by TED MININNI, president and creative director, Design Force

How does a brand stand out among the visual chaos and oversaturation of the toy categories at retail‭? ‬There’s a broad spectrum of design strategies that companies need to employ correctly to make a brand’s packaging successful‭, ‬such as establishing solid package design architecture‭, ‬owning a color palette‭, ‬and staying consistent‭. ‬If I had to narrow it down to three key factors that are absolutely critical to get right in toy packaging‭, ‬these are my top tips‭.‬

1‭. ‬Incorporate Distinctive‭ ‬Package Design Architecture

We define package design architecture as a uniquely dominant design element that works in conjunction with the brand’s logo to draw consumers’‭ ‬attention‭. ‬It’s what shoppers look for‭ ‬—‭ ‬whether consciously or subconsciously‭ ‬—‭ ‬when they’re trying to find their favorite brands at retail‭. ‬It may take the form of a highly identifiable graphic shape that consumers immediately associate with the brand or it may be other elements‭, ‬such as illustrated or photographic imagery‭, ‬a consistently configured piece of character artwork‭, ‬or an iconic pattern or texture‭. ‬As is the case with the brand’s identity‭, ‬it must always be consistently placed within the package design system for it to be effective‭.‬

Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon packaging (left) and Hot Wheels packaging (right) | Source: Hasbro/Just Play/Mattel/the Toy Book

Think‭: ‬the lush vegetation with Kumandra flowers that dominates the package design for Disney’s‭ ‬Raya and the Last Dragon products or the action-packed cityscape silhouette that appears in blue tones on Hot Wheels packaging‭.‬

2‭. ‬Own a Color Palette

For toy packaging‭, ‬color plays a critical role in establishing an immediate visual connection between brands and consumers‭. ‬Think of the global brand leaders in the toy industry‭ ‬—‭ ‬those that own their respective categories‭ ‬—‭ ‬and a color will instantly come to mind‭.‬

Although it’s tempting for some brands‭, ‬especially new brands with no visual equity‭, ‬to simply take a look at the competitive offering in their category and select a color for their brand that’s not already in use‭, ‬this isn’t an effective approach to owning a color‭. ‬The visual impression of any given category tends to change quite frequently as both‭ ‬dominant and emerging brands update their packaging‭. ‬Therefore‭, ‬there is no guarantee that another brand won’t use the color they’ve selected by the time their products ship‭.‬

With this in mind‭, ‬it’s best to look inward at the brand itself when taking ownership of a color or a color palette and establish one that is meaningful and innately associated with the brand’s distinctive attributes and personality‭. ‬

3‭. ‬Be Consistent with‭ ‬Marketing Communication

The downfall of most toy packaging is the tendency to place marketing communication wherever space is available on the package‭. ‬This can be detrimental to a product line’s shopability because consumers will struggle to find the information they need to make their purchase decision if the packaging‭ ‬is too busy‭.‬

RELATED: Packaging Feelings for Kids’ Mental Well-Being

When done correctly‭, ‬brands will consistently place and treat the toy’s benefits‭, ‬features‭, ‬and any other pertinent information in the same visual manner across the entire product line‭ ‬—‭ ‬ideally in one dedicated space that will serve as an easy-to-locate‭ ‬“information center‭.‬”‭ ‬Taking this approach creates a more intuitive shopping experience for consumers‭, ‬increasing the likelihood that they’ll make a purchase‭.‬

It’s also important to be clear and concise with on-pack marketing communication‭, ‬focusing only on what’s most compelling and differentiating about the brand and the product‭. ‬Consumers often ignore verbal communication that is too lengthy or complex‭. ‬Effectively deliver the information in a concise way‭.‬

Pulling it all together

Whether you have an existing toy brand or you’re introducing a new one‭, ‬these three design strategies will put you on the right path to ensuring that your packaging has the best opportunity for success at retail‭. ‬

Start by evaluating your brand and mining for inherent assets‭, ‬attributes‭, ‬and visual cues that distinguish it from all other brands in the marketplace‭. ‬Then‭, ‬infuse them into ownable package design architecture‭, ‬leverage them to establish a unique color palette‭, ‬and convey them to consumers through consistently treated on-pack marketing communication‭.‬

This article was originally published in the May 2022 edition of the Toy BookClick here to read the full issue!