Role of a Package Designer?

What are the day to day roles of a Package Designer? I’m unsure what an employer advertising for a Package Designer would typically expect from me.

Do they expect the same designer to create the package form, structural design, graphics and everything else? Or does a Package Designer create the form and structural design, and then pass it onto a Graphic Designer? I guess it depends on the complexity of the packaging. Or maybe most packaging is stock bought and the graphics are created around it. I’m not sure.

Hopefully some of you can enlighten me.

I can offer an insight into the packaging work I’ve done, but it’s purely my own experience. I work at a consultancy where we do alot of FMCG which also includes the secondary pacakging. As an industrial designer, having done alot of packaging design my role consists of purely 3D structure. This generally means thermoforming construction and card board engineering, blow moulding bottles, flow wrapping etc… So there are plenty of mockup’s to produce and lots of sketching (as always).

We work closely with 2D agencies so we have alot of considerations to take into account i.e providing them enough graphic space to work their magic. We never ever do 2D work.

I have also never used “stock packaging”. You might use stock principles, but each pack needs to be tailored to product, shelf height (and if your doing stuff for outside US, ISO modularity). In terms of complexity it is entirely down to you (and the type of line the packaging has to go down).

From my experience packaging, if your trying to do something new, is surprisingly difficult. It can be hard to predict how a thermoforming will form untill you produce mockups, and likewise constructing complex card skillets. It is certainly a good skill to have, and you will be surprised how many designers struggle with packaging.

Hi Clam. Thanks for your insight.

Would others say that Package Designers usually only work on the 3d structure? Or are there two separate professions: a Structural Package Designer and a Package Designer? I’d have thought that in many cases, the structure and graphics would need to be designed dependent of each other.

Many of the job adverts I’ve seen are a bit vague:

Where as this one requires the designer to cover the package and graphic design. Which is what I previously thought a Package Designer did:

Thought I would throw a quick post in. Can’t post an in depth now but I will post more later. A good ID doing packaging will do mostly structure but will understand brand, brand fit and how graphics should be applied to the pack. We will even go as far as creating directional graphics for the GD team to work off of. Another big part of ID in packaging is consumer understanding and strategy. I have not looked at the positions you posted so don’t know if that applies.


Hi Justin. I look forward to reading your in depth info.

I’ve made a mood board of the sort of package design that I find inspirational. So in cases like these, the design process would be; a Structural Package Designer to create the form (and possibly mock up the graphics). Then it would be passed on to a Graphic Designer for the graphics.

Is the job title of a Graphic Designer specialising in packaging just Graphic Designer? (The only job adverts I ever see are for a Package Designer but not a Package Graphic Designer or Graphic Designer for packaging)

And in companies that create simple packaging is the Graphic Designer responsible for the package design too?

It really depends on who is posting the job. A packaging designer typically references graphic design only. A structural packaging designer is more along the lines of what ID is. However, a structural designer @ a supplier is different than that at an agency and/or a customer. So you’ll need to be aware of the differences. If you want to get into the real nitty gritty of structural design/engineering, then you’d go to the supplier side. If you want more creative freedom to impact the package and the way it interacts with the brand, then you’ll want to go on the customer/agency side.

Most of what you posted is graphic packaging design. Non-traditional packages are from the agencies which, more than likely have never seen the light of day. If they have it would be in extremely low quantities or short runs.

Boosted is correct. There are also Packaging Engineers or also know as Packaging Scientists. These guys are responsible for how the box is going to run on the line and the structural integrity when it is on a pallet and what not.

What I tend to find is that IDs get placed in two areas when it comes to corporate/consultancies in the CPG world. The first being structural work for packaging and POP and the second being consumer work where they create pack, consumer, and brand strategies. The second is where Boosted and I mostly sit.

