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How Less Can Often Be More

2 minute read | Smruti Kulkarni Shanbhag, Nielsen Design Solutions – Europe Lead | August 2018

I recently went to the grocery store with my 7-year-old daughter for our weekly grocery shopping. I am trying to get her to become more autonomous and independent, so we had two shopping lists—a smaller one for her and the longer one for me. In terms of selection, I granted her the liberty to choose whatever product/brand she likes as long as she stuck to the list.

So she took her own cart and set off in a different direction, ticking off items (cookies, juice, sliced bread and bananas) on that little list as she shopped. A few minutes later, I noticed her from a distance, standing in front of the juice aisle, contemplating which one to add to her cart. She picked up one pack, looked at it, then took another, probably compared the two—or more—chose one to add to her basket.

Later, when we got back together, I curiously asked her why she had chosen the juice she selected out of all the others on the shelf. She said, “Well, the label was simple and I could read and understand it.” The pack she had chosen had a simple design, few words and a picture of a pineapple on a see-through bottle. Indeed, it was much simpler than many of the other packages in the juice aisle that feature cluttered designs.

This made me think about how sometimes less can be more in the context of pack design. My daughter expressed something that I always do subconsciously as a shopper: seek simplicity. And I suspect many shoppers do the same. We buy what we understand—at least in the context of fast moving consumer goods. Arts and antiques, however, would be a completely different story.

Marketers often think about how important it is to communicate all of a product’s key benefits to their consumers directly on the pack—using images, colors, logos, words, typography, etc. But very often, this overload of information makes the design extremely complex and difficult to understand. That’s why it’s important for brands to remember that shoppers make their decisions at the shelf rather quickly. Using a message and story that’s easy and simple will ensure that consumers can digest it in a couple of seconds. If your design fails to do that, the product may remain on the shelf instead of being placed in the cart.

In addition to simplifying your proposition, “minimalism” in pack design can pose several interesting advantages:

Now the next question: What should you do to develop a good “less is more” pack? Are there best practices to follow?

Well, as a market researcher, my response would be: Explore your options broadly. Go bold with your minimalist designs, test them with consumers and eliminate subjectivity from your decisions.

From a more granular, tactical perspective, here are a few points you might consider when you’re considering your next redesign:

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