Effective Packaging Design Needs Good Surveying and Research

Professor Sandra Krasovec, Packaging Design Program Coordinator, and Professor Shireen Musa, DPS, International Trade and Marketing

When it comes to packaging design, looking great and protecting the product are only a couple of the design goals. The package also has to attract the target audience, the potential buyers.

At one point for instance, it seemed that those looking for “fair trade” food products were more attracted to labels showing photos of actual farm workers. That may still be the case, in fact. But consumer product tastes, in products and in their packaging can be quite fickle.

It is hardly surprising that the Packaging Design program teaches design students the basics of conducting surveys and focus groups, while the School of Business and Technology keeps up with evolving survey techniques and technologies, and refines them to align with changing societal desires and expectations.

We talked to two FIT professors, Sandra Krasovec, Packaging Design Program Coordinator, and Dr. Shireen Musa, in the department of International Trade and Marketing, to see how it all fits together.

A paper written by Dr. Musa “The Role of Emotional Imagery Exposure on Fair Trade Consumption and on Compassion” outlines ways to survey consumers on the issue.

Both professors emphasized that teaching must keep up with technology and societal issues. They agree that online tools now make surveying easier and less expensive than it used to be.

They also note that Covid made it hard to assemble potential customers for in-person focus groups. The pace of new product introductions forces designers to get useful data ever more quickly.

But the basics stay the same:

“The survey should be sent to participants from the population that corresponds to the designer’s target market, focusing on both demographics and psychographics,” Dr. Musa says.

That may be obvious but it is not always easy. For example, participants should reflect the target consumers’ age range, such as Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, geographic location, gender and lifestyle. How might they rank importance of sustainability, environmental and  societal stewardship?”

Prof. Krasovec, co-author of the book “Packaging Design: Successful Product Branding from Concept to Shelf” says the process depends on circumstance. “It depends on the client and the project scope,” she says. “Bigger companies typically have the budget to do research, many smaller companies and brands don’t. So in the end the package has to work hard in attracting the target consumer on shelf and online.”

She warns, however, that “consumers are driving brands and are savvy regarding transparency of brand messaging and claims, and their tastes change over time.”

Musa posits that individuals who value environmental and societal stewardship are likely to consume many types of fair trade commodities, so it might be useful to market those products by including packaging blurbs and images such as actual pictures of fair trade farmers.

Krasovec says that “brand designers develop brand concepts with the critical goal of connecting and engaging with consumers on an emotional basis through packaging design and other brand applications every day.”

Fortunately, she says, online searches and social media, all used with care, can help designers keep up with trends without always doing their own surveys or focus groups. Prof. Krasovec requires students to do such research and to use online survey software to survey potential customers before embarking on brand and packaging design development.

According to Prof. Krasovec, however, that in addition to surveys, “research is a tool that can be biased, depending on the type of research and the scope, so we teach that it must be used cautiously.” Research also helps shape survey questions.

“Anyone can conduct a survey. Our packaging design students conduct research to reach target consumers via social media and simple online surveys,” says Prof. Krasovec.


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