Frequently Asked Questions.
In order for your packaging to stand out, there’s two main things to consider: Firstly, what is my competition? Depending on your distribution method, you may be competing against similar brands on the shelf. In this case, it’s important to differentiate by positioning your brand carefully using design which reflects your target price and audience. The second consideration is your audience. Who is your customer and how can you engage with them effectively. People often make snap decisions and usually based on an emotional, subconscious level. It’s therefore important that the design, choice of materials and messaging all work together to speak to your customer in a way that matches their style or expectation. Once you have positioned your packaging correctly, secondary decisions will be much easier to navigate. Get in touch with us now to find out how we can help you win more customers.
Some examples of different materials are: Cardboard – usually referred to as ‘solid boards’, or ‘folding boxboard’ paper based card is made from layers of wood and recycled pulp to make a sturdy material. Card can be fully recycled (usually grey) from mixed sources including clay and often bleached (usually white) and from natural unbleached tree fibres (usually brown) cardboard can further be divided into several other categories which included corrugated card, made from 3 or more layers of paper with ridges in the central layer to create a strong and light material. This is often used for shipping containers, point of sale items or transit packaging for heavy products. Plastics – Plastics are often used in packaging and cover a range of uses such as thin films or ‘flexibles’ used for bags, polythene wraps, shrink films, and clear windows. Rigid plastics are denser and can be formed or moulded to a range of shapes, such as vacuum formed trays, bottles, tubs and tubes. Air can be blown into plastics to make them lighter and to give different properties such as foam or expanded polystyrene which can be used for protection or void filling. Some plastics are more difficult to recycle, but can be used or returned back into a closed loop system to give a much longer lifecycle. Biopolymers – there are many bio polymers or materials made from renewable sources. One of the oldest and most readily available is celulose film (as used in cellotape) which is made from tree pulp. Other examples include starch based products, and newer examples made from mushrooms, bamboo, sugarcane and a range of other sources. Often these newer materials are very expensive, but can be used in a range of situations ranging from formed rigid trays, through to padding and protection and outer branded containers. Metals – Metals are used in packaging most commonly as tinned or canned products, but can be used for all products from electronics supplied in hinged tins, through to industrial packaging for protection and highly creative confectionery packaging often seen in the christmas aisle. Metals are usually recyclable, but can be expensive to form and manufacture meaning that they’re more suited to volume production. Wood – wooden boxes are usually made in lower volumes as the square meterage cost for wood is high. Often industrial transit packaging includes wooden crates which can be re-used but wooden boxes can be highly decorative as seen in the tobacco or whisky markets. As with metal and wooden boxes, glass packaging has been around for a long time and is used in a range of markets from milk bottles and jars through to perfume and home fragrance packaging. Glass is widely and easily recyclable but due to its weight, has a negative impact on the environment due to freight and the related energy use in both transit and manufacture.
The opening experience is the process that the user goes through in order to get into the packaging and reach their product. Some products need to be opened easily and quickly (e.g. Accessible packaging) whereas for some special edition gift products, the customer wants to feel like they’re being looked after. The opening stages allow the marketer or brand owner to communicate the use or additional messages about the product.
Regulations for food packaging vary between market and product type. It is always recommended to talk to a specialist. The main requirements are clearly labelled ingredients with allergens displayed (often in bold), weight of the product, nutritional information and location of manufacture and batch number where relevant, and safety information for certain products. Thee are also additional requirements for products containing alcohol. Retailers also often require additional information such as traffic light system and barcoding.
There are several processes to designing packaging well.
Step one: It all starts with the product. The common phrase ‘thinking outside the box’ is very misleading. The product should always be the starting point in packaging design. So size, weight, route to market will all help us make good choices.
Step 2: Once the product is identified, we need to create a style and choose materials which are suitable. Often some initial sketches are made to help the client choose the packaging style they want, then the CAD design is created and samples are tested.
Step 3: good packaging is about communicating the product to the consumer. Artwork, messaging and icons all help to communicate in a way which is familiar and understandable to the consumer.
Step 4: Once the artwork is approved, we can make sure everything is in the right place ready for manufacture. Next we can create some printed prototypes.
MOQ or minimum order quantity is often quoted by packaging manufacturers to ensure that they are not producing lots of inefficient small orders. Much of the cost of packaging can be due to set up (also called make-ready), tooling and shipping charges so once these costs are factored in, small orders start to look expensive. Due to this expectation, manufacturers often make the assumption that the unit cost will be too high, so they quote an MOQ to avoid the difficult question of price.
At Pactivate, We understand that budget is important. Often when you launch a new product, you want to test your product packaging in the market place before spending lots of money that might go to waste. For this reason, we don’t have a minimum order quantity and can produce one or a few copies.
Bespoke packaging, sometimes call custom packaging is where the design is created specifically for the brand or product owner. The benefits of bespoke packaging are that it can be designed in a way and budget which is suitable for the customer. Off the shelf, standard packaging can often be poorly fitting and wasteful. It can also be less appealing for the consumer.
Packaging is often categorized by either the material type or the product type as this often determines the manufacturing method. Cardboard packaging is usually grouped into Corrugated Cartons (transit packaging and retail or point of sale), Folding boxboard (e.g. cereal boxes) Rigid or luxury gift boxes (including perfume and jewellery boxes). Plastic packaging can be loosely divided into, films and flexibles e.g crisp packets or shrink films and rigid plastics including tubes, jars and containers. Tins, jars, bottles, wooden boxes and cardboard tubes are all examples of common packaging types.
