Every brand tells their story through components that comprise their visual identity. Your logo and product packaging is often the consumer’s first introduction to your brand. Think of it as your first date with your customer. A tuxedo will make a far better impression than a leisure suit and lays a solid foundation for the entire evening. Your tuxedo is your package design and it tells your visual brand story.

Savvy manufacturers utilize every visual brand element to relate to their audience. At Sugarman Design, we call our method The Five Languages of Design. In this article we will share how they are used by many successful companies. You will have the opportunity to explore how well your own brand story works and if your products are appropriately dressed for the party.

The Five Languages of Design – Formula for Brand Success

Plain and simple, an effective package design attracts the consumer’s attention, inspires them to pick it up and learn more, and ultimately to put it in their shopping cart. In every case, the most powerful package designs incorporate The Five Languages of Design and not only sell products, but create brand advocates.

Here’s a brief description of each language and how it works.

Start with a Distinctive Logo

The iconic logos above are great examples of brand identities that are instantly recognizable. Utilizing the Five Languages of Design, their unique concepts are distinctive, standing out from their competition because they look like no others. And through years of strategically consistent use, they have become memorable even without the use of their corporate names.

Language 1 – Type, Imagery and Symbolism: 

Uniquely stylized typography, photography and illustrations set the stage and incorporate a language of symbolism based on visual elements which are universally understood and time tested. The Betty Crocker brand incorporated all three elements to tell her story for 75 years. While Betty may not be the hippest chef in the kitchen, she illustrates how iconic brands continually update to stay relevant to their core demographic. Betty’s portrait (in use since 1921), originally portrayed the woman who calmed and instructed inexperienced young brides and inspired frustrated older women stuck in a rut. As women’s roles changed, so did Betty, until her portrait was replaced in 1996 by an universal symbol for cooking….the easily recognizable red spoon. The Betty Crocker lettering is in script style; friendly, open and accessible, representing the calm and reassuring personality Betty portrayed for all those years. Below are three of the nine updates to Betty’s portrait.


Language 2 – Color and Texture 

The Hammer and The Feather:  

Color and texture create impact, connect with consumers and communicate price point. Customers who pick up your product and look it over are more likely to make a purchase. A recent Retail Touch Points report states that 90% of shoppers are still visiting physical retail stores to make their purchases. Once your product is in their hands, the likelihood of a sale increases exponentially. Brick and mortar retail stores still command the majority of shopper traffic because it allows buyers to physically (and sometimes emotionally) interact with your product.

Color – The Hammer

The language and meaning of different colors has been proven through the latest scientific studies. Did you know that red is the first color babies are able to see? Each color holds special properties and associations in your customer’s subconscious mind, influencing how they feel about your product. Color is also used to attract attention on the retail shelf. Eukanuba Pet Food uses the power of hot pink to help buyers find their products easily and quickly, clearly differentiating the brand and promoting sales.


Texture – The Feather

The visual and kinesthetic experience created by texture can be used to define product pricing. For example, wine labels incorporate the tactile processes of varnishing, foiling and embossing to describe products, encouraging customers to pick up the package and feel the detail. On varietals in the low price range, bright or contrasting colors are often used to stand out against the competition. Higher end wines are depicted in more sophisticated and muted colors like the wines they represent. Embosses attract attention with a lighter touch, more like a feather, describing the subtle nuances of special vintages.


Language 3 – Shapes 

Shape is used in many ways to describe products or draw the eye in. We call it creating a bullseye. Everything from the shape of your logo, logotype, label and package design offers a unique communication experience for your customer. Shapes speak to all of us on a very basic level. Studies reveal that children as young as 18 months recognize product logos….long before they can read.

Annie’s Natural Foods uses the bunny shape to attract attention, help mothers find the package on the shelf, and make brand advocates out of children before they can even read.


Liquor distillers have been utilizing interesting shapes to differentiate their brands for centuries. High powered executives recognize and relate to their favorite brands through these time tested bottle shapes and the textures associated with them.


Language 4 – Engagement Components

Compelling design that incorporates the first three languages creates engagement. When you encourage people to look more closely at your brand by interacting, you are one step closer to an unforgettable brand story. Engagement components like your URL, QR codes, 800 number, recipes, consumer reviews, and others significantly impact your sales. The highest performing businesses use consumer insights in 80% of sales and merchandising (GOOD Magazine, March 2010). In fact, 60% of retailers use customer reviews to increase product sales (, July 2009). The more engagement opportunities you can provide, the better chance you have of relating to your customer on a viral level.

Language 5 – Visual Impact for Shelf Differentiation

Visual impact is the orientation of all of the design components to create a package that dominates the retail shelf or web space and speaks directly to your targeted audience. At Sugarman Design, we determine what elements we want the viewer to look at first on the package. By developing a visual hierarchy of consumer messages we increase understanding, retention and engagement.

Consumers define themselves by the products they buy. Speaking to them in all five languages creates a powerful visual brand message that makes sure your customers understand you as well as you understand them.

Effective brand stories have a high “OOOH-Factor” because they skillfully use all 5 languages of design.

Does your Visual Brand Identity speak in the Five Languages of Design?



Contact Paula Sugarman at 916.965.5900 |

Paula Sugarman is owner of Sugarman Design, a full service branding and package design studio specializing in Design Return-On-Investment. Sugarman Design uses a proprietary 3D process to generate award-winning designs and generate profit. We consider your distribution and shelf domination processes as part of the brand design. We evaluate how your clients and wholesale buyers engage with your product – and how a unique Brand Story can enhance that experience, speeding purchase decisions.


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