Labels & Shrink Sleeves

Premium with a Flourish

Posted: May 2, 2014 by
Ron Romanik

The Publix supermarket chain recently saw an opportunity to better leverage the learnings from its successful Publix brand private label package design system. The predominantly white packaging of the core Publix private label lines can be easily found in pockets of white across many categories around the store. The more recent and limited Publix Premium line carried a higher end appeal, to be sure, but customer feedback revealed some legibility and navigation issues with the design.
Publix applies a systematic approach to their package design programs. First, they collect and evaluate customer feedback. The team then defines objectives consistent with their brand positioning and develops a brief for its designers to work against. Finally, the designers set out to create a package design system that can meet their objectives, can be uniquely Publix, and can have a relatively long shelf life. Although the design team wants to be current and on-trend with its solutions, they try to avoid fads. Publix does not want designs that will look “out of style” in a year or two.
Tim Cox, director of creative services at Publix, explains how the new design is an evolutionary approach while providing a simpler system overall. The previous design featured boxes and panels that carried color-coding and product name and variety information. The background colors changed depending on the needs of the category. Cox explains that this system was more complicated, and the boxes were constraining. “You could only make the boxes so big on the primary display panel,” says Cox.
The Publix name itself carries a great deal of equity for the store and brand. The core Publix lines use color bars to indicate varieties inside a category. “We learned a lot from the main Publix system,” Cox elaborates. “The color bar has been a very useful tool for us as an indicator of change.”
In Publix Premium categories with many SKUs like ice cream and bread, some customers were having a difficult time locating flavors or varieties. The new system is clean and simple. All the Publix Premium packages have a black background now, and the color accents have given the design team flexibility in how to organize different categories. In addition, leaving behind the “boxes” of the previous design allows more freedom in product naming and description.
The system uses a common background color, beautiful imagery, a variety color bar, easy-to-read typography, clear benefit indicators, and a newly designed, hand-lettered Publix Premium logo. The new logo paired with the handcrafted “flourish” pattern adds a touch of elegance—appropriate for the uptier position of the Publix Premium line.
“The color bars are used as a visual cue to help customers navigate,” says Cox. “The color can change by flavor or category.” In the case of ice cream, the color bar is used consistently across a sub-category (silver for light ice cream, gold for homemade, etc.).
For the ice cream packaging, Publix tried to relate the bar color back to the category colors used in the previous system to help customers make the transition.
Cox explains that the primary goal of the package redesign was to communicate to consumers that these products were the store’s very best. Black can get heavy and stark, though, so the designers offset the heaviness with light, more approachable accent colors. The color bars are subdued and understated without being garish, consistent with building an up-tier brand presentation.
Another element that added premium appeal and refinement is the new consistent approach to the product photography. The pictures of the fresh products or ingredients include a reflection on the surface they are resting on, instead of floating in mid-air. The product detail is important to generate interest, and the mirror reflection grounds the image in a definite space on the package.
The design approach and information hierarchy is a very flexible one for more SKU expansion, says Cox. The system was designed for and tested against all relevant categories, and Publix is confident that the system is flexible enough to bring any product under its umbrella.