Although many physical things have disappeared from our surroundings and have reappeared in digital forms, the importance of the tactile qualities of a brand still holds a significant amount of value. Physical materials are part of any brand’s narrative—whether it’s the business card you hand out to potential clients, or the materials used for the packaging of a product, this type of nonverbal communication can often be the first impression that anyone gets when they interact with a brand.
The Harvard Business Review found that water served in a sturdy cup was perceived to be better than water of the same quality served in a flimsy cup. The product was the same, but the perception was different due solely to the packaging method and the value associated with the materials used. In our digital age, the competition for our audiences’ attention has risen—they are overwhelmed with more and more visual imagery that holds less and less impact. What we make needs to matter, to make an impression, and to elevate itself in the endless churn of communication.
Physical materials can elevate a message if used well, or they can say the wrong thing entirely if not used in the right way. And often, the difference between good and great is in the materials that you use. When it comes to any type of tactile design, considering both materials and printing method is important. Printed items aren’t just meant to be look at, they’re meant to be touched. Creating a positive, tactile experience for your audience influences the positive perception of a brand overall.
Tactile elements can also be used to tie into brand perception in a direct way. For products, it’s important to choose a packaging texture that reflects what the consumer will find inside. Is your product luxurious? Choose a packaging material that feels luxurious. Is your product earthy and natural? A organic, earthy texture may be the right choice. Plan to give your audience an enjoyable tactile experience that appropriately reflects your product and brand.
Choosing a texture for your packaging or business card that is pleasant to touch will also encourage your audience to hang on to it just a bit longer. Tactile elements that are pleasing to touch, like smooth matte or silky high-gloss paper will motivate consumers to keep their hands on your product or perceive your brand to be valuable. Exploring different printing finishes like embossing, debossing, foil, or engraving add distinct qualities to printed pieces that adds value by representing the essence of your brand or product in a tangible way.
Paying attention to the physical, tactile qualities of your brand is incredibly important. It slows people down, activates their senses, an commands their attention. By taking advantage of the unique qualities of print, you can stand out and create something exceptional—and better materials are the special ingredient to take your projects from good to great.