There has never been a more exciting time to become a packaging designer. As we collectively battle global strains such as climate change, ocean plastic, and landfill limitations, the design of packaging for sustainability has never been of greater urgency. Meanwhile, packaging designers are tasked with improving the functional performance of containers and enhancing their role in attracting the attention of customers and communicating important information to them.
What does a packaging designer do?
In the simplest terms, a packaging designer creates physical packaging, including graphic design, for the spectrum of industries that use packaging. Duties may vary widely, depending upon the position and company. To get a sense of the range of duties, look at required duties listed on job boards such as Indeed.com. Typical tasks may include 2D or 3D design renderings created in CAD software as well as graphics software such as Adobe Suite.
Packaging is an interdisciplinary function, and packaging designers must successfully collaborate with a variety of functions such as marketing, manufacturing, logistics, and more. Packaging designers often are involved from the beginning of the product development life cycle, from concept to product distribution to end-of-life recycling or reuse considerations.
Educational Requirements for a Packaging Designer
A typical career path for a packaging designer includes graduation from a recognized packaging school such as Michigan State University, Virginia Tech, Clemson, Rochester Institute of Technology, or California Polytechnic State University. Program entrance can be directly out of high school or partway through an undergraduate program. Usual requirements include courses in sciences, applied sciences as well as humanities. Many websites offer engineering resume writing services, that would be useful to anyone interested in applying for admission to a packaging school.
At Michigan State University, for example, admission to the upper division requires that the student has completed Chemistry 141, Mathematics 133, and Physics 231 with a minimum of a 2.0 in each course, A 3.0 cumulative GPA across all coursework completed at MSU is also needed.
Packaging graduates can further enhance their market power by undertaking a graduate degree program, as well as by professional development programs and certifications such as IOPP’s Certified Professionals in Training and Certified Packaging Professionals offerings or ISTA’s Certified Packaging Laboratory Professionals program.
Why is packaging design important work?
Packaging plays an important role in product protection, prolongment of shelf life, marketing and sustainability.
As companies strive to reduce their environmental footprint, they increasingly ask their packaging designers to create packages that help to reduce solid waste, GHG generation, and in some cases, the need for single-use plastics.
Companies are increasingly making pledges to have their packaging totally recyclable, made of recycled content, or reusable in the years ahead. Innovation abounds in these areas, as well as in solutions such as smart, compostable, or edible packaging.
Packaging designers also help reduce the sustainability impact of commerce in several other ways. For example, they strive to design packages that prevent product damage or spoilage that results in a waste of resources. Another example is designing packages with increased product density. By fitting more products in a container, the sustainability impact of handling and freight can also be reduced.
Packaging designers may also be tasked with making packages that interact more favorably with automated manufacturing or ecommerce, for instance. And as mentioned above, packaging plays a crucial role in helping customers choose your product over the competition. According to one source, 70% of purchasing decisions are made by the customer right at the supermarket shelf. The overall success of a product might hinge, at least in part, on the ability of the packaging to catch the eye of the consumer and communicate a compelling message that entices them to choose your product.
Packaging Industry and Employment Outlook
The global packaging materials industry is anticipated to exceed $1.3 trillion by 2024. One of the attractions of the industry is that it is recession-proof. According to Virginia Tech, there is a highly competitive market for packaging school graduates. In some cases, Virginia Tech packaging students get job offers nine months prior to graduation. Some graduates command as much as $120,000, with the average income of new graduates being in the $65,000 to $80,000 range. The minimum starting salary has been $60,000.
To find out more, reach out to a packaging school admissions advisor.