Goods with pictures

Anna Filippova, October 30, 2013

No doubt you noticed the fact that children hardly ever get interested by the books that have no pictures. As Alice has said “What is the use of a book without pictures?”Children grow up, but they have the same love for pictures. American scientists of the 1980s proved that an illustration on the packing influences buying emotions immensely. The thing is that the visual cortex can perceive pictures much earlier than the text, the color or any other visual information. It’s easier for us to recognize an illustration and  it’s more pleasant for us, that’s how it works. When we get a stroke of pleasure, we are ready to buy the thing. To sum it up, pictures sell.

Most of the packings, especially in the segment of FMCG, don’t differ much. All the package designers use the same techniques not because they lack fantasy, but because there are some canons of package design. That’s like in the classical experiment with the color: red attracts the most attention, then orange, green, blue, purple, yellow, black, white, gray - in the order of descending. This is why everything is red on the shelves. Moreover, every group of goods is associated with a certain color: green is for vegetables, white is for dairy products, red is for meat, blue is for fish etc.

Red color everywhere


A rule is what can be defined by universal laws, like those of Physics or Geometry. Like a distance. Don’t you ever forget about it. When working at a picture, an illustrator looks at it at a distance of 50 sm. Modern shopping areas are organized so that a customer is about 100 sm. away from goods if he/she is in a self-service store and 250 sm. if he/she is in a shop. Thus an illustrator and a customer can see a different picture, looking at the same one. To make sure your illustration works you should take it to a supermarket, hook to a packing and look at it from distance. Or at least get a habit of moving away from the screen to decide whether it works or not. 

Package-illustration should be seen from distance


An illustration should not just remarkable but outstanding. A customer is going to notice it among the rest of the packings. A good one draws a person’s attention for several seconds – and that’s enough for taking an on the spot decision. (70% of the purchases in a supermarket are spontaneous). We know that sometimes it’s even harder to take the eyes off something disgusting than beautiful. It’s what doesn’t work in package industry.

A picture may arouse one’s feelings but it must sell the goods. According to the research, a packing illustration should never stir four negative emotions, such as fear, anger, misunderstanding, dissatisfaction. The problem is that different people can have those feelings because of different things. So illustrators tend to use safe standard images. Package design is an art sphere where an artist bows down before a consumer. We may know how to make it more interesting, but if it doesn’t sell — we lose. 

Consumer should lke package


It’s also important that a customer should remember the package. The brain should associate an image with goods — like it happens when we see an advertisement. And later a buyer should recognize the package when shopping. An illustration here takes the place of a logotype, which can’t be recognized right away. A good illustration should be easy to keep in mind as an image. An orange from “Tropicana” package has become a good example of it. The sales fell after redesign of the package as loyal customers failed to recognize the product. The manufacturer, however, soon realized the mistake and got the orange back to the package.

Tropicana package before and after redesign


So, we can say that a good package illustration

  • is recognizable at a distance
  • is outstanding
  • keeps one’s attention
  • stirs good emotions

If everything is well done — a customer takes a package, and that is a success. And now it’s important not to disappoint him/her.



These rules work as soon as the physiology of the human’s brain remains the same. It means that within the next many years all the packages are going to look alike. The task is to avoid copying and stick to the rules at the same time, which is not easy, but very challenging.

Some illustrators keep going to break the rules