Like peanut butter and jelly, graphics and structure are better together

People sometimes ask us whether it’s more important to invest in graphics or structure when they’re planning a new package or in-store display. Our answer – the short version, anyway – is, “yes.”

That doesn’t mean we expect our clients to invest heavily in both design and materials. It just means that, like peanut butter and jelly or ham and cheese, graphics and structure work better when you consider them together.

Each has its own particular strengths and weaknesses. Graphics are more flexible, which can be both good and bad. Adding text, photos or color to a design won’t usually break the bank, but when the only limitation on a design is space, designers sometimes bombard their audience with information.

Structure, meanwhile, has to be strong enough to hold your product and to survive shipping. But it also provides unique opportunities to stand out from your competitors. If every other product in your category ships in a rectangular box, changing up your structure gives you a unique look without adding significant cost.

Ultimately, one can inform the other. The curve of a logo may inform a detail in the packaging shape, and a clever detail of the packaging may open up new details for creative graphics. Together, they can establish an identity that helps a brand stand out, and that creates a cohesive look among the items under that brand umbrella.

Considering graphics and structure in tandem creates possibilities for the whole to be something greater than the sum of its parts, and figuring out how to accomplish that is a vital part of any designer’s job.

When you have design team with diverse skills working together, they will have opportunities to share ideas and develop clever solutions for the unique challenges of each project. Then, the realities of structure versus graphics tend to melt away, and they all become part of the same challenge: To create solutions that help brands tell their story.

That’s when things get really fun.