What Are Packaging Prototypes – Types, Benefits And Process

Posted May 20, 2024 Packaging Prototyping

Are you a packaging engineer or a manufacturer who deals with box technicalities daily? You may even be a provider or a distributor who needs to know about packaging. Packaging prototypes are one of the most common methods of making your manufacturing more reliable.

You need to know the ins and outs of creating this to fulfill your customers’ needs. This blog will discuss what packaging prototypes are and how they benefit manufacturers and other parties. You will learn about packaging prototypes, design fundamentals, etc.

It will be a complete guide on how you can improve and get the best results for your product packaging prototyping processes and improve it further. So, let’s start it.

Table of Contents

What Are Packaging Prototypes?

Packaging prototypes are the samples you create before starting the manufacturing or mass production of a certain packaging job. They are essential to help your customers get boxes with the right measurements and other aspects. There are two most common kinds of prototypes.

  • Physical prototypes can be made from various materials depending on your needs.
  • Then, some computer-generated models help you create the visualization of your packaging.

The Importance Of Prototyping For Different Parties

We know that multiple parties are involved in packaging and printing. That is why we need to ensure that we satisfy all of these parties. In the next few sections, you can find information on different parties and how they impact the overall results.

Why It Matters for Brands?

Brands have a stake in the packaging they receive from a manufacturer. You may be a box provider for them and have a direct connection with the manufacturers and the brand. In such a situation, you ensure great prototyping and the end product you provide them.

You need to communicate with both parties and ensure that you can get the best out of their efforts. So, here are some reasons why you need to be vigilant at all times for this purpose:

Things Brands Need to Be Conscious Of

Now, making sure that you visualize your brand packaging in real life can be game-changing. People will always interact with your products; the same goes for your brand. That is why you need to ensure you get the best design. At the same time, you need to make sure its functionality is up to par.

It needs to work just the way you want it to while you also get to know if there are any early flaws that you need to get rid of. At the same time, you get better customer experience feedback, which is crucial for building and improving a big brand.

Importance of Packaging Prototyping For Suppliers

When you use prototyping as a supplier, there is a set of information that is crucial for better results. For instance, you have clearer communication between you and your clients. At the same time, you get to give better quotations for your jobs. This fact makes your profit margins more lucrative.

You can charge a better commission for your products if you get a better prototype. Also, your production process becomes quicker and more streamlined when you succeed in getting a good sample out. This way, you also ensure that you meet the expectations of your brand party.


When you use this method, you offer better services than your competitors, making it easier to beat them. You also improve the experience of all other parties involved, which helps you get better results, improve your performance, and create an impression.

Such an activity would also show your commitment to your job, which would help you get more and better clients.


When it comes to the benefits of prototyping for end users, you help them by avoiding any product damage. At the same time, you ensure they do not have to go through the frustration of returns and broken deliveries. Also, if your manufacturers use the sampling process, you can expect more eco-friendly solutions from them.

How To Choose Your Packaging Prototypes Before Production?

Now, there are some factors you need to remember when choosing the type and other factors of your packaging. Here are some factors that you need to keep in mind when making these samples:

  • You should know your project stage, at which point you may use mockups for the early stages and production samples for the later stages.
  • You can use readily available materials if you are in the early stages. Cardboard, foam core, and paper are good examples.
  • If your budget is medium-level, you can try mid and high-level samples.
  • You can use low-budget prototypes as samples or digital mockups.
  • At the same time, the goals of your sampling matter. For instance, you can have a good visual design if it matters, while functionality would matter for other requirements.
  • Choose your priorities wisely and use the right type of samples and prototypes according to your requirements and priorities.

The Complete Process Of Prototyping

The complete prototyping process is essential to making things perfect for different parties. That is why you need to ensure it goes smoothly. So, here is the complete process you need to execute for better results.

