The art of ‘intelligent packaging design’ – Darcey Beau


Now, this is my first time posting on the Young Arnolfini blog. I’ve decided to bring more graphics and advertising topics to the Young Arnolfini blog – as a creative graphic designer this Is what I enjoy more than anything! I’ve thought long and hard over the last week ‘what could I talk about’ (I was told I could talk about anything, so here I go).

My daily inspiration intake comes from going to the supermarket. Yes, indeed, the supermarket. I like to appreciate the packaging, advertising and arrangement of the graphics which you look at in the store. And as its my turn today to talk about a topic; over the last few months I’ve stumbled across something quite frankly amazing!

Now, due to fortunate circumstances I’ve managed to have a listen in on a few meetings between ‘certain individuals’ and I’ve really learnt something about a Somerset based company called ‘Ayton Global research’. You’re probably thinking ‘Where are you going with this?’ Hold up. Let me educate you about the company first:

So. This company works with a range of supermarkets, including, ASDA, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s also with (very) big cosmetic companies too. The company is all about researching people’s responses to certain visual aspects of product packaging design. When I say ‘research’ I really do mean ‘research’.

For example, they will give someone a new cereal product which is just about to hit the supermarkets. The’ll then note down their age, BMI, eye colour, hair colour, gender – etc. and monitor their responses by asking questions about the packaging, which they have to answer honestly.

Questions like: 

  • “What do you think about this packaging?”
  • “What do you look for on a cereal box packaging?”
  • “How would you change the packaging if you could?”

Alongside more specific questions like:

  • “What colours would you expect to see on this packaging?”
  • “Name three key visual aspects you would want to see on the packaging…”
  • “What fonts would you appreciate the most to suite this product?” (they’ll then display them a variation of different fonts to choose from).

– With about a thousand more questions. (Okay, maybe not a thousand, but you get the point.)

Ayton Global Researchers will end up filling this chart with all these variables about the person and put it on a huge database alongside their responses. They’ll then give the same product to another 5000 (or so) people and repeat this process, until they find a reoccurring pattern about how they can change the packaging on their product to appeal to a specific target audience.


This was originally an experiment and this photo of the ‘Brand Flakes’ I’ve attached is actually one of their first ‘intelligent design’ outcomes by using all this research they’ve managed allocate. They’ve taken note of the recurring aspects people mentioned from the research and applied it to the product packaging.

The product is actually no different to any other ‘Brand Flakes’ product out there, and this hit the supermarkets last year. Its not particularly jaw droppingly amazing (let’s be honest) – but its nicer than most. However, regardless of that, you will not believe how fast this product has sold. In the first week Sainsbury’s started to sell the product, it actually sold-out and it was the fastest selling item in the cereal section of Sainsbury’s. Ever. (Which proves this research really does work.)

I found this amazing as they’re using intelligent research to inform the artwork which goes onto the packaging to appeal to a specific target audience – to maximise sales and ultimately beat any other cereal products out their to dominate that market.

This is just a small part of their company, which is called ‘intelligent design’. They also do intelligent video and a whole range of other ‘intelligent’ stuff using this research they allocate from people like you and I.

I hope I’ve managed to explain this clearly, I’m rubbish at writing, so I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re thinking ‘What have I just read, it makes no sense.’ I suppose this post says something about me too, I’m quite interested in the business side of design and advertising!

So when you’re next in the supermarket, look out for this product and perhaps you’ll be able to appreciate how much time, effort and research went into making that packaging design.

Anyway, I hope you find this just interesting as I did.

Thanks for reading.

– Darcey Beau


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