How to Ace the Packaging Rule of Three

By Katelan Cunningham · May 23, 2016

The rule of three works for a reason. It’s rhythmic. It’s punchy. And it’s memorable. It's the reason why phrases like Thomas Jefferson’s “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” sound downright melodic, and that melody can do wonders for your packaging too. If you think of your unboxing as a story with a beginning, middle and end, your packaging can be a tremendous asset that adds value to your brand and your user experience. 

By tackling your packaging in these three parts, you can balance your brand aesthetic and your budget, to create packaging poetry. Here’s how it breaks down:

Beginning: This is your outer packaging — often, the first thing people see. It’s whatever your product is shipped or delivered in to protect it from the outside world, or make it easy for carrying. If you’re shipping, this could be a box or mailer. If you’re packaging something up for an in-person sale, this is probably a bag. 

Middle: This is your protective packaging. Between your outer packaging and the item itself, any number of materials can be a buffer to keep your product nice and cozy. Crinkle paper fills more volume, while butcher and tissue paper can wrap right around your item. This middle layer can also include inner bags to seal and protect delicate products or things that need to stay fresh. 

End: This is the branding on your actual product. Be it a hang tag, sticker or label, this is your final, lasting bit of branding to bring some voila to the final reveal.

 How to Ace the Packaging Rule of Three

You could go custom with each layer of your packaging, but that doesn’t work for all brands and it’s definitely not a necessity. In fact, it's possible to go overboard with your branding. If you leave your thumbprint on every square inch of your packaging, it can feel a little heavy handed. So, it’s best to think of each layer as part of the complete experience and make the best call using your brand's design elements. Sometimes that means leaving some breathing room with blank packaging. 

Your full logo will always be best suited for outer packaging. It has more surface area than whatever is inside and it’s the ideal place to show the world, loud and proud, your brand mark in all its glory. If you have a smaller brand and custom boxes don’t make sense for your size, you can stamp them like District Picked, or just leave them blank. Custom tape will come to the rescue and make any size box or mailer into custom packaging for a really good price. Case in point, Studio Carta's custom poly tape.

Clockwise: @urbapothecary, @meninthistown, @districtpicked, @angelaliguori

 How to Ace the Packaging Rule of Three

On your inner packaging, butcher and tissue paper each offer a slightly different look and feel to your unboxing. Neutrals papers are nice in kraft or white, or you can add a pop with a brand color tissue. If you want to go custom with a pattern, try using your logo or a specific graphic element of your logo, repeating. District Picked kept it plain, simple, and DIY with blank white butcher and one stamp on each wrapped item. 

Maybe you just need some cushion, in which case crinkle paper could be the best way to go. They each have different aesthetics, but ultimately, you’ll want to pick whichever one will best protect your goods — because it doesn’t matter how good your packaging looks if everything is broken inside.

Clockwise: @districtpicked, @makermonthly, @makermonthly, @boydsoftx via @lalalauranix

 How to Ace the Packaging Rule of Three

Finally, on your actual product, there are any number of brand elements to dress up your goods. We really love the product-specific direction Solis and Mare and Onyx Press's products. Their tiny details make the products feel more personal.

Clockwise: @theonyxpress, @carlinosmarket, @dearsurvivor, @solisandmare

Time to talk budget! Watch this guide to breaking down you packaging budget.

Innovative brands use Lumi to manage scalable and sustainable packaging.

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