Define Your Vision

Now, one thing is certain: you must make your vision clear to ensure better results. For instance, you would need to:

  • You should know your goals before validating a packaging prototype design concept or testing the functionality.
  • Try allowing your design to come to life as 3d printing packaging prototypes form or something else.
  • At the same time, you need to understand the product’s impact on sustainability and user experience. These factors must be considered when visualizing your goals.
  • Also, you need to know who this prototype is for and your potential customers.
  • You also need to define the complexity of the design you want to have.
  • At the same time, you need to make sure you allow the application of certain printing techniques when required.

Ensuring Features of Successful Prototyping

You need to ensure that your sample’s focus is right and includes efficiency. You also need to make sure you identify and use the best features of your sample. Find the top aspects that matter most for your packaging and take care of them.

For this purpose, you need to plan and achieve certain goals. You also need to define your time and budget aspects to get the most out of it. You also need to set your iteration goals to achieve certain results.

The Steps Of Prototype Production

Once you have achieved the first two, the next step is to produce these samples. Here is what you need to do:

  • Choose the right material for your work for better functionality.
  • Also, you need to know your design intent, such as choosing your material according to your brand image.
  • At the same time, you must ensure the printing compatibility with the intended materials and other aspects of your sample.
  • Once you figure out these things, you should be ready to produce your prototypes.

Steps Of Testing And Refining

Testing and refining are crucial to getting the best results from the process. Here is what you need to know:

  • In this step, you must test things to ensure you understand them. For instance, you must find out if your products fit right, if your closure mechanism is right, and if things are functioning properly.
  • Also, you need to ensure that the usability factor is working correctly with the right closing and storage of the boxes. The design should be intuitive for better customer experience as well.
  • At the same time, you need to visualize the appeal of your brand message to the audience.

User Testing Steps

Then, you need to hire diverse individuals to represent your target group. In the next step, you will need to learn about different aspects of your products, such as observing different aspects of your design and functionality.

At the same time, asking for feedback from these groups is essential.

The Refining Step

Once you have all the information you need to improve your customer’s experience, you must refine things. For instance, you may need to adjust the dimensions or materials, modify the opening mechanism, or add instructional labels.

You may also like to improve the color schemes and the graphics for better visual appeal.

Some Considerations To Have

Considering different aspects before you complete the process is crucial. These factors matter for the complete process, like:

  • You need to ensure that you keep cost-effectiveness in mind.
  • Also, you must always record observations and user feedback thoroughly.
  • This recording would allow you a better testing and overall process with information you need for future iterations and decision-making.

How To Improve This Process?

Now, making the process more streamlined and improving the results you get is something you need to ensure. For instance, there are multiple things that you can improve in this regard, like:

  • You should try having standard prototyping options that should be present in terms of project needs and budgets.
  • You can also utilize mockups and 3D packaging prototypes in the early stages to achieve better visualization and quick results.
  • At the same time, you should try using modular prototyping systems for interchangeable components. These systems allow you to create different variations, reducing material waste.
  • Also, try using centralized project management tools to ensure everyone is on the same page regarding the process.
  • Make sure you use virtual collaboration tools like online proofing platforms. This way, you enable real-time feedback and reiterations.
  • Try using readily available sustainable materials for the process to ensure better systems.

Some Common Problems In Prototyping

One thing is for sure: There are always some common issues you can have in printing. This process also has some flaws and issues that commonly occur, such as:

Unrealistic Client Expectations

Your clients will always look to get something extra for prototyping, so you need to keep things tight. The problem is that the clients expect things to be fully functional while having a quick turnaround time.

At the same time, they would like the same strength, texture, and other elements of the samples as they require in the product. They would consider every element as good as the end product without realizing it does not need to be that way.

They will get frustrated and overwhelm the sampling team in such a condition. At the same time, repeated changes may delay the project timeline.

The Solutions To This Problem

  • You need to set clear expectations for your clients early on and inform them about the process’s limitations.
  • Tell them about different fidelity levels and which works for their product type.
  • Also, you can provide different examples of these samples beforehand.
  • Let them know about the different goals of this process.
  • Also, ensure they know the number of iterations in the project cost.
  • Tell them about the detail level a certain sample should carry.
  • Make sure that you keep your communication clear throughout the process.
  • Let them know about the updates on the process and potential challenges.
  • At the same time, you need to educate the clients about the process and why it is required.

