The Benefits of Digitally Native Design


Let’s face it — even when we’re buying physical goods, we’re more likely than not purchasing them online. And yet, product packaging and our personal shopping experience rarely boast any unique extras online. But should that change? From book covers and album art to home goods, we look at the ways digitally formatted graphic design for real-world products can offer something even more exciting to consumers.


Book covers

Book cover design is undergoing a bit of a renaissance right now, with everyone from giant publishers to small presses looking for the best designers to make their catalogs pop and turn their artful novels into popular bestsellers. And even as the pandemic saw a rise in physical book sales, as consumers looked for more comforting, physical experiences, some publishers are taking these classic objects into the digital age.


Small press Soft Skull Press recently wrapped up a stunning series of digitally-designs for its non-fiction and fiction lists. The covers, which for the most part feature moving designs that expand on the physical book’s original design, were aimed at getting consumers to think more actively about the books’ static designs. And as much of the publicity work involved in finding a book’s audience has moved online — from readings and giveaways to author profiles and more — it makes sense that an eye-catching digitally-native book cover might offer a ton of value.


Album art

There’s a long history of interactive album covers that you’re probably already familiar with. From The Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers with its iconic working zipper, to The Velvet Underground & Nico, which featured a peelable banana design created by Andy Warhol. But you don’t have to go all the way back to the 1960s to find examples of innovative album cover design.


Over the past decade, leading musical artists have taken advantage of the benefits of digitally native design to make their album art really pop — a critical need when fewer and fewer consumers are purchasing physical media. Childish Gambino’s Because the Internet is perhaps one of the more famous instances of this trend, a tech-obsessed album that fittingly used a moving GIF as its digital cover art.


Finding ways to convince listeners to invest in a full album rather than purchase their favorite single is something on every artist’s to-do list. Digitally-native designs like this offer a bonus opportunity to create narratives around an album of music, which can be especially important in today’s fractured music environment.


Groceries and home goods

When it comes to groceries and home goods, most of us have our reliable brands. We know how and where to find them in-store, and we usually stick to what we’re familiar with. But over the past few years, as services like Instacart have seen demand skyrocket and grocery and home goods sales have moved online, it’s changed the way consumers interact with and choose their groceries and home goods — and it’s also caused brands to rethink how they present themselves in a digitally-facing environment.


Attracting a consumer’s eye in store on a physical shelf is pretty different from grabbing their eye on the so-called “ecommerce shelf.” How will consumers interact with brand packaging in a digital-first environment? Color has typically played a large role in catching consumers’ eyes in a physical environment, but the fact that some popular brand color schemes and styles (including metallic colorings) don’t translate as well to a screen means brands would likely benefit from some of the techniques described above. Interactive or digitally-native package designs might be just what food and home goods brands need to stand out in the digital space.