Released in December 2021, the report draws on patterns and trends observed across the 2021 entries to the Pentawards. Some of the key trends identified in the report revolve around sustainability, inclusivity and visual storytelling.
Surprising takes on traditional packs
Packs for different products generally follow a set of design cues. In 2021, Pentawards observed a shake up in these categories, for example, with Stoic's rubber glove packaging that sets out to demonstrate the rubber gloves' strength.
"Stoic steps well outside its comfort zone with bold and unexpected packaging that reflects the strength of its rubber gloves, by showing the fork attempting to pierce through what looks like ‘rubber’ packaging," says the report.
"As many people continue to spend more of their time at home, we expect to see more and more brands taking unexpected takes on traditional approaches of packaging that bring a newfound sense of delight and novelty to consumers’ daily lives."
Colour as the key visual
Bold colours have been very prominent in pack design last year. According to statistics, 85% of consumers buy products based on colour, and designers have made full use of this and taken colour to a new level, from using "unprecedented" amounts of colour to highlight flavour and taste, to disrupting the category by helping the product stand out from competitors. For example, SAGA Gin uses an extra-large yellow wax seal to make it more distinctive on the shelf while creating a unified look across its packaging.
"We expect to see a growing number of brands take similar approaches of using colour as the new category disruptor," the report states.
Sustainability made obvious
As sustainability is becoming an industry-defining issue, brands are keen to talk about their sustainability credentials and to make them as obvious and transparent as possible in their packaging design - a trend that is set to continue in 2022.
For example, Absolut’s Paper Bottle prototype is made from 57% sustainably sourced wood fibres and 43% recycled PET, and Evian’s No Label bottle which is created from 100% rPET with the Evian logo embossed directly onto the bottle.
Highlighting mental health
Another theme reflected in this year’s entries was around using packaging as a platform to open up conversations around people’s mental wellbeing.
The winning student work for this year’s Pentawards competition went to Special One. Honest soda about mental disorders, a social project dedicated to raising awareness of and reducing the stigma of mental health conditions among young people. Five special tastes correspond to the five most common personality disorders, whose features are shown using graphic metaphors on the front of the can. On the back, you can read general information about the disease and find out the first symptoms. The packaging also has augmented reality that offers more information and tests.
"Packaging is the most powerful touchpoint to engage people in important societal issues. Brands will increasingly use packaging to not only show their solidarity with issues such as mental health but to inspire actual change by turning packaging into a platform where people can be signposted to the support they need or become more involved in helping others who need it," the report states.
Diversity and inclusivity
There has been an increase in packaging highlighting the diversity of individuals across the planet, whether that be based on sexuality, disability, ethnicity, gender or age.
One important trend is to make packaging more accessible for disabled people, who make up around 15% of the world's population, according to statistics. One packaging example includes packaging for ready-to-drink coffee brands Only for your eyes which raises awareness of the millions of blind people in the world. The packaging has been developed exclusively in Braille from screen-printed ink and varnish.
"While diversity and inclusion in packaging design have been around for a while, we are starting to see it reach a more sophisticated level with D&I values or initiatives more embedded in the packaging design."
Protest and propaganda
Packaging, like any form of art or design, can be a great outlet for communicating societal issues and cultural events or becoming a symbol of a movement. As a homage to the new generation of Covid heroes, PepsiCo launched the “Everyday Heroes” campaign, a meaningful tribute expressed through commemorative can designs - Touchpoints reported.
"While using the design language of protest and propaganda in packaging may not be new, what’s changing is the increasingly political times we are living in and the growing interest in activism we are seeing amongst consumers far and wide."
Optimising packaging for e-commerce
During the 2020 pandemic, the reliance on online shopping grew by as much as 77% and is still growing strong.
Moët Hennessy’s Eminente Reserva rum was launched in 2020 during Covid-19 and sold exclusively online. The packaging uses a variety of hues and textures, from the ‘crocodile skin’ glass bottle and wooden stopper to embossed, debossed and hot gold stamping details.
"As we saw with Eminente Reserva rum, a product’s packaging can be its most important asset when online marketing and storytelling. As a result, we expect to see more and more brands use their packaging as a jumping-off point to tell multiple and varied brand stories online."
Packaging as a canvas
Last year, packaging was being used as the actual canvas for the art itself, rather than a vessel you stick art onto.
Packaging was used as a canvas for nature. For both Vinho do Mar and Black Sea aged wines, bottles were submerged underwater for a number of months as part of the ageing process for the product, but also to ‘age’ the packaging in a unique and novel way. Using the packaging as a canvas to let nature make its mark has particular relevance now where sustainability is a hot topic and brands are aligning with more planet-friendly messaging.
The rise of wrap-around illustrations
An extension of the packaging as a canvas trend, a number of brands have been using graphics that travel across packs to create larger composite visuals when placed side by side. While this has been a technique designers have used in the past, it now seems to be reaching a new level of popularity.
As an example, the blue cat on Milgrad’s dairy drink packaging playfully wraps around the packaging designs and across the range, inviting consumers to interact with it from a distance on the supermarket’s shelf layout.
"This trend speaks to the growing demand for packaging to tell bigger stories graphically and achieve standout on both the physical and, crucially, the digital shelf. As TikTok and Instagram increasingly become a brand’s biggest shop window, we will see more packaging that uses clever and visually-striking graphics across ranges to tell memorable brand stories," the report states.
Packaging as transformative storytelling
Creating a connection with consumers is a crucial part of packaging design and in many cases, packaging design transcended the product itself to become its own story-telling device.
The Horror Ray torch is designed for children attending summer camps and uses packaging design to transform this simple utility item into a product loaded with evocative storytelling. The design brings to life the special ritual of telling horror stories in tents or around the campfire, with spooky stories written on the back of the packaging and its characters illuminated on the front with the torch’s light.
"Using packaging to transform a product into a rich and engaging story is something we are set to see even more of as brands seek new and novel ways to delight and engage consumers beyond the charm of the product itself," the report concludes.
Editor of Touchpoints magazine, writer for Packaging Europe magazine and design enthusiast!