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This is your Brain on Packaging

Neuroscience and design converge to drive buyer behavior.

In what’s being called “neurodesign.” Cognitive neuroscientists and packaging designers are developing strategically designed packaging elements that appeal to the parts of our brains used to control emotion.

Because, as it turns out, we’re not always the logical and reasonable creatures we’d like to think we are.

“If we have trouble choosing between two competing products, the choice is made on the basis of the initial physiological reaction to one of them (regardless of the rational interpretations that we might provide for justifying such choice),” writes cognitive neuroscientist Alberto Gallace in an article for Packaging Digest. 

That is, emotional responses often dominate over reasoning capabilities in driving our behavior. So what packaging design elements elicit strong emotions? Susan Gunelius, president and CEO of Florida-based KeySplash Creative, Inc., suggests six different aspects:


So much research has been done on color that “it almost has its own branch of psychology,” says Gunelius. “Think how red can stop us in our tracks.”


Along with texture, shape encourages touch. Haptics, the study of touch, is rapidly being incorporated by brands.


Our brains think in metaphors (this is like that), says Gunelius. Something smooth makes us think and feel one way, while something rough makes us feel another way.


“It’s why a cereal box with Tony the Tiger is going to attract kids,” says Gunelius.


Whimsical, sophisticated, or somewhere in between, typography establishes a certain perception of a brand.


Think cut-out packaging on kids’ toys. “When you feel or touch something, it gives you a psychological ownership of it,” says Gunelius.

By Laurie Hileman