Attractive packaging draws the eye for good reason

Shelby Niehaus, Columnist

On Monday at around 11 in the morning, I opened up a nondescript white USPS box and looked down into a unicorn wonderland.

It was a package I had been expecting for several days: a bottle of hair dye that will soon make my hair a matte charcoal. But it was the package’s interior that charmed me more than the actual product.

Inside, the small white box was printed with a glossy cloud scene. Underneath the cover was a pink silhouette of a unicorn’s head, surrounded by chains of roses. A delicate cover of tissue paper, expertly smoothed into tidy folds, covered the dye bottle, which had been strategically placed label-up, nestled in more pink paper.

I was enchanted. The dye was a present to myself for finishing a particularly hard year of school, so I was thrilled to bits just to see it on my doorstep right on time, but the presentation made it nearly magical.

Admittedly, I took too many pictures of it. I sent them to all my friends. Set up in the light of my kitchen window with the pink tissue paper spilling from the corners to reveal the bottle, it looked like a movie prop or something from a modern fairytale. It brightened my morning.

I have always been enamored with good packaging. Right from the time I started to get interested in art, I found myself gravitating toward expensive bottled water with elegant labels, notebooks with even-toned faux suede covers, candy with elaborate wrappers and square-bottled juices.

They were expensive, but my parents indulged me for the most part. They understood me when I gushed about the nice smooth lines of a particularly pretty parcel. It helped that I generally only pestered them for one item—I was far more interested in the bottle than the water inside it.

Sometimes I kept the pretty packages I begged from my parents. I still have a bottle of Kahlua on my dresser for that very reason—a family member was cleaning out a liquor cabinet and I fell in love with the pretty wax seal and red ribbon.

I imagine I must sound like the perfect marketing rube. I must be that person who drives the influx of designer water, you may be thinking, or I am the person companies market to when they want to sell gold-plated AV cables.

Though I love clever or elegant packaging, I do not think of myself as a champagne-taste consumer. I resent lavish bottles that lack artistic direction; if there is any way to make me not buy a product, it would be wasting materials on an inept yet obviously expensive visual.

It can be very easy to start the package design process with elegance in mind, only to wind up with a clumsy, pricy mess. That may be part of the reason I love and respect pretty water bottles and pleasing parcels so much. In a medium driven by plastic and paper, beauty can be hard to capture.

I must also point out that pretty packaging sometimes uses more materials than it needs to. As someone acutely aware of how much trash I produce in a day, this can make me somewhat guilty. For the most part, I reassure myself by promising to reuse bottles and boxes I like.

There is no shame in finding consumer goods beautiful sometimes. Plenty of skilled artists and designers find themselves working for companies and design firms rather than the fine arts scene itself. I like to think noticing a particularly pretty glass bottle or a well-designed clothing label is my way to recognize and appreciate that talent.


Shelby Niehaus is a senior English language arts major.

She can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].