Packaging do’s and don’ts in the print production process

Robbie the Robot - Coleface direct mail packaging project

We love packaging at Coleface. Not just as a print management company who works with some of the best paper engineers and designers in Sydney and the world, but because of the whole production process and how it makes us feel. Aren’t you the same?

Let’s break it down (get it? Packaging Joke?) – you may respond to how it looks, how it feels, how it connects with either a customer problem that you experience, or even better, solves the problem quickly and efficiently. These are all the basics of communication through packaging with your target customer, so no new information there. But as a packaging designer, marketer or company, how do you ensure that these elements are present in your packaging from despatch to delivery with your printer? Here are a few tips on how to maintain quality, cost and features of your packaging right through to the finished item, with your printer (the person/firm, not the machine!):

  • Communicate: as the representative of your client or company when briefing how the packaging works with your printer/print management/print broker, just because you have despatched the file (and it is due next Tuesday) does not mean you sign off via email once the files are gone. In the print industry there is a saying that the production process is the most ‘variable’ in terms of outcome because of communication about stocks, timelines and costs. Stick with your project, let the print manager know what your intentions are, trust them to do their job and it will all work out perfectly!
  • Be practical (in your packaging): practicality starts at the rough concept stage but really matters at the production end of the packaging process. Consider the shape, size and intended functionality of the product container as well as the label, wrap and hygeine or food requirements. The more practical the packaging the better it sells. Ask your print manager what works, what doesn’t. When I use both of the honey packs shown below, the one on the left is great, does the job and tastes wonderful, but the one on the right does not get sticky towards the end of its use period because of the way the inner cap seal drops out the honey. Good thinking!

honey pkg2honey pkg

  • Design transparency: do not hide the product, unless it will not look any good for it’s intended use. We are living in an age where packaging should enhance product features, not hide them and the closer your potential audience can get to the product, the less selling that the packaging has to do. Include nutritional information on the pack panel in a point size that people can read if they want to: 10-11 point is usually fine, contrasted against the background or clear packaging.

soy inks

  • Sustainability: using recycled stocks and soy-based inks is an excellent method to demonstrating your brand commitment to the environment and customer, but be very careful when selecting stock and not discussing this with your printer. Some of the more sustainable packaging stocks and inks on the market can perform very unexpectedly once they are printed onto or with certain combinations – in other words, work with a print management company who has experience with this area of print production, do not ever order online as you have no recourse if you do not discuss beforehand and satisfy yourself of the potential hazards involved with printing with non-standard packaging materials.
  • Artwork: Make sure that you have the same version of software as your printer does. Yes most printers ask for high-res PDFs nowadays, but if you go the extra step and supply native illustrator files with live text and fonts, then you actually empower them to do a better prepress job on your files. You may not want to acknowledge this little piece of information coming, but your printer is instrumental in translating the authenticity of your colour, shape and features after the packaging file leaves your hands or office – this also falls into the next point on relationships.
  • Relationship: Your print management company is the make-or-break for delivery of the finished item to your client, outlet or office. Depending on your deadline, they will either have to work like crazy to get it done, or pull strings to make sure that every element of production and finishing is perfect during the delivery time frame. Either way, they are your best friend and you must treat them with every consideration to this end, as they frequently deliver extra service, time, quality or cost savings if you manage the relationship with them professionally, and even with some humour. I mention this because in reality, with time being the worst pressure of all, there is frequently no humour and lots of stress!
  • Print packaging is a specialist industry: The print industry is made up of different specialist sectors, starting with the type of machinery (offset or digital) and branching out into purpose (packaging, point of sale, direct marketing, large format print). This type of specialist knowledge – and the ability to access a network for each different purpose – is held by your print management company, who create options for your packaging much the same way as you design or create products for your company or market. There is nothing quite as wonderful as working with a master paper engineer, or a print broker who understands which paper goes with what type of fold. Print knowledge like this is getting harder to find but regardless of where you do your packaging printing, make sure that there is a person at the other end who knows the production process – and can share it with you – as it will make or break your project.

So if you are a small business, creative agency or Association and need help planning your next packaging project, please consider Coleface – we can definately help with the whole print management process to get you a great result!

If you liked this post, please comment below, share it, and click on the FOLLOW buttons to get more! If you love printing, get the latest email updates by subscribing here. Sydney print management experts Coleface Print Management and Production provide advice and support for our clients on all aspects of printing and production such as digital, large format and offset printing, point of sale, packaging and mail management. Written by @Olsonwells.

Photocredit:  Coleface – Robbie the Robot, Capilano.