In packaging design, the concept of congruence is defined as two or more design elements relaying the same message. For example, if your design states that it contains 100% orange juice, and features an image of an orange with a straw, we have congruence.
Congruence offers a real opportunity to develop powerful packaging designs. The more your packaging design elements speak the same language, the more powerful your design is going to be. It’s a ‘1+1=3’ effect.
How to create congruence in your design
In our packaging research experience, we often see that the strongest congruence occurs when visual elements (claims, images, icons, choice of colors, etc.) are augmented by structural elements (packaging shape, choice of materials, etc.).
A great example of a packaging design with lots of congruence is the Dorset Cereals box:
- The choice of cardboard as a material reinforces the ‘simply’ positioning
- The quality of the cardboard communicates that it is a premium product
- The natural, earthy colors beautifully reflect the ‘nutty’ and ‘natural’ messages
- The die-cut grain visual reinforces naturalness, transparency and the mix of ingredients
The San Pellegrino orange drink can redesign is another example of congruence. The old design was a mismatch of design elements going in all sorts of different directions. The new design effectively communicates orange, premium quality and Italian heritage. The printed foil across the top of the can reinforces those elements, elevating the appeal and persuasiveness of this design.
However, there is a risk factor in reinforcing visual elements with structural design elements in your packaging design. The outcome could lead to incremental environmental waste, exaggerated price perceptions and/or a niche position. Another factor to consider is whether your congruent elements are featured in a logical, easy-to-follow layout.
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