Oct 11, 2021

Packaging that pushes the boundaries of creativity

As the submission deadline for this year’s Pentawards is nearly upon us, we catch up with Adam Ryan, Head of Pentawards, to find out more about this year’s competition and its new sustainable design jury panel and gain insights into the changing world of packaging design.
Elisabeth Skoda

What would you say makes Pentawards different to other design competitions? How has it evolved over the years?

Since its establishment in 2007, Pentawards has grown into the world’s leading competition exclusively devoted to recognising excellence within global packaging design.

Having started with an initial judging panel of just 10 industry experts, the Pentawards’ annual competition is now judged by more than 40 design and packaging professionals, representing a variety of diverse backgrounds and cultures. And most recently, we introduced our first ever Sustainable Design Jury Panel to review the entries into our new Sustainable Design category.

With the impact that packaging is having on the planet, the sustainability agenda has become one of the most important issues for the packaging industry. By establishing this new jury, Pentawards aims to champion this drive whilst recognising and celebrating where progress is being made by brands, manufacturers and designers across the globe.

The five sustainability experts have been selected from across the branding and packaging industries and will have the important task of judging Pentawards’ new Sustainable Design category. Pentawards is also so much more than a competition. Our teams are committed to promoting the outstanding work that is produced within packaging design beyond this, by creating and connecting a global packaging community through various international conferences, events and online platforms year-round.

On a more general level, how has the focus of packaging design shifted and developed?

The packaging industry has undergone a significant shift in recent years. Where functionality was once the priority, the impact packaging is having on the planet is now fast becoming the most urgent issue, and so sustainable packaging has naturally taken centre stage.

While Pentawards celebrates beautifully designed work, packaging is no longer a beauty parade alone. It is a sector that carries a lot of responsibilities and opportunities for both companies and customers to make more sustainable choices.

Entries into last year’s Pentawards highlighted this change, as well as the need for greater consideration of the impact specific packaging designs are having on the environment, how businesses measure this, and the need to bring external experts from across the sustainability and environmental sectors into packaging design to better advise the sector.

We are also seeing a change to how brands approach the world of luxury. Historically, the luxury market has had a significant lack of truly sustainable packaging, and it remains a relatively untapped space from the eco-friendly perspective. Generally, heavier packaging in the form of fragrances, wine, spirits or fashion, is considered to be more expensive, and more luxurious. Thankfully this is now changing.

In that context, has the role of a packaging designer changed and evolved?

The packaging designer is so much more nowadays than what many would expect. Traditionally, designing a piece of packaging has been exactly what it says on the tin. However, now designers have a responsibility to provide robust consultancy on supply chains and to really know what’s what when it comes to materials and sustainable packaging.

With more and more brands looking towards new, original ways to stand out from the crowd, whilst maintaining and ecological conscience, the packaging designer must be able to adapt, work and create to meet multiple layers of a brief.

Has the COVID-19 pandemic had an impact on the packaging design industry? If so, how has it worked around it?

Despite these times of struggle and hardship, we have seen creativity and innovation soar. In the world of packaging design, much of this has been an acceleration of trends we were already seeing, but that are now really starting to take off as a result of the pandemic.

With shops shut, ecommerce has taken centre stage, making the task of optimising packaging design for online-only audiences even more urgent. The world of digital has seen unprecedented demand in how brands use it to build and maintain connections with new and existing audiences, which we’re seeing in the rise of ‘connected packaging’. In the meantime, a year of social upheaval has cemented sustainability as a key driving force of the consumer mindset today.

Have you noticed a broader interest in packaging design in recent years?

As the tangible, tactile element of a brand that we welcome into our home, packaging has always been of great interest to both consumers and brands. However, the focus of this interest has definitely broadened out in recent years. The role of packaging has expanded from being a practical, and perhaps beautiful, vessel for products to be transported in, to being used as platforms for brands to showcase sustainable and social values; surfaces that can unlock engaging digital experiences via QR codes and AR; and objects that can facilitate elevated in-home experiences to boost consumer engagement.

Part of this interest is the Pentawards x TASCHEN book, which showcases the best in global packaging design today. How were selections made for this book?

The designs that are featured in The Package Design Book published by TASCHEN are winning entries from previous competitions - The Package Design Book 6 which was released earlier this year for example, featured the winning entries from 2019 and 2020.

The designs showcased in the book cover a range of sectors, including beauty, beverage, household goods, food and luxury items that have been released to market all over the world. We also feature conceptual pieces created by students and professionals, which push the boundaries of creativity and innovation in packaging design.

In conclusion, what pack design(s) have impressed you personally the most in the last year?

The Air Company have a mission to be the most sustainable alcohol brand in the world and the reusable and 100% sustainable packaging they have created truly embodies this, making it the world’s first carbon negative vodka brand. It has a natural, non-toxic label that can be removed easily and a design that can easily be re-used as a water bottle, flower vase or candle holder. It is a fantastic example of packaging hat is sustainable and also ‘luxury’: simplistic, effortless and pure, and it went on to win the ‘Diamond – best in show’ award at Pentawards 2020.

Treasury Wine Estates have built one of the fastest growing wine brands - 19 Crimes - through its packaging and social media alone. Customers are able to scan the label for augmented reality experiences that bring the wine and the story behind it to life, including a partnership with Snoop Dogg in the creation of ‘Snoop Cali Red’, with packaging that enables the legendary artist to come to life in consumers’ living rooms.

Although a slightly older example, we’ve also been impressed by haircare brand KEVIN.MURPHY switching the material of its HDPE (high density polyethylene) bottles to recycled ocean plastic, becoming the first beauty brand to utilise 100% ocean plastic waste and acting as a catalyst for change in the industry, and beyond.

Elisabeth Skoda

Editor of Touchpoints magazine, writer for Packaging Europe magazine and design enthusiast!
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