Most kinds of packaging require an element of tooling, set up or make ready cost (the charge to cover time taken to set up machinery) then often materials come with a minimum order charge. There is also design time, plates/stereos, and a whole range of other costs to consider before one copy is made. Depending on the packaging type and processes required, it is quite easy to notch up £1000 before you’ve even manufactured anything. In this case, you’d need several thousand pieces to cover the base costs before you can get to £1 per unit. It’s worth considering whether unit cost or total cost is more important for your project. Buying 10k pieces to get your unit price down and then throwing half of them away, is not a great use of resource (both financially or environmentally) – sometimes it’s worth considering the wider impact and the element of risk within these initial calculations.
Due to the complexity of printed artwork these days, there are lots of things that can go wrong. In order to ensure that the printed packaging meets your expectation, it’s important to check a proof or printed prototype of the design so that you can be sure that everything looks how you expect. Most of the common errors relate to fonts, colours or images. A few good tips to make sure things look as expected: make sure colours, images and the file mode are set to CMYK so that the colour breakdown can be printed within the printed colour space (gamut is the term relating to range of available colours) Make sure fonts are outlined or that fonts are embedded in the document. Make sure all images are set to at least 300dpi and are included at the expected print size. Make sure dimensions are correct and that artwork is at 100% scale. Once complete, save as a PDF file which is commonly accepted. Always check with an experienced packaging designer if you are unsure or need help.
Packaging comes in many forms, many standard or off the shelf products are available which are functional and cost effective. Creative packaging is where something extra is supplied. The creative process allows us to think differently and create a new design so that your product looks or performs differently. Standard packaging will always have its place as a functional cost effective solution, but if you’re looking for something different, a creative solution might be for you.
Different territories and markets have different requirements and legislation regarding packaging. Some of the kinds of legislation are as follows: material and recycling regulations- some materials are banned or must display certain logos so that the consumer knows how to dispose of the packaging. Control of substances (Coshh) regulations is an example of regulations which cover the materials used in packaging. For example lead which can be used in packaging materials is banned in Europe. Information and labelling: certain products must have certain information displayed in a certain way such as Inci ingredients for cosmetics, ingredients and allergens for foods, warnings for tobacco and alcohol and age suitability for toys. Often the product must be tested so that the relevant markings can be used (E.G. CE marks). There are also many other markings which are required depending on the distribution methods, such as retailers may require certain nutritional displays and have specific pricing and labelling requirements for use at the checkout.
Packaging performs different functions depending on the product. A tube of toothpaste, would be difficult to use and deliver if it wasn’t for the packaging. For beans, a tin can can increase the shelf life. Corrugated boxes are goog for protecting, while rigid boxes can often create a feeling of luxury for gift products such as jewellery.
While it is your responsibility to make sure all the information is correct and available, the designer can help to make sure that the information is laid out in an appealing and legible way. Often a design is started with placeholder information while the barcode and ingredients are being finalised, so that the design can be tested, marketed and approved in advance of manufacture.
CAD stands for computer aided design. When we design packaging, although we often start with a hand-drawn sketch, we will create the drawing using software which makes sure the design is accurate and easily repeatable. This means that when we get to production, all the tooling and specification comes from the same file meaning that the initial sample we create is an accurate representation of the finished manufactured packaging product.
CADCAM is the next stage in the line from CAD (computer aided design) the CAM part stands for Computer Aided Manufacture. This describes any manufacturing method whereby the machinery is controlled using a computer file. CNC is an example of this, meaning Computer Numerically Controlled, usually material can be cut by a machine which travels in 3 axes (X, Y and Z) by a numerical distance controlled by a computer source. CAD Software, creates a file, which then drives the cutting tool which makes the sample or tool. There are many methods of cutting, scoring, routing, laser cutting and water jet cutting used in the manufacture of packaging and tooling for packaging manufacture. These are all controlled by computer in some way and all of this starts with the initial packaging CAD design.
Packaging can be made from a whole range of materials and more and more materials are developed every year. Material choice is really important as it impacts both the aesthetics, protection and manufacture method. All materials have different properties and have positive and negative benefits on the intended us and also the environment.
Packaging styles are often defined by the material or manufacturing types. Packaging is usually bought depending on the market it intends to serve which is often driven by cost. Packaging can be functional such as card or wooden transit packaging designed to be durable during shipping. Branded retail packaging can be highly visual and stylised to give the impression of luxury or affordable while still being cost effective. Cereal packaging is a good example of a cost effective packaging which can be designed for several markets.
The CAD template is used to create the final packaging. If you are working on the artwork yourself, it’s important that the design is created to fit the CAD template. This way, all the panels will line up and you won’t have bits of text being cut off. Due to the way the design is laid out, sometimes panels can be upside down or need printing on the opposite side. For this reason, it’s important that an experienced designer checks the artwork or explains the layout to make sure that you have everything in the right place. Artwork that needs to align across different panels is particularly important to get right, as a small tolerance on one panel, might lead to a big difference on the other side of the pack.
Prototyping is the process of creating one or a few copies of the product so that the customer can check, test and market the product prior to production. A good prototype is a close representation of the finished product so that it can be correctly and fairly evaluated.
While modern artwork is often created on computer and easily shared via pdf, sometimes the colours or scale of the text can be difficult to evaluate. For this reason, a printed proof is a much better way to approve artwork. A printed proof is usually produced on a large format digital printer which has a system for measuring colours to ensure accuracy. The paper used is also usually designed to be a consistent colour to minimise colour variations.
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