packaging design example in a sage green

How much does product packaging design cost?

Reading time: 10 minutes

Ever wondered how much those eye-catching boxes or sleek pouches lining store shelves cost to design? For small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), entrepreneurs, and students venturing into the world of product creation, packaging design can be a source of both excitement and confusion. After all, well-designed packaging isn’t just about aesthetics; it’s a crucial element in building brand identity, attracting customers and standing out in a competitive marketplace.

This comprehensive guide details the costs associated with product packaging design. We’ll delve into the various factors influencing pricing, explore different design approaches and break down the typical design process. By the end, you’ll be equipped with the knowledge to make informed decisions and invest in packaging that elevates your brand and resonates with your target audience.

What factors influence packaging design cost?

The truth is, there’s no one-size-fits-all for packaging design. Packaging design costs vary depending on several factors from materials to the production process. 

The best approach for your budget and brand is to understand these factors, so you make informed decisions that align with goals. Here’s a breakdown of the key factors that impact packaging design cost:

Complexity

The more complex the design, with multiple elements and special finishes, the higher the design fees will be. It’s the difference between a simple cardboard box and a box adorned with intricate illustrations, metallic foil accents and a custom window. 

Customization

Off-the-shelf packaging design templates offer a cost-effective starting point, but they lack the unique personality that can set your brand apart. Opting for bespoke packaging, with custom shapes and sizes or unique materials like bamboo or recycled paper, will naturally cost more than generic options.

Quantity

This one follows the classic principle of economies of scale. The more packaging units you order, the lower the cost per unit becomes. This is because production costs are spread across a larger quantity, making it more affordable for businesses with high-volume requirements.

An product packaging design for Toasted Coconut Chips

A simple, modern and fun packaging design. Source: tatparaa via 99designs by Vista.

Striking the right balance: cost-effectiveness and brand impact

Remember, packaging design is an investment. While keeping costs in mind is important, don’t underestimate the power of high-quality design. Your packaging is a silent salesperson on store shelves, communicating your brand message and influencing purchasing decisions. 

A well-designed package elevates your brand perception, builds trust with customers and ultimately drives sales. The key is to find a sweet spot between cost-effectiveness and a design that effectively represents your brand.

What types of packaging design should I use?

Now that you understand the cost factors, let’s explore the different approaches you can take to achieve your packaging design goals. Here are three main options, each with its own advantages and considerations:

D-I-Y Methods

Do-it-yourself methods are ideal for budget-conscious businesses with some design knowledge who are comfortable using online design tools. It’s a good starting point for testing basic concepts or packaging simple products.

Pros:

  • Cost-effective: This is the most budget-friendly option, perfect for startups or entrepreneurs with limited resources.
  • Creative control: You have complete control over the design process, allowing you to express your brand vision freely.
  • Accessibility: User-friendly online platforms offer a variety of customizable templates that require minimal design expertise.

Cons:

  • Limited design skills: If you lack design experience, achieving a professional-looking finish can be challenging.
  • Time commitment: Learning the software and creating high-quality visuals can be time-consuming.
  • Restricted customization: Pre-made templates offer limited flexibility for unique packaging ideas or custom materials.

Freelance Designers

Freelance designers are a good choice for businesses with a clear brand identity but limited design resources. It’s ideal for projects with a defined scope and budget where you can collaborate closely with the designer.

Pros:

  • Expertise and experience: Freelance designers bring professional design skills and knowledge to the table, ensuring a polished and effective packaging solution.
  • Customization: Freelancers can create custom designs that align with your brand identity and target audience.
  • Cost-effective: While more expensive than DIY, freelance designers offer a more affordable alternative to design agencies.

Cons:

  • Finding the right fit: The vetting process to find a freelancer who understands your brand style and vision can be time-consuming.
  • Communication and revisions: Clear communication and managing revisions are crucial throughout the design process.
  • Limited project management: Freelancers may not offer the same level of project management and comprehensive services as an agency.

Design Agencies

Design agencies are best for businesses with a significant budget seeking a high-quality, comprehensive packaging design solution. They’re well-suited for complex projects that need a streamlined, professional design process.

Pros:

  • Full-service solutions: Agencies offer a comprehensive package, including conceptualization, design execution, 3D modeling, prototyping and production artwork preparation.
  • Team expertise: You benefit from a team of experienced professionals with diverse design skills and industry knowledge.
  • Project management: Agencies handle the entire design process, ensuring smooth execution and meeting deadlines.

