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Ten Steps to a Better Packaging Design Process

By David Jensen and Patty Jensen, Jensen Design Associates, Inc. Part of a firms success in packaging design rests with helping clients understand that good packaging is more than just good designits having a good process in place. Although there are many details that go into packaging, these ten steps can provide a roadmap for both the client and the design team to ensure that a packaging design project will yield great results. 1. Prioritize. Prioritize. Prioritize. As part of the creative brief, include a hierarchy of five communication points for the front of the package. This includes: David Jensen and A) Brand Patty Jenson B) Product name C) Why-to-buy statement D) Feature points E) Product image Visual priority must be established from the very beginning of the process; it drives how all creative will be judged. If you try to make everything the most important, nothing becomes important. 2. Come together. Once the creative brief has been approved by the primary client contact, consensus must be obtained from the people expected to judge the package design from within the corporation. Without this consensus, the design process will fall apart. Without clearly stated, agreedupon objectives, the client will often start to give art direction rather than design input. Once the client starts to tell you to make this bigger or move this here, you are no longer driving the design process. The creative brief is there to dictate and drive the creative direction. If everyone signs off on the creative brief at the start of the project, you will get better input. 3. Go shopping. From the start of any packaging projecteven if you are familiar with the category go shopping. Go to as many different retailers as possible, and take pictures of your clients product and their competitors. Talk to the salespeople. Ask them what they know about the products. Notice whether they use the box as a sales tool or a crutch. Utilize the retail environmental shots you take to drop in digital images of your proposed designs. Present only the designs that pop off the shelf. 4. Remember your roots. Designs should be judged internally against the original, agreed-upon creative brief before they are presented to the client. Bring the creative brief to the initial presentation, and review it as a group before presenting the creative. This will keep the meeting focused. Once a creative direction is signed off on, focus groups can be very helpful to confirm that the original five communication points are receiving the right priority for the audience. 5. Less is morewhen it comes to copy. The packaging message should do the following: Increase product recognition, stimulate impulse purchases, sway purchase decisions, and stand in for the salesperson. It needs to do this quickly and concisely. The why-to-buy statement is the most important element of copy on the package. It should be succinct, catchy, competitive, and compelling. It is a common myth among clients that they can write their own copy. They tend to be too close to the project and too wordy to be effective. If you dont have a copywriter on staff, hire one specifically for the packaging project. 6. Maintain a solid consistency. Consistency on packaging is twofold. First, the brand and the message should be consistent with the corporate brand strategy. Second, if there are multiple products in a line, the packages should be consistent with each other. This will make the strongest shelf impact. A packaging guideline document can ensure graphic elements are consistent between products regardless of package size or format differences. 7. Make a list. Check it twice. In all likelihood, your client does not have a packaging checklist. Generate one for them. It will make both of you more successful in the long run. This list can also be used as a job start for future projects. Items to include are all of the tracking numbers (i.e.: UPC codes,

internal numbers, product codes, etc.), legal, and stacking codes. Each genre of packaging has different requirements. For example, food packaging and pharmaceutical have very specific design issues. Regardless of the type of package you are designing, there are multiple production items that are critical to its ultimate success. 8. Make friends with your printer. Packaging manufacturers are very different from sheet fed printers. There are different substrates and file requirements. Once a creative direction has been approved, share this with your printer. He or she may have suggestions upfront that could save you time and your client money. Another issue to consider is if the package is being printed overseas. Find out what type of files they can receive. Many overseas printers wont take the latest software versions. Also, find out how they would like to receive the files. Posting files on an FTP site or sending print-ready PDFs can save time and errors. 9. Hot Potato should be left to the kids. Make sure the client knows that you need adequate time before the file is handed off to the printer to do a preflight. Build 24 hours into the process to allow adequate time. Remind the client as the deadline approaches that you will need this time. If a file is being sent via PDF, send mark-ups. Finally, if it is a 3-dimensional box, always build a comp to make sure the artwork is aligned correctly on the die line. Artwork can shift during the production process, especially if multiple designers have worked on the file. 10. Your job is never done. Once your package is in the store, check it out. Take pictures, and make sure that it has the impact you desired. Share your success with your client. Gather feedback from your client and retailer regarding the success of the packaging. Following up on your work with the client fosters a good working relationship in the future.

Jensen Design Associates (JDA) was founded in 1991 and has grown through the combined efforts of David Jensen, President and Creative Director, and Patty Jensen, Vice President, Account Services. David Jensen completed the Visual Communications program at Cal State Long Beach in 1981. He served as a graphic designer and art director at several L.A. design firms before he established his own studio in 1986 as a founding partner of Ervin Jensen Designers. In 1991, he formed JDA. Patty joined JDA in January of 1993. During her 22-year career, she has worked on the client side as a creative services and merchandising manager, and has taken a special interest in branding and corporate identity. Patty earned her degree in Communications and Marketing from the University of Michigan. This article appeared in the January 2005 eBulletin. Feedback on DMI Viewpoints and article proposals are always welcome! Please email jtobin@dmi.org. All articles reflect the opinion of the author and not the Design Management Institute.