Unrequired Expansion of Project

Unrequired expansion of a project or scope creep occurs when processes that are never required are started. In such a condition, you normally add more features and functionalities to the product than required. The process’s costs increase due to production delays.

At the same time, you may have to compromise the quality of the end product due to adding new features. Your clients may also be dissatisfied due to delays and other issues in the project.

How to Solve This Problem?

To make sure that you get rid of this problem, you need to ensure that:

  • Start with defining goals.
  • You should choose a list of features you must add to the prototype.
  • Make sure you have a clear process for any required changes. Avoid making unnecessary changes while keeping the budget and timeline in mind.
  • Also, client approval stages should be set to control any revision requirements.

The Solution to The Problem: Make sure you choose the right fidelity levels according to the budget and timeline.

Avoid Communication Gaps At All Times

Communication is a key skill, so ensuring the best communication is something you need to have. Here are some things you need to keep in mind:

  • Different teams involved in this process use different jargon and priorities. So, to get things to perform best, you should aim for a balanced level.
  • Sometimes, information may stay stuck to a certain team or team member. You should ensure you get all the necessary information to make things perfect.
  • At the same time, taking feedback is important to provide the right solutions.

How To Solve Communication Problems?

Here are some key solutions you can implement to solve communication problems:

  • You should be looking to collaborate early and frequently.
  • Ensure you use the best and most standardized communication tools for your work.
  • At the same time, you should define terms for common things in teams.
  • You should set feedback systems for its reception and implementation at all times.
  • Also, it would help if you documented the revisions, reiterations, and other aspects that come up.

Material Limitations Issue

Material limitations can also be some scenarios you may have to face, such as:

  • Your cardboard prototypes might not offer the sturdiness your boxes need.
  • On the other hand, plastic may not offer the texture feel of a high-gloss finish.
  • Using a certain material may not offer the same ink interaction as the intended material of the product.

Lack of User Testing

Testing is surely a thing that you need to keep in mind. You can have issues like a product sampling looking good on paper and working well as a real product. Make sure that you get testing of your product at an early stage to improve your customer experience.

At the same time, you need to make sure you identify your audience demographics and needs of your audiences. This way, you can ensure you understand what matters for them and what you need to cater to.

You can find different types of testing methods that would allow you to get the best results. For instance,

  • Remote testing
  • In-person testing
  • Guerrilla testing

At the same time, you should try testing the objectives you want to achieve. Also, you should analyze the testing data and apply the findings to what you get.

Be Mindful Of Limited Resources

You should make sure that you understand the budget and time limitations that come with the process. You may have issues like:

  • Sometimes, you face incomplete testing issues where you fail to test everything due to these constraints.
  • You may also have an issue with adequately representing your final production, which can lead to misunderstandings with your clients.
  • Sometimes, you fail to explore opportunities that you could have, such as design options.

Things You Need To Know About Physical Prototypes

These are physical samples of products you want to mass produce. Depending on your requirements, you can try making them from a versatile range of materials. There are three different types of these products depending on their use and budget specifications:

Low-Fidelity Prototypes

They help with low-fidelity prototypes by providing them with basic information a box would carry. Here are some basic characteristics of these prototypes that can be seen in such samples:

  • Depending on your needs, these boxes can be made from readily available materials, such as cardboard, paper, or others. Such samples would work with speed and ease of creation instead of intricate details.
  • Conversely, such samples have limited functionality, and they do not focus on conveying the complete functionality of finished products.
  • Still, they are supposed to deliver an idea about the final product.

Some Benefits of Fidelity Prototypes

The use of such prototypes helps you give multiple benefits like:

  • With these prototypes, your customers and clients can explore the product idea quickly and cheaply.
  • At the same time, these boxes help your team focus on fundamental experience and architectural information regarding the boxes.
  • Also, you can easily change these boxes due to their simplicity.
  • Using these prototypes also helps you communicate design ideas to the stakeholders.

