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How to make your gift-wrapping stand out from the pack

Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail

Perhaps you've searched high and low to obtain the perfect gift for that special someone. Or maybe you're one of those last-minute shoppers who buys everything at the gas station at 11 p.m. on Christmas Eve. Regardless, don't underestimate the power of presentation.

According to experts, a well-packaged gift can elevate the perceived value of a generous offering or minimize the disappointment of a less than great one. So whether you're giving a diamond necklace or a packet of car air-fresheners, take a tip from the presentation pros:


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Colour can conjure memories and evoke certain moods, so choosing the right shade of wrapping paper involves a bit of strategy. If you're hoping to convey decadence, skip the santa-patterned kitsch and reach for a solid purple or wine-tinted gift wrap, says Leatrice Eiseman, the Seattle, Wash.-based executive director of the Pantone Color Institute.

"The most luxurious colours usually fall in the purple range," she says, noting that purple is historically associated with royalty.

Gemstone and jewel-tone colours, such as ruby, emerald, sapphire, amethyst or opal, also give the impression of elegance, Eiseman says, adding that texture is important too. The gift wrap need not be shiny, but a slight glimmer will make it seem more precious. A gold or silver bow is also a nice touch. "The connotation of value is very high with metallic tones that remind people of jewel finishes," she says.


When it comes to writing your holiday greetings, it doesn't just matter what your words mean, but how they look.

Patrick Griffin, type designer of the Toronto-based font development studio Canada Type, says you can convey love and care in a luxurious way or an informal way, depending on the typeface you use.

Traditionally, serif fonts, based on the inscriptions from the Trajan's Column in Rome, are used to express luxuriousness, he says, which is likely why they are popular among jewellery companies. (Adobe's Trajan font is a classic example.) Meanwhile, scripts based on calligraphy tend to exude more intimacy, and are thus often seen in greeting cards and on wedding invitations.

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"With fonts, the more you add to the basic, minimal shape, the more you're actually adding in terms of emotion," Griffin says. "The moment you switch from a very basic shape to something like a handwriting shape, you're making it very personal." Of course, perhaps most personal of all is handwriting itself.


You may want to think twice before supplementing your present with a smaller one, like a $10 gift card or a box of chocolates.

According to a study published earlier this year in the Journal of Consumer Research, the notion that "more is better" is actually a fallacy. Researchers call it the "presenter's paradox." While givers are often tempted to bundle a big gift with a smaller one, recipients are more likely to perceive the main present as more valuable on its own. Bundling it with a smaller gift has the effect of cheapening the total package. Bottom line: Nix the stocking stuffer.


If you want someone to reach for your gift first, put it front and centre among his or her pile of other presents.

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A new study co-authored by Onur Bodur, an associate professor of marketing at Concordia University's John Molson School of Business, monitored consumers' gazes using eye-tracking devices, and found their gazes tended to focus on items that were placed at the centre of retail displays. Moreover, the researchers found that when offered an array of products, people are more likely to choose the one placed in the centre, without even being conscious of the reason why.

If it works for department store shelf displays, it may just work under the Christmas tree.

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About the Author

Wency Leung is a general assignment reporter for the Life section. Before joining The Globe in early 2010, she has worked as a reporter in Vancouver, Prague, and Phnom Penh. More


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