How Much Does a Package Design Cost? – Why Your Package Design Should Cost a Heck of a Lot More Than $80



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I didn’t make up that number. It was given to me after a potential client sought out my services. He had a line of cosmetics and was looking for some great packaging. After a quick fifteen minute discovery phone call where I got a handle on his brand, his market, his product, his differentiators and technical details regarding bottles, boxes, dielines, and barcodes, I gave him some quotes.

“Hmmm, that’s a lot. I have a guy already in New York who makes my labels for about $80 to $100 each”

“Well then you should go with him. Good luck.”

These types of conversations happen more often than they should. You can look at my portfolio and tell it’s not possible to create that level of work for third world wages. He’s clearly unhappy with his present designer yet wants top quality for the same price. It’s not going to happen.

The potential client’s numbers were so far off it even inspired me to write this label design tutorial so future clients and up and coming designers can see what really goes on behind the scenes.

But sometimes it’s not a mater of understanding but one of simple economics. Some clients simply don’t have the money to spend. It’s not a matter of undervaluing your work, they just don’t have it. If this is the case, the quality of their package design won’t matter much anyway, as their company probably won’t survive even if they had the best branding team in the world. This is not a comment on their character, but a comment on the mathematical realities. If your business is so trapped for cash that you can’t invest a modest amount into building the very thing that generates your revenue, then success is highly unlikely. Not impossible, just very unlikely.

But I think the central problem between a client’s expectations of what they should pay for package design and what it actually does cost, is directly related to how well they understand the process of making a great package design.

More Than Just Pretty Pictures. Package Design is a Complex Process that Starts Well Before You Start Designing.

Packaging matters. The look and feel of the packaging will have a direct impact on how often the customers notices your product. The material you use will effect the production costs as well as shipping and attrition costs.

Glass is heavier and more fragile, so your shipping and breakage costs will be higher than plastic.  However, some products must be in glass. The consumer won’t buy it otherwise.

The shelf life of your product can be extended or shortened depending on ingredients, packaging materials and method of sealing.

Some types of packages are shelved individually and some in retail ready cases or POP displays.

Some stay fresh looking through consumer handling and some like tattered and worn rather quickly.

Moisture will destroy some materials while others are impervious.

All of these consideration will add or subtract costs, and cost are important because you can’t always pass it on to the consumer. If all your competitors are wholesaling for $1.25 then you better be hitting that mark, or at least very close. And if not, there better be a damn good reason it isn’t. So if $1.25 is the ceiling for your category then the only way to make more profit is to reduce your costs.

When you start chasing bigger accounts you may find that Costco will require new packaging before they will carry it. Whole Foods is known to reject a great product because its packaging looked cheap. This happens more than you think. Distributors and buyers reject good products because of bad packaging all the time. Many first timers forget that their real audience is the buyer. They are the ones who determine if you product makes it to the shelf or not and they are just as picky, if not more picky, that the end user.

This is the reality out there. Consumer options are expanding in every category. Every year there are more choices, not less, so you need to prepare yourself.

Launching a product is expensive. Even renting a commercial kitchen and delivering small batches to local independent stores is going to cost hundreds each time you do a production run.

If you’re using a co-packer, you may need to have a minimum production run of 50,000 to even get anyone’s attention. If it’s a beverage, especially a canned one, you may be looking at minimum runs of 100,000. No one wants to disturb their production line to hot fill and sleeve 5,000 bottles.

So this means that no matter what, you’ll be laying down a lot of cash just to make anything and sell it anywhere.

The Long and Winding Road

So what does this have to do with designing a package? Everything. A great package design is the END process that BEGINS with narrowing down your technical options, choosing the best solution, developing a compelling brand, and then executing that brand. And most likely you will be working closely with your client in choosing the best solutions and helping guide the entire process to the end. This means you’ll be involved in prototyping, last minute revisions before press time, proofing, and hours of tweaking, talking and testing. And all of this is AFTER the client discovery process, which even in its most brief, is still an intensive process.

So if your client is not interested in addressing these issues, and you aren’t interested in bringing them up, then yes, perhaps your client should only pay $80. Maybe that’s all a pretty picture is worth.  But if you and your client are both serious about developing a compelling package design – one that will effectively take sales away from their competitor and will grab the attention of demanding retailers and distributors – then it’s clear that $80 is not going to cut it.

If you need an experienced product package designer who can guide your project from initial conception to delivery of print ready files, call me at 831-566-3046 or try email.

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3 comments


  • i agree completely. Sometimes I feel that it’s even more about the packaging than the product itself. I can’t tell you how many times I buy things just because the packaging intrigue me. Thanks for the post

    October 24, 2012
  • “He’s clearly unhappy with his present designer yet wants top quality for the same price. It’s not going to happen.” :)) I loved that! Very nice and to the point post. Thank you!

    February 28, 2014
  • cristian

    Thanks for this post, the people in this industry should be aware of what you say. Unfortunately there are many “artists” in this field working for nothing, you have the (bad) example on Fiverr. So then the people think 100 or 200$ for this kind of job is too expensive. Is there any institution or site that could can be shared for price orientation so one could have an idea of the value of work for graphic design related matters?

    April 1, 2014

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