For those lucky enough to design and manufacture packaging for luxury brands, what emerging trends can we expect to see in 2023? We call on the expertise of Ed Silk from global creative agency JDO to find out what's in store.
When it comes to packaging design, luxury brands often prove the most challenging but also the most satisfying for designers. That's because, from research and development to the design and display, so much is at stake in a fast-growing industry worth nearly 6 billion pounds in the UK alone.
Not only do agencies have to contend with the sustainability of materials and production costs, but they also have to create something that looks appealing, feels luxurious and stands out in a highly competitive field. And if that wasn't enough to deal with, designers also have to consider fashion trends, the current economic climate, and various other external factors that could make or break a product on the shelf.
With this in mind, we asked JDO's Global Head of Strategy, Ed Silk, to reveal seven luxury packaging design trends he predicts will be big next year. Plucked straight from the catwalks of the Spring Summer shows and hugely influenced by much of what we've seen off and online, these are the themes to look out for in 2023.
As we continue to emerge post-pandemic, one trend that is surprisingly making waves is maximalism and all its glorious madness. A burst of colour, pattern and things that don't quite go together but somehow work, this is a joyful response to the lockdowns and gloom of recent years. An explosion of energy, it has found itself seeping into the luxury category more than ever.
"Embrace your inner magpie to find comfort amongst the clutter, creating a cocoon of visual chaos," says Ed, who believes contrasting unique styles and eras will be big news in 2023. "No longer do things have to match and be found in neatly ordered sets – there is more personality from items with a heart that have had previous lives of their own. It's about blending themes with playful irreverence."
But not every luxury brand is going big and bold, as some opt for a more minimalist approach. Whether that's a sensitive response to difficult economic times or a recognition of our frazzled souls, essentialism is definitely on the rise in packaging design.
One could take inspiration from William Morris himself, who once said: "Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful". In this case, Ed believes we're seeing many luxury names lean into the "less is more" approach as the "ordinary every day is uplifted with meaning", offering a "sense of delicious tactility, with considered timeless materials that are perfectly finished, where every element feels precious and thoughtfully made – these are investment items to treasure and to care for."
Given recent events, it's no wonder that many of us are seeking escape. It's why Ed believes surrealism is making a big splash in luxury packaging with imaginative, awe-inspiring designs that spark the imagination.
"As Covid, the climate crisis, and countless more polarising stories fill up our newsfeeds, design appetites are turning to something more fantastical," Ed explains. "A joyous out-of-this-world escapism that provides a slice of wonder and surprising delight."
To help with that escapism, luxury brands are introducing sensorial aspects to touchpoints that immerse every sense further, whether smell, touch, or taste. "It is all considered equally, and the design blurs and mixes them all in an eclectic and creative manner," says Ed.
Once more, we are looking for homely comforts and a return to nature, perhaps in search of simpler and calmer times. It's this desire for peace that is driving our next key trend in luxury packaging, and that's naturalism. "Creatively considerate, to anchor ourselves, we are seeking the grounded quality of nature, embracing its earthy honesty that is full of warmth, abundance and richness," says Ed.
From luxury beauty products and perfumes to expensive candles and high-end alcoholic beverages, Ed says there's a "holistic, balanced approach to design, with an authenticity of material that demonstrates care and attention with purposeful meaning".
Some recent examples include Francesca Gotti's perfume encased within a recycled fibreglass material named Glebanite. Or perhaps Nike Space Hippie, designed with a circular mindset, knitted from "space waste yarn", which is a 100% recycled material.
With an economic crisis looming, consumers are undoubtedly watching the pennies. It's this sense of control over our purchase choices that Ed believes is driving this next luxury packaging trend. Informatism is about the design revealing all the lab details, providing every bit of data, numbers and diagrams. Often text-heavy and informative, these designs describe the experiments and spell out the hypothesis.
"The packaging takes us on the creative journey, making us appreciate the product we see before us today," Ed says. "It's innovation with a passion for sharing the spirit of the invention. Although restrained, these designs are never boring; they ensure our focus stays on the vision realised."
Let's face it, if we spend hard-earned cash on luxury products right now, that extra layer of credibility, transparency and reassurance will help convince us we've made a wise investment.
One example of this trend is JDO's recent redesign of Jing Healthcare No.1, China's leading premium healthcare spirit. Aiming to appeal to health-conscious consumers, JDO created a bespoke bottle and experiential packaging inspired by the medicine cabinets used by traditional Chinese medicine masters. This bold statement not only serves to highlight the incredible health benefits of the product, but also the meticulous way its precious ingredients are sourced and blended.
How does any designer abandon the norm and create original packaging for luxury brands? One possible approach is to throw out the rulebook entirely. And that's probably why 2023 is set to be a year of anarchy in this sector.
According to Ed, there's a real "swaggering 'f**k you' attitude" at play: "We are witnessing an explosion of anarchic, subversive luxury brands that are provocatively hacking the established rules and regulations. Disrespectful of conventions, they are playfully rebelling and providing an irreverent, humorous take on prestige to cut through the expected."
It's no secret that anarchy is often when the best creativity emerges – particularly following too many years of "playing it safe". Next year is the time to go "all-out" and conquer new mountains for clients.
How could the huge advancement in AI and VR not inspire luxury packaging design next year? We've seen so much progression over the last 12 months that designers would have to be living in a cave not to appreciate their dominance.
Ed thinks the Metaverse will provide much inspiration, not just for luxury packaging design in 2023, but also for new ways of marketing. "Barriers of physicality will be abolished, giving rise to exclusively digital luxury collections," he says. "Digital status symbols will be added to photographs, satisfying experimentalists who seek to stretch perceptions of reality. This trend will be especially praised in luxury fashion and beyond as the most sustainable, accessible, inclusive dimension of our future."
Recent examples include Monkey Shoulder whisky joining the NFT marketplace in collaboration with BlockBar and Bored Ape Yacht Club. And Johnnie Walker's entrance into the Metaverse and all the accompanying packaging.
Looking across the wide spectrum of trends for luxury packaging next year, it's clear that the pandemic, the global economy, and rising AI and VR technologies are all playing their part in the sector, which – despite the dark outlook – is expected to steadily increase to nearly 7 billion pounds in 2025.
“Our demand for luxury will not abate," says Ed, "but its manifestation however needs to play into our emotional state as we navigate a shifting, unpredictable world, rewarding us with its considered and more imaginative approach that brings something to relish and enjoy."
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