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The Future of Packaging Needs You

By R. Andrew Hurley, Ph.D.

November 22, 2019

width=411Adweek recently posted an article that overviewed the two-year process PepsiCo invested in the September 2019 redesign of Lay’s potato chip bag graphics, which hadn’t been changed in 12 years. Even with 20-plus flavor varieties to manage, two years still seems to be a long time for that project. Still, I’ve seen the redesign process take upwards of five years or as little as six weeks. That got me wondering not only about the process of redesign in different companies but whether professionals such as yourselves would be willing to share their process so I could, in turn, present them to my students. Many of our graduates are employed in your businesses, at your buyers’ offices, and across the supply chain; it could only be beneficial, for them and for you, if they had a better idea of what to expect in their new jobs.

Clemson University presents packaging knowledge to more than 1,000 students each year. One of the subjects covered is that of design analysis: What makes a design successful, what are its weaknesses, how can it be strengthened, and what impact does a redesign have on the product itself, as well as on the products sharing the shelf space? This design theory course helps students understand not only the huge impact that packaging has on consumer interest, but also how to invite consumer interaction. The longer consumers interact with a package, the more likely it is they will choose to purchase that item. I walk my students through 60-plus topics in human factors psychology and discuss how each one impacts the relationship between a consumer and a package. I also take them through other topics that affect consumers—directly or indirectly—including sustainability, color theory, and brainstorming. Throughout the semester, they’re tasked with individual pieces of a design assessment report to ultimately prepare them to execute a package redesign.

In my course, we take 15 weeks to assess and redesign a package—significantly less time than the Lay’s redesign. And that takes me back to my original question: How do you, packaging industry professionals, make your decisions about packaging designs? If I had a better understanding of how these kinds of decisions are made in your world, I could do a better job of helping my students understand what kind of processes they can expect to encounter in the workplace. To that end, I would love to speak with you about your package assessment strategy. What techniques do you employ to make changes or updates? How long does it take? Who does the research and makes the decisions?

Are you open to sharing how you assess your client’s packaging and suggest improvements? If so, please reach out to me via email, and we can set up a time to chat about the questions above, or we can do an email back-and-forth. Whatever your preference, I would love to hear from you. If you’re reading this, you have value to share. Help me relay it to the next generation by emailing, with the subject line “Next-Gen Improvement.”

width=150Andrew Hurley, Ph.D., is an associate professor of food, nutrition, and packaging science at Clemson University. He can be reached at