Depending on the industry and the company, the first example I gave is a good one. The cosmetic and alcohol industry have deep pockets and you can do a lot of interest and creative things where as the snack food industry (where I am) does not and all pack changes have to be well thought out with minimal cost. Both allow for very unique challenges and are completely different industries. What you will find here is that you will always be walking the line of GD and ID so you need to have some graphic skills. You will also need to understand that if you are working in paper packaging, it is a completely different medium than what you are taught in school. It starts flat and then goes 3D. This sometimes takes new people a while to understand and get the hang of.

The second example I find to be the most appealing. This is where IDs ability to think differently, look at challenges from another angle and just plain apply our process can be a major influence to not only the shape of the bottle looks but to the entire proposition. You get to touch all areas of the business from R&D to Marketing, to operations, and even finance. We spend quite a bit of time in consumers homes evaluating how they live, eat, and store their food. We then direct teams in the creation of propositions that solve consumer problems. These directions could be structural packaging, messaging, different positioning, etc…

On the flip side of this…I will warn you to be careful of positions that put you behind a computer and turn you into a CAD jockey. Make sure that whatever packaging job you take, they are still using traditional ID process. CAD will be included but make sure that you will also be sketching, ideating, researching, etc… There are places that do not do this and it will become a hole that will suck everything out of you and is very hard to get out of. You do not want you career to start there.

Hope this helps.

Thank you both for those very informative answers. I’ve been having a good think about it.

My interest is in creating both the form and the graphics. but I don’t want to be involved in engineering. So by your responses, I’d be looking at a Packaging Designer (graphic design) or a Structural Packaging Designer (on the agency side). I’m not sure which one fits that best.

  • As a Packaging Designer (graphic design), how much input would I have in creating the form, and would I typically work alongside someone to ensure that my concepts are structurally sound?

  • As a Structural Packaging Designer (agency side), what type of structural skills are typically required? Eg. calculating loads + force, material behaviour etc?

From my experience, a graphic packaging designer has no influence over the form. They recieve the package design after the structure is completed or pulls from a pool of completed designs. Also, in the meeting room they tend to recieve instruction as opposed to offering guidence. A company is less likely to listen to advise from a graphic designer in regards to structure because the liability for failure is much higher.

A structural packaging design will have a greater ability to do both. It’s much easier for a company to “see” your graphic work and will have greater comfort in allowing you to do the graphics if you can demostrate competence. Yes to your questions in regards to skillsets. There’s software out there that will figure out loads, etc. You would need basic mechanical knowledge and materials. On a larger scale you would need to understand the converting and packaging process of the product you are designing for. If you continue, then you will need to understand larger business implications of the package to the companies involved. All of these are items you learn throughout your career. It’s not expected that you come into the industry knowing all of these things.

Thanks Boosted.

Do you think that throughout a career as a junior/middleweight packaging designer, I would likely design other products too, maybe exhibition stands, pop display etc? I wondered if lots of companies bunch these together and have the same designers working on them.

That depends on who you work for. POP and packaging do get lumped together but exhibit is it’s own animal. Most CPG organization separate display and packaging development. The two groups work together and inform each other but the development is separate. The reasoning for this is POP/display is very sales and customer influenced. This means for example what works for walmart may not work for target. Because of this it is needed for a dedicated team.

Hope this helps.


Yes, very helpful. Cheers Justin

Yes, Justin has it. For a little more info…
Typically both areas are split because there is quite a level of detail involved in each area. While you may not be able to do them under one role. It is very possible for you to switch from POS/POP to packaging design throughout your career. There are different levels of detail because each area has a different level of technical detail based on scale. You could learn both at a competent level if you stay in each field for about 3 years. With that you’ll have functional knowledge of how each area functions and more importantly how they impact each other. At the end of the day however, the primary package takes precedent. This is then followed by the secondary and finally retail (POS/POP). It is VERY rare that the primary package is influenced by things downstream unless you’re in a b2b industry.

There are a few agencies that will do the full spectrum from package to retail, but those packaging/POP/POS strategies are reserved for the directors of those companies.

Thanks for the update Charles. And a thanks to Clam too, who gave some answers through a PM. This thread has been really useful, and cleared up a lot.