Trends of 2020: The year in packaging design

With a sharp increase in ecommerce this year, packaging design has had to work harder than ever to get people’s attention. Here, Adam Ryan, head of packaging design competition Pentawards, identifies the key trends of 2020

As 2020 draws to a close, there is no doubt that this year will be a memorable one for all the wrong reasons. However, in these times of struggle and hardship, we have seen creativity and innovation soar. In the world of packaging design, much of this has been an acceleration of trends we were already seeing, but that are now really starting to take off as a result of the pandemic.

With shops shut, ecommerce has taken centre stage, making the task of optimising packaging design for online-only audiences even more urgent. The world of digital has seen unprecedented demand in how brands use it to build and maintain connections with new and existing audiences, which we’re seeing in the rise of ‘connected packaging’. In the meantime, a year of social upheaval has cemented sustainability as a key driving force of the consumer mindset today.

Here is how I see these trends playing out in the year to come, and beyond.


Nearly everything we use in our lives has become ‘smart’, and packaging is heading the same way. ‘Connected packaging’ uses QR codes and augmented reality to bring consumers new content and experiences and is set to become the most powerful brand-owned media-asset companies can use to engage with consumers.

Treasury Wine Estates have built one of the fastest growing wine brands – 19 Crimes – with multi-million engagements directly from its packaging and social media, with no TV or traditional media. Customers use their phones to scan the label for augmented reality experiences that bring the wine and the story behind it to life. Earlier this year they announced a multi-year partnership with entertainment icon Snoop Dogg to produce Snoop Cali Red, with packaging that enabled Snoop Dog to come to life in consumers’ living rooms.