Archive for the ‘ Package Design ’ Category

The Basics of Package Design

Creating packaging for a client isn’t always easy, especially if you are creating a package for a product that you’re not familiar with or have never used. Below are some of evok’s best practices for creating award-winning packaging, along with a few of my own personal tips for success.

Take a field trip. Start with shopping around the competition to see what is out there. Check out your client’s retail environment to see how other products are presented on the shelf. Make sure you take your handy-dandy camera with you to take pictures of the competitors’ packaging. That way, you can go back and work on how you’re going to differentiate you client’s packaging from their competitors’ packaging. To take your research a step farther, look at other packaging that’s not within your client’s realm. This approach can help you come up with and an idea that could be a little more unconventional.

Contact your printer before you design. In addition to providing you with a die line for your job, your printer is a valuable resource for advice on paper or other material options. If you’re unclear about the kind of printer or process that’s appropriate for your packaging project, contact a printer with whom you have a working relationship. Remember to involve your printer at every stage of the design process to be sure that your concept is achievable.

Know the quality and production budget. Think about the quality of the paper, inks, spot varnish, emboss, metallic or a custom die. All those things will affect you client’s overall budget. When money is the bottom line, you must be flexible with the elements of your design. Set realistic goals that stay on target with your client’s budget.

Make the purchase. As a designer, your goal is to create a design that stimulates the consumer to make the purchase. Your design should increase product recognition, in other words, it should act as a “stand-in salesman”. It needs to do this quickly and concisely.

Create mock-ups. I’m a pretty visual person and I make mock-ups all the time. Sometimes when you design something flat that is going to end up being folded, you overlook certain things. You might be experience something along the lines of, “Oooh, I didn’t see that this color bar doesn’t align with this one on the other panel,” or “Yikes, this looks odd since the package lays on its side.” Create several packages so you can see what the shelf presence will be like. Ask your printer if they will run a couple mock-ups for you so you can see how the design works on the shelf.

Bar Codes 101

  • Bar codes must be placed in a spot that is highly visible and easy to scan.
  • A bar code must be printed at a scale between 85% and 120% of its original size.
  • Bar codes must be printed in a dark color against a solid light colored background. The contrast between a bar code and its background must be high enough to allow the bar code to be scanned.
  • Make sure your client provides you with their bar code number. A program like Bar Code Pro will enable you to generate an EPS file to place in your file.

Indesign Tip: How to create a “Book”

I had a big project for a client that consisted of over 60 rack brochures. When I laid them out, I didn’t lay them out in one Indesign file – they were all separate files. Although all the files were separate, if I needed to make a change, the last thing I wanted to do was open each file individually. Indesign has an option for you to create a “Book”. A Book creates an Indesign file that will house all my separate rack brochure files and combine them into one Book file. This is how it works:


A new palette will appear, and once it does, click the “plus” icon in the lower right hand corner of the palette.

Next, a window will appear asking you to locate your files. Once located, click Open. Note: The way you link graphics in your traditional Indesign files, applies the same way to the Book files.

Now that you have all you files selected into your Book, it’s time to save your Book. You can open any of your linked Indesign files via the Book, just select the file from the Book palette and your ready to go. You can print an individual file if needed and you can export individual PDFs from the book, just option click the files you want. If you want to print the selected files, click the print icon in the palette. If you want to export the files as a PDF, click the carrot icon in the upper left hand corner of the palette and select “Export selected documents to PDF”.

Creating packaging for clients can be challenging, but with sound research, clear objectives, a few mock-ups and using these organizational tips, you’ll be on the path to success in no time.

