Packaging for children vertical V2

Liz Moran I am a Western Massachusetts-based graphic designer and illustrator with experience working across a variety of fields including branding, web design, illustration, packaging design, and signage. I enjoy combining the analytic, problem-solving aspect of design with my love of typography, composition, and color.

Children have always been consumers. But today, their level of consumption is off the scale and they are more discerning than ever before. Where they were once content with a ball or a hula hoop, they now expect to be entertained with iPads, Minecraft, and the latest hit shows on Netflix. That means it takes a lot more to capture their interest. If you want to convince them to spend some of their weekly allowance with you, you need to create compelling brand designs that they (and their parents) will love. 

Give it Some Character

Have you ever met a kid who doesn’t love cartoons? Kids and cartoons go together like, well, Scooby and Shaggy or Patrick and Spongebob. That’s good news for you — if you’re looking to create a package design that’s irresistible to kids, a good place to start is by coming up with a cool cartoon character to draw the eye and convince them to buy.

Not convinced of the cartoon character’s power? Just look at the success Ronald McDonald has brought McDonald’s. A staggering 93% of all children surveyed could identify the colorful clown just from seeing his feet and legs — who wouldn’t kill for brand recognition like that!

Consider cooties

Not only are kids naturally attracted to cute cartoon characters, but a cute cat or a cool cockroach (yes really) can be a better choice than an actual photograph of a kid. Why? If you know kids, you’ll know that boys and girls can be the best of friends, but they can also be the worst of enemies — cooties, anyone? Due to this age-old rivalry, and the ever-present influence of gender stereotypes, many children will reject a product that has a picture of the opposite sex on the packaging. 

Age-appropriate

When you’re designing characters to put on your products, it’s important that you keep them age-appropriate. If a character is more Peppa Pig than Finn from Adventure Time, older kids might think it’s lame and vice versa. 

It can be inanimate

Bear in mind, that anything from a lamp to a toaster can be brought to life and made an interesting character for kids if it’s done right — you don’t necessarily need to create a human or animal character to resonate. In fact, anthropomorphic creations can often be more entertaining as the Pop-Tart commercials prove!

Let ‘Em See It

There is an argument that when it comes to effective package design, less is more. When you’re designing for children however, it’s often a case of more is more. You want your packaging to hit them over the head with how irresistable your product is. 

Children, especially younger kids, don’t really do subtlety. If they can’t see what your product is, and how much fun they’ll have with it, chances are they’ll pass. You need to give them a chance to use their imagination.

That’s why you should consider using boxes with transparent windows or cutaways that show off the product or even clear blister packs. If that’s not quite on brand or in the budget, consider taking big, bright pictures from as many angles as you can and place them front and center on the packaging. The show, don’t tell when it comes to kids!

Throw the rainbow at it

Have you seen how kids dress? They seldom choose black or brown when they could be wearing pink, red, purple and orange — sometimes at the same time! What should this tell you about kid’s package design? That it should be bold, bright, and beautiful.

Grab attention

It’s a fact that brighter colors grab children’s attention. Their brains and bodies are still developing and muted colors don’t make as much of an impact on them as pinks, reds, and blues. It’s one of the reasons why Peppa Pig is a fabulous shade of pink, Barney the Dinosaur is a fetching shade of Purple, the ducks in the video above are bright and fun (take inspiration from them) and why Adventure Time looks like an explosion in a Skittles factory.

Of course, you should use color in a way that fits with your brand ethos and makes sense for the product, but when you have the opportunity to be bold, don’t waste it. Channel your inner Rainbow Brite and have fun with it.

Be cool

Kids want to buy products that are cool, and what is cool to a 5 year old (Backyardigans and Arthur for the win) is vastly different than what will appeal to a 10 year old (Powerpuff Girls and Star Wars). That’s why it’s so important that you narrow down your target age range as far as possible. The fact of the matter is, a kid could love your stuff today and let it collect dust in a matter of months. The better you know your target, the more lasting and relevant you can make your product package design.

Don’t forget mom and dad

Your products may be aimed at kids, but it’s their parents who have the money and sway to make the decisions. So, if you want to create effective package design for children, you need to get moms and dads on board too.

Be responsible

First of all, most adults are pretty responsible. They want products that are safe for their kids. They also want products that won’t ruin the environment for their kids in the future. So, cutting down on plastic or using recycled materials is a great way to go. Even Hasbro is phasing out plastic packaging! Channel your inner Greta Thunberg and see where it takes you.

Add value

Parents are also more likely to spend money on products that have some educational value, or that will benefit their kids in some way. Enter the brand mission statement — consider using phrases like “encourages creativity,” “problem-solving,” “educational,” and “sensory” to get them buying what you’re selling.

Take ‘em back

Nostalgia is also a powerful tool in advertising to adults. If you can use your packaging to evoke fond memories of past products loved by the parents, they won’t be able to resist picking your product up and showing it to their kids.

Time to play

Branding for kid-centered products is tough. Kids can be more discerning than you might think but with these tips in your arsenal, you can be sure to hit the right mark — so what are you waiting for? Get out there and play.