Every industry has its jargon, and packaging design is no different. The following is a simple guide to some of the most-used terms, acronyms and terminology to help you understand them.

Primary Packaging

This is the packaging that holds the product and is what your customer unwraps to reveal the product inside. Examples include the carton that holds OJ or a cardboard box that cradles a precious piece of jewellery.

Secondary Packaging

This is the medium by which groups of products are packaged together for transportation and/or distribution. These can be made from different materials depending on the amount of protection the products need. Cardboard is one of the most common. Secondary packaging is typically branded in the same way as primary packaging to easily identify the contents.

You may also hear packaging described in further terms as follows:

  • Outer packaging: The first thing that the consumer sees, such as the box, bag or carton that protects the product from the elements.
  • Inner packaging: Holds the item safely within the box or bag, such as tissue paper or packaging peanuts.
  • Product packaging: The same as primary packaging, so the bottle that contains the milk or the wrapper on a chocolate bar.


Shelf-Ready Packaging

This is the presentation container that a retailer can put straight onto the shelf to display the products. It’s often abbreviated to SRP. Commonly used for items like sweets, toothpaste, milk cartons etc. Once again, this is usually branded for easy identification.

Shelf Appeal

When products are grouped together on a shelf, they provide a visual display. This is described as shelf appeal. It’s a really important consideration as this look can either make a product stand out among competitors or fade into obscurity, depending on the packaging design.


The material on which the packaging design is printed, such as cardboard.

Structural Packaging

The term used to describe the 3D form of the packaging.

There are also many commonly used terms when it comes to the actual printing of packaging design.

  • Barcodes: Groups of lines that can be scanned and give information about the product (price, name etc). There are different types of barcodes, the most common of these are EAN (European Article Number) and UPC (Universal Product Code).
  • Bleeding edge: If a design goes right to the edge of the packaging a little extra room is left in case the ink bleeds outside its line. This is referred to as the bleed or bleeding edge.
  • CMYK: The four colours used in printing – cyan, magenta, yellow and black.
  • Dieline: The two-dimensional layout of your packaging design that shows where to print and fold to create the correct layout of the 3D product.
  • Digital printing: The transference of images and letters onto the packaging surface using laser or inkjet printers.
  • Offset printing: A different method of printing the design onto the packaging. It utilises a computer to plate system to create the images. It’s often used for high volume packaging as it’s more cost-effective than digital printing.
  • Embossing: Raised artwork on paper or card. There are different types, such as blind embossing and foil embossing.
  • PMS: Stands for Pantone Matching System and is a catalogue of standard printing colours – much like CMYK but contains more shades.
  • RGB: The three primary colours (red, green and blue) that are mixed to make all other colours. Sometimes referred to as hex codes, they can be converted into PMS or CMYK codes for printing.


Packaging design is best approached with the assistance of a professional design company. The importance of presentation can’t be overstated. In today’s competitive market it can make the difference between a product succeeding or failing, as poor packaging will fail to tempt consumers and build a quality brand.

Perth-based CrystalPack is a leading Australian company that specialises in this field. Their expert in-house design team will work with you to fully understand your product, brand and target market, offering a professional service from concept to delivery. Follow this link to see some examples of our boxes and tubes.

Discover more at www.crystalpack.com.au

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