Posted on May 28, 2024 by Dennis Salazar

E-commerce Packaging – Structural versus Graphic Design

There are many decisions to be made when creating a new e-commerce package, but two of the most important are selecting the structural and graphic designers you will work with.

These are two very different resources, with different skill sets and focus. There are times when one will try to do both jobs, usually offering a savings to the brand owner/customer. However, hiring one person to do two different jobs is a lot like hiring a carpenter who also does some electrical work on the side. You may get the job done but will the finished product be as good as it can be, or worst-case scenario, your house burns down because of an electrical short in the wiring.

Graphic Designers for E-commerce Packaging

I admire graphic designers. The way they select and combine colors is amazing to me, a guy who my wife/business partner swears is color blind. Fortunately for our customers, that color deficiency seems to be limited to bed spreads, towels, and window treatments, not to the printed packaging work we do.

Over the many years of creating packaging, I have witnessed a graphic designer take a concept in a direction I could not have imagined, with fantastic results. I am often times in awe of what a good graphic designer can do with one or two ink colors and the images they create. Printing technology has changed a lot in the last few years so a good graphic designer is aware of those changes and can use them to his or her advantage. Color screening, transparent inks, digital printing, are just a few of the tools an exceptional graphic artists have in their toolbox. BTW, we have written blog posts on many of these new printing capabilities. See a few of them in the “related posts” list below.

Structural Designers for E-commerce PackagingPackaging Design

I often describe the difference between graphic designers and structural designers as graphic designers are focused on how a package looks. Structural designers tend to focus on how a package “works”. A package that works well begins at an efficient manufacturing design and process, how it ships to you or your 3PL, how it assembles and packs, as well as the shipping cost to your customers. Perhaps the most important thing we keep in mind is the impression it makes on your customer, making sure the product arrives safely, and how it unpacks without use of power equipment. If graphic designers are the artists, structural designers like us determine the canvas design and size.

We have written much about what we do to help our customers enhance package appearance, facilitate packing by the shipper and unpacking by the customer. Again, we invite you to read the related posts below.

The FOUR Most Important Things to Remember

  1. We recall how precious every dollar was when we were in startup mode. However, selecting the right structural and graphic design team can save you thousands of dollars, especially if you end up having to redo it soon after your initial launch.
  2. Experience matters. Today, with the wide variety of available apps and software, everyone thinks they are a photographer, graphic artist or packaging designer. As tempting as it may be to utilize your talented neighbor’s son, or your brilliant niece, seasoned experts are not likely to make a beginner’s
  3. If possible, determine your structural design first. Finalizing your structural design will result in a die line drawing or template of your new box with dimensions and any special features you select. Your graphic artist can use that to apply any images or text you may want That may be far easier than creating a graphic design you love but does not “fit” the box you require.
  4. Do not assume your design is Contrary to popular belief all paper- based packaging is not eco-friendly. Many companies still function with an “if they don’t ask, don’t tell” belief.

Also, a good partner welcomes questions because he/she is most interested in understanding and satisfying your needs. We are totally focused on doing it right the first time because that saves valuable time and money.

Are we the right structural design partner for you? Contact us or give us a call at 630- 551-1700 and let’s find out. Our trained, very experienced people are eager to help you determine the best approach to provide you with the most effective, attractive package at the lowest possible cost.

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