Great Package Design, Down to the Bar Code

Most designers consider the UPC bar code to one of the biggest pains in creating consumer packaging. The requirements for using it make one of the largest, horsiest, and most unattractive elements on the package. In addition, the contrast required for getting a good read by most checkout scanners almost always requires that it be run in black on a white color block. Not so awesome, especially on an otherwise delicate or sophisticated design that may not be using the color black or white anywhere else.

When I was working on the packaging for  MOP, Modern Organic Products, our solution to this issue was to begin with the bar code and all of the required copy, ingredients, etc., creating a multi-faced packaging solution that was not only sophisticated, but leveraged that information into our look and personality.  Most designers leave the bar code off their designs completely, creating the final solution with a big blank space in the layout for the bar code to be slapped on by others later. Such lack of finesse and attention to detail is clearly not acceptable for these Japanese designers who have seized the bar code as another opportunity to playfully integrate the brand’s personality onto the packaging.

Here are some other examples:

Love the gardener plucking weeds – this would be great on a lawn fertilizer.

The chopsticks and noodles are killing me… Noodle packaging perhaps?

Waterfalls of bar codes, only in Japan. The souvenir stand at Niagara Falls needs to purchase the rights to this.

Love the tea bag falling through the code. How great for a simple tea package.

Designers, as you can see, bar codes don’t have to be feared or ugly. If used properly, they can be your friend and complement your brand identity. Companies, don’t waste the opportunities you have to leave a lasting impression with consumers.