Buddhism as a religion faithfully promotes following the Middle Path.
But wait! This piece is not about religion, is it?
Of course not! Yet, in this context, the principle of Middle Path especially applies.
So, read on, as we recommend going midway between minimalism and maximalism in packaging design.
Before we proceed further, it would be appropriate to lay down a disclaimer that there is no strict right or wrong in this context. Just as beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder, minimal or maximal packaging design is often a matter of perspective where one or the other could equally appeal to the intended target audience.
A minimalistic design approach is where design elements are kept down to the minimum. So, whatever the item in question – say a piece of furniture or an artwork, the design elements appealing to your senses in it are few.
Maximal design is where design elements bombard your senses. So, whether it is colors, objects, textures, tones, and more, a maximal design item will have plenty of them.
This question assumes that you already have products that follow either a minimal or a maximal design approach in their packaging.
That being the case, it would be worthy to look at what is already working for you.
If you have been following a minimal design approach in your product packaging (like Apple, for instance) – and customers are happy with that, you might as well stick to it.
On the other hand, if following such an approach seemingly takes the sheen off your product’s appeal to customers, you could consider shelving it.
In essence, listening to your customers is key. This is, of course, true across all aspects of business with packaging design being no exception.
While in the previous point, we assumed an ongoing entity, here we are talking about a new business, that too in a relatively crowded space.
Let us take the example of setting up a food truck – in a park that already has many other food trucks in it. While a novel cuisine could be one differentiating factor (you offer Vietnamese food that no one else does, for example), creative, attractive, colorful packaging that clearly leans towards a maximal approach might just work in your case.
Your product niche and its target audience have a major say on the packaging design approach you follow. If, for example, kids are your target audience with visual appeal being a key element of the purchase decision, packaging design inclined towards maximalism might make better sense.
On the other hand, you might have a somber product – say funeral vases for graves. You simply cannot have a maximal packaging design approach in this context.
Therefore, the niche in which your product lies – as well as the kind of audience it appeals to, has an important say in the design approach you take.
The packaging design approach you follow must be in sync with the overall organizational mission and values.
Let us take the case of a national or perhaps even an internationally recognized bank with a longstanding legacy. Every product (banks do send out physical products too!) or communication going out from the bank must be reminiscent of its values.
Global furniture major, Ikea, would be another appropriate example in this context. Notwithstanding its large product portfolio, Ikea’s packaging design approach has always leaned towards minimalism.
Before we conclude, it would be apt to look at the impact of legislation on packaging design.
A straightforward example would be that of plain tobacco packaging, that Canada has mandated since 2019.
In such cases, personal or customer preferences cease to matter.
Clearly, there are several different factors that together decide whether a maximal or a minimal packaging design would be appropriate.
As we mentioned right in the beginning, following a middle path in between these two approaches, often works the best.