Extracts of my speech at PackAge Conclave 2013  in PrintWeek (August 2013) feature “Prepare to meet packaging challenges”:

There is a huge opportunity in the packaging industry on branding oneself. Sudhir Sharma, founder and creative chairman of Pune-based INDI Design, and a speaker at a PackAge conference, says, “As an industry, we depend on consumption; we want people to consume more and more whether it’s through color or packaging; by making it last or smell better, and reach in good condition. The bottom-line is to sell it more, produce more and push it in the market.”
Sharma however, says that as an industry we are also seen as problem creator for the world. “A finger is always pointed at the packaging industry for being at forefront, carrying the weight of climate change burden, littering, waste, resource depletion and related global crisis.” Sharma says environmental issues are not driven by the consumers. “It is wrong to look at the consumer and say that they are going to change their attitude on climate. The change should be led by us who know about the technology, the designs, the packaging materials and so on.”
According to Sharma, the packaging providers leave information at information level, knowledge at knowledge level and awareness at at the awareness level. Especially about green and sustainability. The companies are aware, and they leave it there, says Sharma. “Companies do not use the knowledge which they have gained in producing products or creating something,” he says. “You will see a lot of stickers on sustainability, and CSR, as a department is being made very strong but it is at the company level, it doesn’t actually percolate down to the consumer.”
Most of the typography in packages is not readable. Consumer’s age is changing and is one of the biggest threats. “The whole issue of senior-friendly and accessibility, the whole issue on impacts of vision and nervousness of hand needs to be considered when a packaging is designed and produced,” says Sharma.
Sharma agrees with the point that packaging is very important and that the consumer is always looking for something new.” “If the packaging gives the impression which is different from actual product, people reject it outright. And if the package of a soap dispenser has been same for two years people assume that the company is not selling well. There is no holding back when people have to criticize a product,” he says.
Materials, production, transportation and how to destroy the material after the product is consumed, should be made clear to consumer, says Sharma. “Lead the knowledge, do not wait for the consumer to tell and design responsibly. If you are designing a bottle of water, don’t only design it for water. It should be useful even for other purposes.
Sharma shares three design mantras on branding – Do not design in isolation. Design for larger audience and not for specific audience. Keep environmental impacts in mind. “Packaging’s intent should run across increasing consumption to caring for consumers,’ he says.