You define your project in a Request for Proposal (RFP). The purpose of the The RFP is to give your Designer a clear idea of what you need. The Designer will use this to estimate fees and decide if it's an appropriate fit. (NOTE from Dom… Consider follow the Business Pitch Outline on the site in order to get your building blocks in place for your RFP). At minimum the RFP should include:
What's your product? First and foremost, get samples over to your designer… how can they develop great packaging without seeing your product! Be as descriptive as possible and don't assume the packaging designer knows the product like you do. Consider adding a list of Features, product Benefits and anything Intangible that may attract the consumer. Try to articulate your products Unique Selling Proposition so your designer clearly understands what the package should communicate.
Who are your competitors? Define your Direct AND Indirect Competitors. A great way to show the competitive landscape is to take a picture of the category shelf set in several retail grocery stores you expect to sell into.
Who's your target consumer? It is insufficient to say "middle class women" or "men 55 and older"… way to broad. Why? For example "men 55 and older" are not a homogeneous group of customers… they are group of Customer Segments. Consider going to Nielsen Prizm and use the interactive tool that lets you examine segment groups based on demographics and behaviors. Pick several that you feel are target customers, click on each segment tile and view more details about the segment's traits. Send 2 or 3 over to your designer.
How much will your product sell for? If you don't know this then STOP and do your homework on price points within the category you will compete.
What stores will your product sell in? For example if your product launch will be through club stores like Costco or Sam's Club, your packaging will be a value pack size or will be bundled multi-pack. If you don't know what I mean then I suggest you visit several club stores to see for yourself.
What type of package will you need? Box? Sticker? Wrap? Your packaging is not only communicates your product positioning, it also has functional characteristics, such as product protection in shipping, barrier protection to maintain shelf life, etc. Additionally you want to consider either conforming to packaging existing in your category OR using Contrast to really stand out on the shelf.
Who will handle photography or illustration purchases? If you don't have a food photographer, ask you packing designer for referrals .
Outline the full schedule of the project including final print and shipping deadlines. Include ample time for internal reviews, offshore printing, shipping of materials etc. Setting up a realistic schedule is key to achieving the project goals.
Choosing a Graphics Design Firm requires having a budget that they can work with. Knowing ahead of time will allow him to set realistic time goals and help him make decisions that affect fees. Most foodpreneurs have a difficult time creating a packaging budget since for many of you this is your first experience creating "shelf-ready" retail food packaging. Tell your packaging designer how much you CAN spend and let them tell you what is possible at the cost.
You may also want to include details such as when the Designer will be selected. Who will be responsible for reviewing art and making the final selections - will the Designer present the ideas to one person or a group? Who will art direct the photography? Who will go to the press check? Do you need the art created in a specific program?