Mastering packaging design involves not only knowing your brand, but connecting with cultural trends that resonate with your audience. Savvy marketing experts pay attention to their customers’ favorite books, hobbies and values to find fresh design stories to tell.

Recent 99designs contests reveal several retail packaging trends that are likely to connect with customers in 2016. Here are five design trends to watch.

1. Luxury goes minimalist

Adopting minimalism must have been a popular resolution in 2015. Marie Kondo’s de-cluttering manifesto, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, was a best-selling powerhouse. Businesses took note of how to do more with less, too, with Starbucks’ red cup as one of the most infamous examples of minimalist design in the past year.

Recent 99designs contests suggest that upscale brands are embracing the sophistication of simplicity. Vinoda wine chose a label with understated, black-on-black art and a prominent number 1. Green Mountain Jade jewelry went with a gold box, set with a small logo. In 2016, look out for more luxury brands to opt for minimalist packaging design paired with rich materials and colors.

Design by Intuitive Dezignz

Design by YuriyBaranov

2. Action-oriented environmentalism

Environmentally friendly design is another popular trend in 99designs packaging contests, but there’s more to being green than hugging a tree. Companies are taking an action-oriented approach, earning customer trust through their earth-friendly policies or responsibly-sourced materials. Customers are looking for products that make them feel like they’re nurturing their families and the planet at the same time.

Natural palettes rule at conveying these values visually, though there are exceptions. Happy Chappy chose a bright orange design that featured their recycling philosophy prominently. Look for sans serif, lowercase fonts that lend a modern, friendly feel to the brand. Companies will also experiment with biodegradable or other earth-friendly materials in their packaging as well as products.

Design by Litlast

Design by Natalya Brooks

3. Taking the old school approach

In 2016, every day is #TBT. At least, that’s what some businesses hope. Playful spins on old trends are a popular request at 99designs. Whether the design is Prohibition-era, vintage-style tattoo or ’90s neon, brands are finding packaging inspiration in the past.

Millennials may have something to do with this trend. The 18‒34-year-old demographic represents 80 million people and an estimated $200 billion in purchasing power. Products designed around nostalgia appeal to Millennial consumers. At 99designs, we’ve received multiple retro design requests from beard oil companies, which cater to hipsters as a target market. Brands that identify with youthfulness and quirky humor are likely to adopt a vintage design approach next year.

Design by kookypops

Design by mrsdesign_indonesia

Design by Steve Hai

4. Handmade with love

Adult coloring books took off in 2015. Intricate patterns and scenes encouraged busy adults to connect to their creative side. Consumers have been leaning toward the handmade for more than just hobbies. The Dieline describes a growing trend for authenticity and honesty. Consumers are gravitating toward products that feel small-batch and crafty, even from big corporations.

What this means for packaging design is an increase in fonts that resemble handwriting and hand-drawn art. Expect to see wider variation in art between products, too. More companies are requesting a series of linked, intricate labels that help tell a story for their brand. Designing a unique label for each product adds a home-crafted feeling that customers are looking for in 2016.

Design by Constanza B

Design by Espacio creativo

5. Design with a personal touch

Social media made it possible for companies to interact directly with customers. We’ve already seen big companies, like Coca-Cola, find ways to market to their audience by name. Glance at the candy in the grocery check-out aisle, and you may see Snickers bars labeled “Loopy” or “Irritable.” The wrapper campaign plays on the commercials, letting people pick their version of how they react when they’re hungry.

Interactive packaging design will likely continue to grow in coming years. Companies are working out campaign hiccups (like a few embarrassing entries in Nutella’s personalized label campaign), and finding new ways to reach out to customers individually. In terms of design, this may mean more name or slogan campaigns with invitations to share over social media. Businesses may seek more dynamic logos so customers can choose the iteration that speaks to them.

(Via Dailey Mail)

To see more inspiring designs, browse our retail packaging contests here.