These benefits make such prototypes a great use for your creativity and, with impressive results, you with the least amount of effort required.

Examples of Fidelity Physical Prototypes

Here are some examples you need to know when it comes to low-fidelity prototypes:

  • Paper sketches are among the common examples of such prototypes, which you can use by boxing them out. The simplicity of these prototypes can be as basic as pen and paper products.
  • You can also try cardboard mockups in the form of cutouts to convey the products’ size, shape, and basic iterations. Their use would help you convey how the product will interact physically.
  • Then, there are prototypes made from everyday materials that convey the function of the products.
  • You can even make them from cereal boxes and empty soda cans.
  • You can also utilize origami techniques to make prototype boxes.

Benefits Of Low Fidelity Physical Prototypes in Printing

When it comes to the benefits of such prototypes, here are some you need to know:

  • These prototypes help you identify issues like clunky layouts or unclear information hierarchy.
  • You can also use them for faster iterations of your products, as these boxes are easy to create. By using them, you ensure more refined results with quicker results compared to high-fidelity ones.
  • Such prototypes allow better communication with printers to ensure your printed piece meets your expectations.
  • With such samples, you can avoid costly printing mistakes.
  • These can also help you understand the basic customer experience your product will bring when produced.

Low-Fidelity Digital Prototypes

You can also utilize the digital samples of low-fidelity boxes. Such boxes offer you the following:

  • You can create rough sketches of the packaging shape with the help of design software for apps that allow basic drawing. These samples can be as basic as an outline and bottle silhouette.
  • You can also try using 2D collages that combine different elements from existing boxes, like closures and labels.
  • At the same time, you can try fidelity wireframes, which are similar to website wireframes and mockups. You can use them for labeling purposes with basic shapes and placeholders for different elements.
  • You can also try using mockups with stock images to provide a basic representation of the product.
  • This way, you help them visualize the overall composition of the final product.
  • You can also try digital papercraft, using 3D modeling tools to create box-like shapes. Compared to flat sketches, such mockups offer three-dimensional visualization.

Benefits Of Low-Fidelity Digital Prototypes in Printing

Just like physical prototypes, there are digital ones that have their benefits, such as:

  • Digital prototypes are easier and quicker, with faster iterations and quicker approvals.
  • At the same time, you do not have to spend money on materials and printing costs, unlike physical ones.
  • You can collaborate in real-time to edit and iterate some models in such samples.
  • At the same time, you can explore a wide array of design colors and other options without worrying about costs or anything else.
  • The software programs allow you to use multiple features, such as text formatting, layout tools, and 3D mockups. This makes things quite simple for your designers to execute.
  • In low-fidelity digital prototypes, it is easier to let the stakeholders focus on the content organization, information hierarchy, and layout flow. Visual details bring minimal distraction to the boxes.

What Are Mid-fidelity Prototypes?

When it comes to mid-fidelity prototypes, you can try them for their more refined looks and representation of different elements. At the same time, they have a more durable material choice for improving testing features.

Their use also helps you focus on functionality and user experience. Important contributions that you made include laser-cut cardboard prototypes that allow the creation of intricate shapes and folds. Such samples would also allow the creation of custom shapes.

With these boxes, you also get a good understanding of the final shape and a clear representation.

Examples of Mid-Fidelity Digital Samples

Mid-fidelity digital samples are also a perfect example of great use of your design abilities to show examples of your products to your customers and clients. You can also try them to improve your customer experience, which is why you need to know about their use.

For instance, you can try:

  • You can try digital mockups, which you can create with certain software utilizing different colors, fonts, and other elements. Such samples are quite realistic, and the images are excellent.
  • At the same time, you can try interactive PDFs, which you can use to open four-fold boxes virtually.
  • Also, their use would help you create 3D models of packaging designs with visualization to show the final design in appearance.

