Let’s start with what a designer box isn’t: plain cardboard.

Medela-OpenedIf you’re shipping out blouses, candy, promotional material, or whatever in uninspired packaging, you might as well be replace the word FRAGILE with DON’T BOTHER OPENING.

But why? A box is a box is a box, right? False. If that were true, everything you ever ordered online would arrive as though it were homemade cookies from your great aunt: cardboard, duct tape, and a scribbled address. But companies don’t spend all this time and money on cultivating top-tier products just to have them look like something you bought from somebody on eBay. Sure, there’s lots to love about corrugated. It’s cheap, padded, and disposable…but are those really words you want associated with your product?

Even e-retailers are being told to “ditch the brown box” by experts. Frankly, it’s a little on the boring side. Not to mention, it’s hard to establish brand identity with a box that looks like everyone else’s. Which brings us to the designer box.

Like designer anything, a designer box has features. It could be a unique opening, something outside the standard top flaps. Maybe it’s shiny foil trim, gold or silver. Perhaps it’s embossed handwriting, magnetic clasps, or a flocked interior. Maybe it’s all of the above.

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One place to start is packaging that is rigid. This means the walls of the box are assembled using chipboard, a condensed form of cardboard that mimics the stiffness of thin particleboard. You might have experienced this type of packaging in smartphone packaging, or even with high-end board games. The result is more durability and, ultimately, reusability. That’s another designer difference: boxes can be eco-friendly as the day is long, but reusable packaging is smart packaging. It’s multifunctional, and therefore valuable. Pop quiz. What’s the better choice for bagging your groceries–paper or plastic? The answer is actual secret option C, a reusable bag. No matter the material, disposable products still contribute to waste.

As with most things, it’s important to remember your audience. Or maybe, recipients in this case. If your product is an all-organic, environmentally-minded soap, you might not want to include all the bells and whistles on your packaging. (You might not want to have packaging at all, but good luck with that at retail.) In this case, you might want to opt for the cardboard box. But that doesn’t mean you can’t spruce it up–even eBay knows that. And it’s totally possible with soy-based inks and water-based coatings. But for items with a higher price tag (think: electronics, tools, clothing), don’t you want packaging that matches the quality of your product? More than that, don’t you want the security and storage that comes along with designer packaging?

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