there’s a whole world of box design options. Text can be transformed with different fonts. Each font has its effect, from sharp and futuristic to abstract or ancient.

  • Serif fonts are traditional and generally easier to read, which is useful if you’re trying to pass on detailed information.
  • Sans serif fonts have a more modern and light feel.
  • Script fonts are more elegant or playful.
  • Individual styles may suit your product or align with your brand font
Mush box design

A cheerful font and a short message: this box design is perfectly simple. Source: via VistaPrint

Using colors in box design

Just as your font choice gives your design a unique feeling, so does your color choice. Daring, unusual or vibrant color schemes make your packaging stand out. Muted hues provide a sophisticated feel that suits high-end goods. You can also dive into color psychology, where individual colors are associated with moods—red for passion, green for harmony and purple for indulgence, to name a few.

Perfume product box packaging

Clean lines and a deep, calming shade of pink help this perfume feel sophisticated. Source: Cupedium via 99designs by Vista

Beyond color schemes, you also should think about pattern design. Stripes, polka dots, chevrons and tartan all suit different moods. A red and black tartan feels traditional, but a neon green and pink tartan looks bold and contemporary.

Irregular and organic shapes for box packaging design

Irregular and organic shapes over this box packaging design. Source: via Vistaprint

Bring texture to your boxes

If making your packaging stand out is a priority, there are many creative ways to do it beyond text and color. Glossing and embossing your designs makes details jump out, while intricate details designs give boxes an immersive, 3D feel that suits a particular purchase. Or give buyers a sensory reward and contrast between rough (perhaps corrugated) outer packaging and glossy, crisp inner packaging.

Fish tin in box packaging

This can use patterns and shading to represent a glossy, fresh fish. Source: Sonia Maggi via 99designs by Vista

Artisanal package with clear cover

This artisanal package combines a stiff paper bag with a crisp card—you can almost hear it rustle. Source: via VistaPrint

Shapes and styles can make all the difference

Your box doesn’t have to be a cube or a rectangle. Check out these unique shapes:

  • Pillow boxes: These puffed-up product boxes offer a sense of fun and luxury and are great for samples or gifts.
  • Gable boxes: With their unusual shape and strong handle, gable boxes are a memorable and efficient way to package heavy foodstuffs and offer large surfaces for design features.
Spatula product box packaging

An unusually shaped box, here for silicon spatulas, can stand out. Source: Daniel Morantes via 99designs by Vista

You can produce something more bespoke, too. Hexagonal boxes are often used for luxury treats, while shapes that reflect your product’s shape can help reinforce their identity. But be mindful of cost and efficiency—one famous record’s packaging was so expensive it’s believed to have lost money on every sale.

Stickers and string for a gift package

The personal touch can make a box feel like something special. Source: via VistaPrint

Balance the arty and the practical

Boxes are wonderfully flexible when it comes to artwork—a design can fill a single side or several. But it’s important to consider how images, colors and patterns complement each other, as well as the rest of your branding. How do they work together for the consumer? Are they overwhelming?

Mailing box for candles

This package uses space playfully, with the cat’s tail curling around it. Source: UniqueHub via 99designs by Vista

Practical questions should always run alongside creative ones. Are you using the same palette for your boxes as for your online ads, storefronts or email signatures? Are you planning a family of related products? Do the same design themes run through your product box and the secondary packaging that surrounds it, or does each layer have a different feel to take the customer on an unboxing journey?

Get inspired by the latest trends

What do nostalgic 1950s line drawings, brutalist typefaces and saturated pastels all have in common? They’re all important trends in packaging. That doesn’t mean you have to adopt them—going against current fashion can make your product stand out even more (just make sure it’s in a good way). Knowing what trends are sweeping across the world of packaging is important for understanding your competition or finding inspiration.

Discreet but deluxe box packaging

Discreet but deluxe packaging is a recent trend, modeled here by the New Social. Source: EWMDesigns via 99designs by Vista

Don’t forget extras

Box packaging design isn’t just about the box itself. As we’ve seen, inner packaging, like tissues or inserts, can help keep your products safe. They’re also another opportunity to show colors, patterns or messaging that may tie into your overall design template.

Other details, like ribbons, tassels and stickers, can make a package feel more like a gift and suggest personal care, making it ideal for little luxuries or treats.

Show everything—or almost nothing

If your product is visually arresting or you want buyers to understand its size and function, consider a clear-plastic cutout. This preview can inspire curiosity and is a confident, effective way to show your company’s transparency.

Dog accessory product box packaging

Bowties for dogs should be fun, and this playful cut-out lets consumers look right in. Source: Syakuro via 99designs by Vista

The opposite approach is to make your packaging minimal, with a design that offers the barest glimpse of what lies within. A bare package with a subtly placed logo creates a sense of mystery like a magician hiding a rabbit until the very last minute.

Take the customer on a journey

The sense of gratification from opening a package is at the heart of package design, whether you cater to it with simple colors or more creative designs.

Kids vitamins and teas box packaging

This vitamin and tea box allows kids to personalize the packaging. Source: JianBranding via 99designs by Vista

Some packages build on this by adding interactive touches. Kids can be encouraged to color in packages, use stickers or add their names or other details. QR codes can direct people to complementary digital content, from “how to” guides to gamified challenges. Meanwhile, using attractive designs on the inside of boxes can feel like an unexpected bonus for the buyer—as well as proof that you’ve thought of everything.

Think of the earth

The environmental impact of packaging should be a concern for every business and is an increasing priority across the sector. Boxes are generally a good choice: corrugated cardboard can be recycled up to 25 times before being composted.

Particularly for companies that take pride in their green credentials, it’s important to be eco-friendly and show consumers how you are eco-friendly. For example:

  • Using sustainable materials in your packaging as well as your product
  • Keeping packaging to a minimum to limit waste
  • Making packaging reusable
  • Including green freebies like bags of seeds
  • Using your packaging to tell your sustainability story 
Eco-friendly Dear Ocean package

Self-care brand Dear Ocean suggests its green credentials with a simple box decorated with leaf fronds. Source: Yokaona via 99designs by Vista

Reusable straws package

This box for reusable straws takes time to explain the materials used and the pressure on our oceans. Source: BowWowWow via 99designs by Vista

So you’re ready to design your packages

Once you have a plan, you need to work out who will execute it. If you have the budget, work with a freelance designer using one of VistaPrint’s design services, like 99designs by Vista, who shares your vision and implements their expertise. Or design it yourself with or without a template. Key steps include the following:

  • Set your palette using CMYK or Pantone (PMS)
  • Choose the package size that suits you
  • Assess costs
  • Upload your design
  • Add custom details, like backgrounds or patterns, that suit you
  • Remove the die-lines from your image

After this, you’ll be ready to print! But this isn’t the end of the process. Collecting feedback and reviewing your packaging is vital—every successful brand’s packaging evolves over time.

Need some inspiration? Check out these custom small business packaging ideas that will wow your customers.

Box design can build a story around your products

As we’ve seen, box package design can be as simple or as complicated as you choose to make it. Whatever designs you choose should suit your products and your target audience. Logos, text, patterns, colors and images can all be part of the equation, and creative touches can help you build a story around your products. Once that’s done, all that’s left is for your buyer to get their hands on your carefully designed packaging and step right into that story.