Packaging Design File Advice from our Expert
International brands frequently experience a disconnect between graphic designers who work for the brand to develop graphics for product packages and packaging suppliers who are tasked with manufacturing high volumes of product packages.
Matching Design Sizes to the Printing Process
Designers need to consider whether graphics will be printed via flexo or litho. Each printing methodology has its own sizing requirements including font sizing, correct line weight for vector graphics, and the resolution on photography. For instance if a brand’s registered trademark is too small, it will fill in and look like a tiny blob next to the brand logo. Designs need to proactively plan to meet sizing requirements to ensure that the printed graphic has a high level of resolution that reflects favorably on the brand.
Scaling from Prototype to an Initial Run
Sometimes when brands create a new design, they will do an initial short run of the package. For example, running 500 packages for an initial production run allows the brand and the packaging supplier to assess whether any design modifications are needed. If a short run does not occur, there is a potential for creating waste and rising costs if packages that do not comply to brand standards need to be discarded.
Design files, and notations with specific directions contained in the files, need to be extraordinarily explicit. Sometimes, for example, there may be a comment in a design file that specifies the need to use black Spot Gloss UV coating. Although the brand's designer may have intended for the spot gloss to be applied to just the text of a graphic, unless that is specified, it is difficult for the packaging supplier’s pre-production team to understand exactly where to apply the spot gloss. This lack of clarity slows down the production process as additional communications between the pre-production team and the brand's designers are required.
Provide Links to Original Artwork
When a brand sends a design file to a packaging supplier, the design files should have links to the original artwork included in the file. Providing the original artwork (including original images) allows the supplier’s designers to modify the original artwork to meet production requirements as needed. Embedding images directly into the file causes the file size to grow exponentially and makes image modifications unnecessarily labor intensive.
Bleed Lines are Important
Designs may have full coverage including edge to edge printing or may only extend past a few sides of the package. In either case, designs need to designate margins for bleed. In some instances, the registration may be slightly off when a package is run through the printing process. Bleed lines allow for complete color coverage for those instances where there is imperfect alignment in the registration of the package during the printing process.
The industry standard for bleed is 1/8 of an inch for graphics that will print be on the surface of the dieline. This standard helps ensure that if a printing plate is off by just a little bit, when the package is cut, if the cut varies slightly from the design specification, there will still be complete color visible on the product package that the consumer receives.
Experienced Packaging Designers Know When to Go Beyond Industry Standards
There are instances where an experienced packaging professional knows from past experience that it is good to go beyond industry standards when determining how large of a margin should be used for bleed. For example, a very large file may require a ¼ inch bleed. Going beyond industry standards for a large file can help ensure complete color coverage for all folds and cuts on a package.
Version Control to Maintain Design Integrity
Sometimes product packages will have a structure change that impacts graphics. Even a modification of just two millimeters is considered a structure change. All graphics need to be updated each time a structure change is made. Brands, and their packaging suppliers, need to have a methodical, formalized process in place to ensure that each structure change is communicated throughout the organization and that design files are modified to accommodate the revised structure.
Determining When to Use a Vector File Versus a Raster File
As vector files are mathematically based images, it is a straightforward process to change their size while maintaining their scale and clarity when they are printed as a graphic. Brand logos are frequently created as vector files to accommodate changes in scale and to provide great visual clarity.
Raster files lose visual acuity when they are made larger. Clarity is not sacrificed when raster files are made smaller.
Experienced packaging professionals can take a single vector file of packaging graphics and step it out to multiple sizes.
Matching Font Size to Printing Method for Text Clarity
Have you ever seen a package with text that is blurry and slightly illegible? Did you wonder how that occurred? It's important for designers to match font design with the type of print process, like flexo or litho, to ensure that text remains legible on all product package size variants. Brand trademarks or registration marks are particularly vulnerable to appearing illegible if an incorrect match between font design and printing process is selected.
International Brands Create Multi-Language Packaging
Determining text legibility in a language that you do not speak can be a challenge. Brands that serve international markets frequently develop multi-language packaging for international distribution. Each language may have its own nuances including whether nouns have a gender identification and whether a formal or informal version of the language should be used for any particular brand or communication. Packaging suppliers need to find reliable translation houses to ensure that graphics in each language have clear text with appropriate line breaks, formalization, and punctuation.
Achieving Grade A Bar Codes
Barcodes on product packages are extremely important for product identification, tracking sales volumes, and processing products through highly automated supply chains. Ensuring that barcodes print clearly on each product package requires a thorough understanding of barcode technology.
Each barcode needs to have a certain amount of white space surrounding it to help lasers get a clear reading of the bar code. Grading systems have been developed to assess the quality of a barcode. Barcode grades can range from A through F. Experienced packaging professionals can help ensure your brand has a Grade A level barcode on each and every product package.
An experienced packaging professional can proactively manage the transition between design ideation through high volume product packaging production in a way that adheres to design intent and conforms to brand guidelines. From matching design sizes to specific printing process through securing savvy translation houses, product packaging experts can provide your brand with a seamless experience when developing SEA product packaging.