Communicating Sustainability through Packaging Graphic Design

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Abstract

Although increasingly valued and demanded by consumers, sustainability qualities regarding both product and packaging are not always transmitted effectively. In many packages, we find contradictory messages because the texts, graphics, and materials do not communicate the same about sustainability. To improve the communication of sustainability through the graphic elements of the packaging, this research seeks to determine which visual variables (color, fonts, and images) better convey the concept of sustainability to consumers and whether social–demographic factors (age and level of education) influence consumers’ perception. The research is two-phased: first, semi-structured interviews with expert packaging graphic designers and, second, a survey of 544 consumers. The results state that color is the element that communicates better sustainability in packaging and that the graphic design that transmits a sustainable look is the one that bets on strategies that entail saving on resources: fewer inks and images or backgrounds without dyeing. In turn, age and educational level influence the communication capacity that graphic design has to transmit a product’s sustainability. The research conclusions constitute a guide to improving the communication of the concept of sustainability, and guarantee that the visual elements will connect with the structural and verbal elements of the packaging.