We all know that colour is an integral part of brand recognition. CocaCola is red, Cadbury is purple. These colours are trademarked and can sometimes stand in for the brands themselves.
Now imagine you're at the grocery store and you see a range of Cadbury bars. One of them stands out – maybe the background is a slightly lighter shade of purple, or the featured logo is 20% larger. How would you feel about the brand?
Any small variation in colour or design will stand out on the supermarket shelf.
Consumers are attracted to consistency, and any small variation in colour or design will stand out and can hurt purchasing behaviour. Consistent colour and design are critical to maintaining the right perception of your product.
The challenge with consistency...
Consistency is a challenge for any company with multiple products or SKUs. The main culprit is that variations are virtually unnoticeable when viewing products in isolation.
Unfortunately, it’s common to miss inconsistencies until the products are on the shelf next to each other. By that point, the costs of fixing issues are considerably higher than they would have been to adjust during the design stage.
When it comes to design, most consistency problems stem from the packaging brief or guidelines. All too often the document is incomplete or doesn't consider the different packaging formats. Sometimes the instructions are incorrectly interpreted and applied, resulting in a logo or text placement that is visibly off when viewed alongside the rest of the product range.
Getting consistent colour across multiple products is even more of a challenge, especially when you’re dealing with different printing materials, methods, print presses and suppliers. You could have the identical file printed on two separate print presses, and the result can be two shades off!
Given all the variables, we’ve put together these six techniques to ensure your products maintain brand and colour consistency.
Here are our 6 essential techniques to achieve design and colour consistency across your product range.
Technique # 1
Start with a complete brief and collect existing assets.
Chances are this won't be the last packaging design project you do for your brand. Time to pull together the packaging guidelines!
Make sure to figure out the exact packaging requirements before briefing your design or rollout agency, and consider the appearance of all related products. Be sure to include information about how to incorporate each of the critical elements of the branding into the design.
Here’s a list of basic aspects to consider. Your project might have unique elements of its own.
For more information on what to include in a packaging design brief, take a look at our comprehensive guide to the packaging design to print process.
Technique # 2
Devise a colour strategy.
Planning out your colour strategy from the beginning is a great way to ensure colour consistency and ensure there are no variations in colour or surprises when you get to print.
A great way to do this is to involve your printing partner in the pre-production meetings with your design agency. They should be able to advise you on the best colour strategy to get a consistent result across different printing materials, packaging formats, and print presses.
Technique # 3
Master the master design.
Design concepts are tested and chosen during the master design phase, but it’s also an opportunity to set guidelines before moving forward with artwork rollout to all the SKUs in your product range.
Asking your agency to create a set of master designs for each product to be used in artwork rollout is a great way to prevent mistakes. This way, regardless of format or packaging size, all files are ‘children’ of a single ‘parent’. This technique can ensure that logos and colours remain consistent. Once you receive the master designs, make sure to get them approved by all stakeholders before moving on to the next phase.
Technique # 4
Tighten up the artwork rollout process.
Rollout of the master design to all package formats and size variations is a critical stage. A great way to ensure consistency is to start the rollout from a set of master design files (see above). Once each SKU has been rolled out, you should check the designs against the approved masters to ensure a match.
Another critical part of artwork rollout and pre-press is to make sure the artwork is built using the most up-to-date print press profiles. These are needed to tailor the colours for every design file appropriately and is the best way to guarantee press-ready files that are 100% colour accurate when printed.
For more information on artwork rollout tips and best practices, take a look at our comprehensive guide to the packaging design to print process.
Technique # 5
Get ISO certified proofs.
An ISO certified proof guarantees colour consistency no matter which printer is used.
An ISO proof is an accurate prediction of how the document will look when printed. During the proofing stage, your print production partner will work to adjust the colours for a perfect match. The ISO-certified proof is a guarantee that it will look exactly right when it goes to print the first time or the 100th time.
Ask your production partner if they can provide ISO-certified proofs.
Technique # 6
Test out designs with mockups and 3D renders.
Sometimes it’s difficult at the design rollout stage to get a feel for a new packaging design's shelf appeal and brand consistency across an entire range. That’s when mockups and 3D renders come in handy.
3D rendering is a great way to view your package from all angles and help make design decisions. They are built from the master design or rollout files.
If you have some different items in a product range and you want to test out how they look together and see them on a real shelf, colour-accurate mockups are the way to go. A good print supplier should be able to create mockups that are truly representative, and printed on the actual packaging material with real print effects.
In review, the six techniques to perfect packaging are:
1 – Start with a complete brief and collect existing assets.
2 – Devise a colour strategy
3 – Master the master design.
4 – Tighten up the artwork rollout process.
5 – Get ISO certified proofs.
6 – Test out designs with mockups and 3D renders.
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