Packaging designers develop the shape, style and graphics on a package. The aim is to make the product sell and be usable.
What does a packaging designer do?
Most products that we buy have some sort of packaging. It’s not by chance that packaging uses different sizes, shapes and materials for different products. The packaging has been designed.
Packaging design involves the shape and style of the package and the graphics and words on it.
You should be able to deal with your designs being rejected and be prepared to rework them.
It aims to:
- sell the product
- protect the product and the user
- enable the product to be used.
A packaging designer also has to take into account sustainability and regulations.
What is the work like?
You could work for:
- the design department of a company
- a design company or agency.
Some packaging designers are freelance.
You may develop a specialism in a particular type of packaging, for example plastic. Or in a particular product, such as electrical goods.
Packaging designers usually work in an open-plan studio along with other designers. You may have contact with clients and sometimes with suppliers and manufacturers of the packaging.
In a smaller agency, you are more likely to work directly with clients. In a larger organisation, client contact may be through account managers.
Although the work is mainly normal office hours, Monday to Friday, you may have to work longer hours close to deadlines.
How do I become a packaging designer?
You need to be creative with a good eye for design. It helps to be interested in products and consumer goods. You also need:
- good commercial awareness
- great attention to detail
- to be able to communicate your ideas
- to come up with creative ideas, but listen carefully to what the client is asking for
- the ability to work to a brief, within the constraints of a budget and deadline
- to deal with your designs being rejected and be prepared to rework them, sometimes at very short notice
- to work as part of a team or on your own, as required.
IT skills are essential. Employers may ask for experience of using software such as Adobe or Photoshop. You need to be interested in keeping up-to-date with IT.
Employers will usually expect you to have a portfolio of your work to show them at interviews.
Qualifications and training
Although there are no set entry requirements, most packaging designers have a qualification, usually a degree. This is likely to be in Product Design or Graphic Design, or related subjects such as Graphic Communication or Visual Communication.
Some design courses include packaging as an option for study. It is important to look at the course content carefully to make sure it is the right course for you. The UCAS website lists all courses. D&Ad also has information about design courses.
For a degree, you usually need at least two A levels or equivalent. Some design degree courses may also ask for a Foundation Diploma. This is a one-year course offered by many colleges and some universities.
You can prepare for a degree by studying Design at different levels. As well as GCSEs and A levels in Art and Design, you could take:
- Awards, Certificates and Diplomas
- HNC or HND.
You need to see what’s on offer at colleges in your area.
You may be able to enter through an apprenticeship in graphic design at level 2 or 3. Employers will expect GCSEs usually in English and Maths. They may want Art and Design or IT. Some may ask for one or more A levels, for level 3 apprenticeships.
If you want to study beyond a degree, there are Masters courses, such as:
- MSc in Packaging Technology Management at Brunel University
- MA in Packaging Design at Sheffield Hallam University.
The Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining offers specialist courses which cover the whole subject of packaging technology as well as design:
- Certificate (level 3) in packaging which can be studied by those wanting to enter the industry
- Diploma (level 5), intended for those already working in packaging. It can be used as an entry to Masters courses.
How much can I earn?
As a trainee, you may start on the minimum or apprentice wage. A junior designer could start around £14,000.
With a year’s experience, you could earn £17,000 to £20,000, rising to £25,000 after several years. A senior designer could earn £30,000 to £45,000.
Freelance designers are paid an hourly or daily rate, which could be from £200 to £300 a day.