Cons:

  • Higher cost: Design agencies typically have the highest fees among these options.
  • Less control: You may have less direct control over the creative process compared to DIY or freelance options.

Comparing options

Here is a table outlining the different pricing tiers for product packaging design based on the different approaches involved:

Pricing TierPrice RangeDescription
Level 1$100 or lessIf DIY is not involved,  this tier is often outsourced to low-cost regions like China or India. Communication barriers and quality issues may arise.
Level 2$101 to $999Freelance designers or small design firms offering mid-range services. Suitable for startups or small businesses seeking a balance between cost and quality.
Level 3$1,000 or moreIncludes freelance designers or small design firms. Provides decent services suitable for startups with more budget.
Level 4$10,000 or moreCustom design agencies specializing in product packaging. Offers thorough research and high-quality design suitable for midsize businesses.

For those seeking a user-friendly and affordable starting point, VistaPrint offers a variety of customizable packaging design templates. These templates allow you to personalize your logo and brand colors while maintaining a professional look.

What processes are involved in packaging design?

The path to creating your ideal packaging involves several key steps, each contributing to the overall quality and functionality of your design:

Conceptualization

This initial brainstorming stage is where the foundation for your packaging design is laid. Here’s the information you should have on hand:

  • Know your brand identity, target audience and goals. 
  • Define design objectives such as being informative, playful or sustainable. 
  • Create mood boards and sketches to visualize design concepts. Mood boards are collections of images, textures and color palettes that evoke the desired aesthetic, while sketches provide a starting point for exploring potential design layouts.

2D and 3D Modeling

Once you’ve selected a promising conceptual direction, designers will refine the design into digital mockups:

  • 2D mockups: These digital flat illustrations allow you to visualize how the artwork will appear on the packaging layout, ensuring proper placement of logos, text and imagery.
  • 3D modeling (optional): For complex packaging designs or those requiring a more realistic visualization, 3D modeling software can be used. This creates a digital prototype that allows you to see the packaging from all angles and assess its functionality.

Prototyping

Moving from the digital realm to the physical world, prototypes bring your design to life:

  • Physical prototypes: These tangible representations of your packaging design, typically made from cardboard or similar materials, allow you to assess its size, weight, functionality and user experience. You can test how the packaging opens, closes, protects the product and interacts with potential shelving displays.
  • Feedback and revisions: The prototyping stage is crucial for identifying any potential issues with the design before mass production. This is where you can provide feedback and collaborate with the designer on any necessary revisions.

Production Artwork 

With the design finalized and approved, the next step is to prepare the artwork for printing:

  • Die lines and specifications: Designers create technical specifications, including die lines (outlines of the flattened packaging) and precise color codes, to ensure accurate printing and assembly.
  • Printing considerations: The chosen printing method, materials and finishes are factored in to create press-ready artwork that meets the requirements of the printing company.

Number of Revisions

The scope of your project will determine the number of design revisions typically included in the design fees. A one-off design for a single product will likely involve fewer revision rounds compared to designing packaging for an entire product range. Be sure to clarify the number of revisions included in your initial discussions with a designer or agency. This will help you manage expectations and ensure you get the design you envision within budget.

The layers of packaging design

Packaging design is an orchestra of visual and functional elements working together to tell your brand story, protect your product and entice customers. Let’s delve into the key layers that make up a well-designed package!

Primary Packaging

This is the part that directly holds your product. It needs to be functional and secure, ensuring your product arrives safely at its destination. The material selection for primary packaging is crucial, with options ranging from:

  • Cardboard: A versatile and eco-friendly choice, suitable for a wide range of products.
  • Plastic: Often used for food and beverage items due to its moisture barrier properties. However, sustainability concerns are driving a shift towards recyclable or biodegradable plastic alternatives.
  • Glass: Ideal for premium products or those requiring visibility, like jams or cosmetics. Glass can also be a sustainable option as it’s endlessly recyclable.
  • Metal: Creates a luxurious feel and is perfect for products needing extra protection, like canned goods or high-end beauty products. Tin cans are also recyclable.
A product packaging design featuring bright and sunny colors for Amoodi’s ice cream company.

A cheery and cool ice-cream cup product packaging design. Source: tatparaa via 99designs by Vista.

Secondary Packaging

This outer layer provides additional protection or acts as a marketing tool. Think of the cardboard box around a pack of water bottles. Secondary packaging offers valuable real estate for:

  • Branding elements: Your logo, brand name and color scheme should be prominently displayed to enhance brand recognition.
  • Product information: Clear and concise descriptions of the product’s features and benefits can influence purchasing decisions.
  • Promotional messages: Secondary packaging can be used to highlight special offers, discounts or new product launches.

