Packaging Design for Hardware Startups

Updated: Apr 29, 2021

"Make it like Apple." This is what we hear from our clients that are new to product development and manufacturing. I would probably say the same if I were in their shoes and I don't blame them for thinking this way. Many underestimate the effort and cost that goes into packaging design and it should be planned ahead of your manufacturing. If you really want product packaging the way Apple makes it, then be prepared for your BOM ( Bill Of Materials) to increase.

If you are a startup and primarily focused on selling online, ask yourself if you really need high-end packaging. The amount of work that is needed to go through a packaging design process is similar to that of product development. You will need to design, prototype and refine your packaging until it's right. This is all very time-consuming—and, not to mention the time and effort you will need to get your images for your packaging. Most product images of consumer electronics are 3D rendered but some companies also have lifestyle pictures on their packaging which means you will need to do photo shoot for a day or two, edit pictures and get them ready for printing.

What gets overlooked very often is the fact that if you want custom plastic inlay trays you will need to pay for molds. Yes, they look great and it makes the packaging look even more premium from the inside but, let's be honest, do you really want to spend a few thousand dollars for molds and go through quality inspection? It's already challenging enough to get your hardware product manufactured, so keep it simple with your packaging!

5 things you should do to save cost

#1 Source an existing packaging design

If you are doing a low volume production run then it makes more sense to source an existing packaging design that you can modify to your products needs. A simple cardboard box with custom cut out inlays can already do the job well enough! You will save time going through development, prototyping and testing. A sticker or simple printing on the packaging is good enough to make it look cool.

#2 Choose a vendor close to your final assembly

Having your packaging vendor close to your final assembly facility has a few advantages. Transportation cost will be minimal or non-existent. The risk of damages during transportation will also be lower.

If a problem should occur, your manufacturer can easily solve the problem on the spot and keep production running.

#3 Don't make injected molded trays

Injected mold trays need tooling and that means more cost. If you are at the beginning of your venture you will need to keep a tight budget and additional mold making shouldn't even be a thought. Although these trays look really nice they need development and quality control and those are all things you don't have time for. In addition to that you won't be able to use it again if your product gets changed in the future.

#4 Avoid add-ons

Some packaging designs have extra features such as a magnetic flap that opens so you can see the product. In production that would be an extra task which can result in errors. Also avoid embossing anything on the packaging, as it won't give you or your customer any benefits. Do all the fancy stuff once your production volume is higher and if you are planning to go into retail.

#5 Keep your graphics / printing simple

You've probably seen packaging design with awesome looking product images. These can be time-consuming to make and you will also need to check printed samples from your vendor until they look right. This can go back and forth for a while.

Keep it simple, save money, save time!


Boris Brawer is the founder of Made Studio. You can connect with him on LinkedIn

We are a group of engineers, designers and startup founders specializing in hardware development and manufacturing.

Prior to Made Studio we worked for companies such as Apple, Intel, Lenovo or Asus.

Are you making something amazing? Drop us a line and find out how we can help you.