Why pictures of food on food packaging can be a good idea and why we shouldn’t let aesthetic’s alone influence the design of things

I stopped eating meat nearly one year ago. I’ve not eaten meat intentionally since then.

Picture the scene: I was knackered after a hard day at work. As a tired, grumpy person, I needed a quick, easy meal to fill my belly before crashing out early.

I stumbled into the supermarket in a daze, my eyes scanning the aisles for something quick and easy to curb my hunger. And then I saw fresh pasta beckoning me with promises of a comforting meal that wouldn’t require too much effort.

But in my haste, I made a rookie mistake. As my eyes glazed over the packaging, my tired brain registered “pancetta” as cheese.

I took a bite of the pasta and realised my grave error. I had unintentionally consumed meat, something I had been avoiding for nearly a year.

Long story short, I really missed having the photos you sometimes get on food packaging. I don’t know if scenarios like mine are high on the list when designing food packaging, but it really would’ve helped.

Why aesthetics alone shouldn’t influence the design of things

It’s funny how the little things we take for granted can make a big difference. In this case, the absence of pictures on the package led to my downfall. This whole fiasco got me thinking about how images and iconography can be crucial in helping people understand products. After all, not everyone speaks the language or recognises the ingredients. This is most evident abroad, but it can also be useful (as demonstrated in my example) at home.

Lesson learned – always double-check before taking a bite, and never underestimate the power and value of a picture in helping your user understand what’s in front of them.

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