Mid-Fidelity Packaging Samples

Here are some common examples of mid-fidelity physical samples or prototypes used for packaging and printing purposes:

  • Sample booklets or brochures created with laser cutting or digital printing are a common example.
  • You can also try folded flyers and mockups Or similar materials mimicking the final size and folding.
  • Using die-cut stickers or labels with actual dye-cutting can help with precision and visual impact.
  • Cardboard cutouts for mockups representing intended size, shape, and basic folding are another common type.
  • Using transparent or translucent models can show how the product will look inside the packaging.

With these boxes, you can thoroughly test the functionality of printing and packaging. A key consideration for such boxes is to use materials close to those of the end product.

Benefits Of Mid-Fidelity Samples

You can find multiple benefits of these half-baked ideas for the final box products you can try for your projects. One of the core benefits you get with a sample size is a balance between functionality and aesthetics.

With these boxes, you provide a picture of your boxes alongside improved communication with designers and stakeholders. A big benefit you get is the ability to test the functionalities of your boxes before you spend a lot of resources on development.

These samples are also more visually appealing, which helps you get user feedback on the look and feel.

What Are High-Modelity Packaging Samples?

Samples can make or break your deal, making them super important. So, what are high-modality samples? The answer is easy: they offer great visual impact and include most features that a high-quality product would need.

In essence, they are quite high-quality, with realistic looks. They use materials, finishes, and dimensions similar to those of the finished products. You can consider them ideal for user testing and the evaluation of functionalities. They may also be treated and considered the final samples before the mass production process.

So, when you design them, there is a lot at stake; you need to work on them with a good understanding and attention to detail. Like the other types we discussed, they can be physical or digital, depending on different requirements.

Benefits Of High-Fidelity Prototypes; The Core Differences

One thing is certain: with these boxes, you allow your customers and clients to know their complete functionality. At the same time, you make sure that you check their stackability and protection levels. Also, you allow your customers to check their presence and brand message clarity to test the customer experience.

Their use can help you obtain proper information for creating marketing materials and sales presentations. A clear understanding of these forehands can also help you avoid issues during production.

Benefits Of High-Fidelity Digital Prototypes

Using such prototypes can help you create a realistic rendering of packaging. This way, you can check the aesthetics of your branding elements and other graphic designs. At the same time, you can collaborate on a single design, making iterations faster, easier, and more solid.

Also, you can find out how well the packaging will perform when it needs to work under pressure. You can also use marketing and sales tools to create marketing materials and even sales presentations for your work.


How can I create a more sustainable approach to packaging prototyping?

Here are some tips for these goals:

  • Try using prototypes with materials unlike cardboard and traditional ones. Use more sustainable materials.
  • Using digital tools can help improve your results with less need for physical materials.
  • At the same time, you need to avoid using extra materials for your prototypes, which could harm the environment.

Why is user testing crucial in packaging prototyping?

When you use user testing, you are allowed to learn about the functionality of your products. At the same time, you are sure to learn about any issues like confusing layouts. Also, you get rid of any issues regarding customer experience after the product sales.

How long does the prototyping process typically take?

The answer to this question would depend on multiple factors. For instance, the complexity of the design, the type of the sample, the level of resources, and the number of iterations would affect the outcome.

Are there any cost-saving benefits associated with packaging prototypes?

Yes, prototyping allows you to get results regarding cost savings with this process. You can catch errors before the production process, saving production costs. At the same time, you can avoid wastes where you have complex packaging requirements. Also, your team can make more informed decisions that would save you time and money.

How are packaging samples different from prototypes?

  • The early-stage samples are called prototypes when they are ready with all the adjustments done with design and other changes.
  • Prototypes are called low—and medium-fidelity types, while custom packaging samples are medium—to high-fidelity types.
  • You spend more resources on samples compared to others, as they are the ones who face the crunch part of the client’s approval or disapproval.

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Steve Harsh
Steve Harsh, a packaging and printing expert who has been working in the field for over a decade. It has been my privilege to write on this topic, which I have been doing for years to help people learn about this essential field that helps millions achieve their business goals.

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