Labels and Stickers

These informative product labels and stickers provide essential details about your product, including:

  • Ingredients: For food and cosmetic products, a clear list of ingredients is required by law.
  • Nutritional information: Food and beverage items typically display nutritional information panels.
  • Barcodes: These scannable codes allow for efficient product tracking and inventory management at retailers.
  • Branding logos: Labels can incorporate your brand logo to reinforce brand recognition.

Creative and high-quality labels elevate the overall design and enhance brand recognition. For instance, minimalist beauty brand Aesop is known for their simple yet elegant labels featuring clean typography and botanical illustrations.

A product packaging label design featuring a vintage and classy design for Clear Skies Mead

A classy product packaging label design. Source: Agi Amri via 99designs by Vista.

Sleeves and Wraps

These decorative elements can add another layer of visual appeal and branding to your product. Think of the colorful paper sleeves on coffee cups or the festive shrink wrap on seasonal gift baskets. Sleeves and wraps can be used for:

  • Special promotions: Limited-edition packaging designs can create a sense of exclusivity and encourage impulse purchases.
  • Seasonal marketing: Adapt your packaging design to reflect holidays or special occasions.
  • Visual storytelling: Eye-catching sleeves or wraps can showcase your brand personality and connect with your target audience.
  • Building Brand Cohesion: Another layer of your brand logo or colors adds consistency throughout your product packaging, making the imprint on your customer stronger.

Remember, each packaging component plays a role in creating a cohesive brand experience. Maintaining consistent design elements across all packaging layers, from the primary box to the labels and any additional sleeves or wraps, reinforces brand recognition and strengthens your brand identity in the minds of consumers.

Why does packaging design matter?

Storytelling in a Split Second

Packaging design is a powerful storytelling tool. With just a glance, it can communicate your brand’s essence, values and personality. Imagine a sleek, minimalist box for a luxury watch, conveying a sense of sophistication and craftsmanship. Or a brightly colored package adorned with playful characters, hinting at a fun and family-friendly product. Effective packaging design tells a story without a single word, instantly connecting with your target audience.

Attention Grabber on a Busy Shelf

Standing out in a sea of competing products is essential for driving sales. Eye-catching visuals, strategic use of color and unique design elements can make your product leap off the shelf and capture a customer’s attention in a fraction of a second. Remember, you only have a few precious moments to make a positive first impression, and well-designed packaging can be the deciding factor that compels someone to pick up your product for a closer look.

The Power of a Unique Design

In a world of generic packaging, a unique design sets your product apart and sparks customer curiosity. Think outside the box (pun intended!) and explore innovative materials, unusual shapes or interactive elements that engage customers and create a memorable brand experience. Remember, packaging design is not just about aesthetics; it’s about creating a connection and a sense of intrigue that entices customers to learn more about what’s inside.

Building Brand Trust and Recognition

Packaging design is a key component of your brand identity. By maintaining consistent design elements across all your packaging (from primary boxes to labels and sleeves), you reinforce brand recognition and build trust with consumers. A well-designed package that reflects your brand values and resonates with your target audience creates a sense of familiarity and quality, subconsciously influencing purchasing decisions.

The Silent Communicator of Product Information

Beyond aesthetics, packaging design also plays a crucial role in clearly communicating essential product information. Labels and stickers provide details about ingredients, nutritional facts and usage instructions. Even the choice of materials can communicate eco-friendliness or durability. Effective packaging design ensures that customers have all the information they need to make informed purchasing decisions.
Elevate your packaging design game with our customizable packaging design templates!

Woof wow! This eye-catching dog food packaging design highlights the natural goodness inside.

Premium dog food packaging design showcasing a holistic approach to canine nutrition. Source: Unique Hub via 99designs by Vista.

Elevate your brand with stand-out packaging design

Investing in high-quality packaging design is essential for any brand seeking to stand out on store shelves and connect with customers. By understanding the various design approaches, cost factors and the key stages of the design process, you’re well-equipped to make informed decisions that elevate your brand and resonate with your target audience. Remember, your packaging is a silent ambassador for your brand, so make it count.

Ready to take your packaging design to the next level? Let VistaPrint be your partner in packaging design excellence!  We offer a wide range of customizable templates, design services and printing options to help you create packaging that reflects your unique brand identity and resonates with your target audience!