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Visual Hierarchy on Labels and Packaging

Updated: Dec 5, 2021



When you're selecting a product off of a shelf or in an online marketplace, one of the first things you engage with is the label and packaging. A label can say a lot about a product: who it is for, what it does, and what sets it apart from its competitors.


Since your product's label and packaging is often the first touch point for your customer, it makes the design extremely important in ensuring that everything is readable, helps establish brand recognition, and converts into a sale. Everything from the size, colour, contrast, and spacing can alter the way customers interact with your product. This blog is here to help you use visual hierarchy to get inspired and ensure that all of the most important information is delivered quickly and effectively.


WHAT IS A VISUAL HIERARCHY?

A visual hierarchy is the arrangement of elements in a design in order of importance. The visual weight of each element communicates to your customer what to focus on and in what order. When you have a lot of text and limited space, you have to be very mindful about how your information is presented. If you're designing a label and you have no idea where to start, you're in the right place. The following sections will outline the five most important things to consider when making label and packaging design decisions:

- contrast - spacing Never designed a label before? Head to our services page to learn more about how we can help you develop your label from concept to shelf. [DISCLAIMER: Every example listed below does not use just one principle, but multiple.

The most impactful labels and packaging will utilize them all in some way.] [REMINDER: Your packaging and label priorities will largely depend on your target

demographic (and what matters to them) as well as where your product is being sold.

Determining what information matters most to your target demographic is the first place to start!]

SIZE

The size of the text on your label is going to impact what your customer reads first.


Our eyes are naturally drawn to larger text, so make the most important text big. As you can see in the example to the right, the first thing you read is 'Canyon Coffee' because it is much larger than the rest of the text.


Brand name is important in this context, not only because it has 'coffee' in the name (telling you exactly what it is!), but because most coffee products are going to be shelved near other coffee brands, so making your brand name stand out is important. Next, your eye is either going to read 'Roasted in Los Angeles' or 'Origin Chochajua Guatemala'. If this product is sold in the Los Angeles market, being locally roasted be a key selling point for their customers. Additionally, the country of origin is important for coffee aficionados! Lastly, you read the quantity.


The size of the text takes you on a journey around the label and packaging. In this example, as with the following examples, there are multiple principles at play. The above example includes not only size, but reading patterns, colour and tint, and spacing.


READING PATTERNS

You can take advantage of traditional reading patterns to communicate quickly & effectively.


Unless your label is in Arabic or Hebrew, it will likely be read from left to right. We all scan text differently, but most people read text in the following order:


- Start in the upper left corner

- Read/scan the first line of the text

- Scan down the left side of the column until they find something interesting

- Read anything interesting in more detail

- Continue scanning down


F-SHAPED The f-shaped scanning pattern is one of the most common. It is fixated on the top and left side of whatever you are reading–similar to how we read books, websites, and other text-based work. People tend to scan in an F-pattern when they are trying to be efficient or are not committed to reading every word. The design example of Hello Healthy is left aligned and uses text in this manner. Most people will read the product label sequentially: 'Hello Healthy', 'Cleansing Wash', 'Naturally Beautiful Cosmetics', possibly followed by ingredient list below it. The most important information for the company is shared first–of course, size, contrast and spacing play a major role in the effectiveness of this label too!



COLOUR


Colour can draw attention and make certain words and elements stand out.


When your product is sitting on a shelf next to other products, colour can be a powerful way to draw attention and leave an impression. Sometimes consumers need to see your product multiple times before they decide to purchase it. Brand recognition goes a long way in establishing trust and credibility, and colour is a powerful way to do it!

In our first example of Lillevik Alpine, each label uses the same logo and shade of blue to establish brand identity. However, they also use bold background colours to differentiate between the differ types of cider.


Colour can be used to highlight product details/features. In the example of Rapscallion Soda below, colour is being used to help customers differentiate between flavours:



All colours have particular associations. In the above example, green is associated with lime, red is associated with cherry, and yellow is associated with mango. Using existing associations, whether it is food related or not, can help your customer quickly and effectively make a decision.


CONTRAST

Contrast can help enhance, dull, or draw attention to text or other visual elements.


There is no single rule for using contrast effectively. However (with many exceptions), light colours tend to jump forward, while dark colours tend to recede. Black and white are often the most effective set of contrasting tones for this reason. In the example of Little's Coffee, we can see that the white text jumps out on the black square. Despite the busy background (which has contrast between the light and dark pink), the greatest contrast on the label is between the black and white–which draws your eye immediately!

Another elegant way to use contrast is the use a transparent label that contrasts with the product. In the example of Spicy Treat, the white text and illustrative elements stand out against the colour of the jams.




SPACING

Effective spacing gives every element room to breathe.


Spacing in your visual hierarchy should be used to give all your graphic elements more space and room to breathe, which makes it easier for the viewer to identify all of the information in your design and order them by importance. In the example of Fliring Beer, the logo, name of the beer, type of beer, and description of the flavour profile are separated by colour, size, and the subtle addition of lines (imagine how hard it would be to read if they didn't do any of that!). This helps customers easily identify different types of information, which can help them make an informed decision.


 

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