Who doesn’t love the design phase? At the start of a new food packaging project, the possibilities seem endless. You’ve gathered some great customer insights, briefed the design agency and they’ve come back to you with some creative designs to choose from. Now all you have to do is pick your favourite, right?
Not so fast. The design might be the star of the early stages of the packaging design to print process, but it’s far from the only player. The feasibility of translating that splashy design into printed packaging needs to be tested out. A roadmap should be drafted. And all stakeholders should be on the same page and sign off on the master design.
There's more to getting great packaging than aesthetics alone. The secret is planning ahead. Skip ahead prematurely and risk budget blowouts and delays!
3 common mistakes to avoid during packaging design phase / pre-production.
Mistake #1 – Not figuring out how to print the new packaging design.
A design can look great on screen, but it’s no use if it can't be replicated on press. We've seen countless examples of packaging designs that just didn't match the original brand vision when printed.
The way the design will look printed can vary a lot depending on the choice of colours, the level of detail, the packaging material (also known as the substrate), and printing method itself.
The best way to make sure the design is feasible is to involve your production and print partners right at the beginning during your preproduction meetings.
Your print partner will work with you and your branding agency to evaluate the master design. They will identify the potential problem areas for print and suggest alternatives. They'll also recommend the most suitable printing method to get the best result on press.
Another important task will be to create a colour strategy. Your print partner will calculate how many different colours are required to achieve the design and suggest whether CMYK or Spot (Pantone) colours should be used. The number and types of colours used can significantly impact the cost and quality of a project, so it’s best to know up front!
Mistake #2 – Moving forward without a project plan.
The path from master design to print can be a complicated one. There are a ton of handoffs from different suppliers and stakeholders to coordinate. We've seen this mistake time and time again – moving forward without a plan inevitably leads to delays and budget blowouts!
The time to put together a detailed project plan is right after choosing the master design, and before moving on to artwork rollout.
Your print supplier can help you pull it all together. If you're spread thin, some brand managers choose to assign a dedicated project manager to manage the process. Your print partner may even be able to provide a project management resource for your project.
Here are some key things to include in your plan:
- Project scope
- Detailed budget
- Project timeline
Critical milestones and deadlines for each project phase:
- Master design sign off
- Pack copy validation
- Artwork rollout
- Delivery to retail shelf
Mistake #3 – Not getting the final sign-off before moving forward.
Making a change to the master is easy and quick, but once the design has moved to the rollout stage, changes are complex and costly. Every individual SKU needs to be updated.
Involving the right stakeholders for master concept sign-off is a critical step to preventing costly changes downstream.
It's also a good idea to go back to the initial design brief and make sure that the design meets your initial objectives. Sometimes design components are left out or overlooked.
So now you're ready to approach pre-production like a pro. To recap, always figure out how to print the master design, don't forget to make a project plan, and get the final sign-off before moving forward.
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