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This question might have more to do with branding or marketing, but I think a lot of graphic designers are confronted to it everyday so I'll ask it anyways. Please leave a comment if you believe it belongs somewhere else

In my every day job as a Graphic Designer, I am often asked to create visually engaging content to encourage users to buy products. Some of these products are physical (such as laptops, hard drives, etc), but some of these products are digital and have no physical form (such as accounting software, cloud services, etc).

In this case it is much harder to come up with exciting "packshots" of products. In most situations, I do not have a licence to try these products myself, and I'm not even sure that their UI would be inspiring to create from.

Before, software would come packaged, with elements of design that were visually engaging, which is still is the case in the entertainment industry even now that things moved to digital.

enter image description here

I can definitely use creative illustrations for marketing purposes (i.e. images of people using the software, depicting semantic keywords, etc), but for the website-shop graphics, it's more difficult.

enter image description here

Or everything could just look like this

There might be articles and studies on this matter (or not) - I couldn't find any when looking for them.

How does one create engaging graphics for non-physical products?

An ideal answer would list different options, and eventually link to case studies or data giving hindsight on best performances.

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ART

Once I worked as a freelance for an outsourcing company. They have a logo, a subject and a few more. They hired an emerging young artist and commissioned twelve paintings and they used their paintings or pieces of them in all their graphic elements. In fact they gave me a CD with the twelve pictures in high resolution TIFF to use them as graphic elements. There are many famous examples like Absolut Vodka or Ray-Ban.

Oversized Typography

It is a widely used resource, sometimes evidence the need to find a point of attachment to a systematic graphic solution. That's the case of white label packaging in supermarkets like the french Monoprix. With such a variety of products, it is difficult to find a common axis.

Monoprix

Abstract graphics

In the 90's, with the rise of graphic applications and all its possibilities, abstract graphic patterns and backgrounds were widely used. Like the packagings designed by Neville Brody for Macromedia. There you can see all the Photoshop layers, blending modes, filters and all the possible distortions. Every packaging is a Photoshop tutorial :-).

Neville Brody

Patterns and grids

The 1980s Memphis Style used geometrical grids and patterns in every piece of graphic, industrial and architectural design. Some brands use it now to give a retro look to their image. A slightly more actual turn to this graphic resource may be the technological grids (Matrix binary rain) and fractals patterns.

Hema

In any case, in the four examples cited, the choice of a theme to be used is not as important as the creation of a graphic system based on that theme. Actually, and talking about one of these examples, I personally see the Monoprix design quite poor and very immediate, but it is evident that each piece is a part of a system and everyone immediately associate it with the brand.

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    That's a really cool answer! Brownie points for including Monoprix. Macromedia is the closest I could think of but I would feel weird creating graphics for a software that might or not have brand guidelines I am not aware of... – MicroMachine Jun 15 '18 at 21:17

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