Five Tips for Designing Global Packaging

The world is your storefront, and once you make your first sale outside the U.S., you’ve crossed into another frontier of commerce where English-only packaging is no longer an option.

We’ve helped clients develop successful packaging solutions that span borders for more than 15 years. The tips below are tenets we’ve learned to live by, and they’ll help you ensure a successful packaging launch wherever your product is headed.

A note for first-timers

Your first project involving multi-language packaging will take a little more time and budget than a single-language version that’s rendered in your native tongue. Plan accordingly to avoid missed deadlines and budget overruns.

Local context is key

As you plan and execute the package design, understand as much as possible about the culture, markets, and competition you will be encountering. It’s usually not possible to send a team of marketers to do a regional analysis, so partner with your regional sales force—they are invaluable allies as you move into new markets. Take time to discuss the market with them and request photos of regional shelf sets and competitive packages. This will provide your packaging designers with a sense of context, and will inform their creative work in a way that helps position you with a competitive advantage.

Once you have a close-to-final packaging design, your regional associates can help determine whether the design will compete well, and if the translations are on-target.


Engage a first-rate translation agency—one that has lots of experience and many translators on staff. Also be sure to engage professionals who understand marketing-speak and grammar in order to effectively translate messages into regional languages.

A word on languages

Be aware of the fact that many primary languages (Spanish, for example) have slightly different languages or dialects in different regions. Consult your regional sales force and work with your translation agency to help you choose the best version of each language to use.

Making it all fit

Every global company is facing the same challenge: more to say and less space in which to say it. Over the past few years a secondary language of visual and abbreviated communication has been widely adopted.

Language identifiers In many cases it isn’t necessary to identify each language on a package—for example, using only English and French for the Canadian market. If you’re using several languages on your packaging, however, you want to make it easy for customers to find the part that pertains to them.

  • Flags are best used if they can be printed large enough to see, and if the package would benefit from some additional color and interest.
  • The name of the language can be used if space allows, but we recommend conserving your limited real estate for product features and benefits.
  • Language codes and symbols are another option, as most languages have a 2-letter code such as EN for English. Using codes is a great way to save space and distinguish different languages on a package. You can make them unique to your package by creating an icon or symbol that incorporates the code.

Non-verbal messaging with Pictograms These little illustrations communicate instantly in every language, and are very space-efficient. They can be simple or complex—just make sure they are readable.

Even with language indicators and pictograms, it can be tough to get everything to fit on the package. Here’s where ruthless editing comes in. Say as little as possible on the package, nixing all non-essential words and fluff. Keep copy to only the most relevant features and benefits, and use bold text or a different typeface to call attention to the most important points. Use your website to convey additional product information for customers who have a bigger appetite for copy.

Not sure how to get started, or just want to hand it over?

Lamfers & Associates is experienced in creating international packaging for brands like Kuhn Rikon Switzerland and iHealth Labs. We know the ins and outs of global packaging, and how to avoid the snags that can set back your schedule and budget. Give us a call and let us help you navigate your next global packaging launch.

Multilingual packaging for client Kuhn Rikon Switzerland

Multilingual packaging for Kuhn Rikon Switzerland communicates numerous messages and is quick to read at point-of-sale

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Using language codes as identifiers saves valuable space on multilingual packaging


For client iHealth Labs, we use flags to identify language plus add color and interest


Using pictograms instead of words to share your message saves valuable packaging real estate


Pictograms read instantly and cross language barriers for customers at point-of-sale