Listen Up Pitches!…The Pitch Process from a Creative’s Mind

Before I begin, this behind-the-scenes look through a creative’s mind can be a little scary. I promise to stay on track and stick to the subject matter of what a pitch entails…or at least mention what it should entail. Let’s start with the obvious – before you begin a pitch, learn about your client, their business and their customer. Each client will expect you to be sensitive to their business and industry, so let the homework begin. Embark with research into the industry trends, lingo and competitors, but get the entire team working on this – different perspectives and research avenues will prove invaluable in the kick-off meeting. Also, dig into the client’s personal tastes, from who they associate with to their personal interests, such as what they watch, read, like and are involved in. This helps in choosing your “voice” of the presentation. However, the most important study is finding their target audience—and digging deeper. Are there other demos we could hit? Can we expand sales to existing customers and what will engage all of them to act? More often than not, you can change a client’s weariness of a new idea when you back it with this kind of research.

Now let’s talk about that new creative idea. Our biggest hurdle with new ideas is just that – that they’re new ideas. This means change to a client and many people do not like change. Before your pitch, make sure you are speaking to someone that’s interested in change, and if they’re not, find out why they think an agency is needed in the first place.

Moving forward, what happens when you find that idea, but it just isn’t working? Sometimes, even if the passion is there, that big idea isn’t always the right fit.  Ask yourself and your peers: Does this solve a specific problem or need? Is this problem worth solving? And will it translate into profits? Can it be implemented realistically? If these can be answered and backed up with research, creative thinking and real passion – then you have the big idea!

The thing we must always ask ourselves – how do we communicate the idea to the client effectively? First, you need to develop the elevator pitch – one short sentence that describes the idea at its highest level. Refine and simplify until it’s interesting, intelligent and to the point. The rest of your presentation should be based on this simplified explanation of the big idea and flow out like an open fire hydrant.

So there you have it, pitches. We research, we learn, we create, we execute, but we do it all while something’s missing – The Client. This is how the majority of agencies have to operate – without their major puzzle piece intact. It’s a sad way to do business, at least in my opinion.

What happened to learning directly from the client before the pitch? It’s very doubtful that any creative director or copywriter will ever know as much about the client’s business as the client does. This may not sound promising to clients, but the truth is – most of their customers do not either, nor do they want to. As a Creative Director, I want to hear the business successes and failures directly from the president or founder. A walk down the company memory lane is usually the spark that ignites the passion and reason for being of that particular business. This experience is invaluable to a creative and helps the idea bloom. Then that idea (and a good agency plan) becomes the integral link between Client and Customer. We develop the idea in the language of the consumer and place the right message in areas that they frequent. This model, when all of the above is developed properly, usually results in sales.

So I ask you, Client – Pitch me! Please.

Tapping into Your Agency’s Extracurricular Skills

A former coworker recently contacted me to gain some insight on a project she just started.  She needed to create an award constructed out of sheet metal. It was really just, “do you know of a vendor that could help me out”, as she was finding nothing but dead ends.

With my natural ability to butt in, and my background in fabrication, I offered a few other approaches to production that could better meet her timeline and budget.

It got me thinking about my “extracurricular” activities and the skills I’ve acquired outside of advertising—and how much I rely on those skills to develop advertising for my clients, acquire new business and keep myself fresh to generate new ideas.

In a past life, I was in the automotive aftermarket industry, customizing cars, installing electronics, paint and body…just a lot of general fabrication. It involved an array of materials and skills. Acrylic, wood, fiberglass, metal, leather and vinyl…using them to mold, sculpt, weld and upholster…in vehicles that light up, make sound, go fast or just look good.

My past experience, and current hobby, allow me to build a better trade show booth for my clients. I not only understand the materials, but how to choose the right one for the job, how they are assembled, their durability and so on…not just how to apply a logo to a piece of foamcore that hangs in front of a curtain.

It also helps that I can understand and relate to our automotive clients as a consumer, as an industry “insider” and as their advertising agency.

So I looked around the agency and saw how much extracurricular talent we have. Musicians and actresses, engineers and electricians, contractors and craft mavens, movie makers and more…the list goes on.

And I realize how much we actually tap into our diverse interests…in the interest of our clients.

We’ve been able to enhance our strategy and work in new business pitches by transforming our office into a nine-foot-diameter artery (constructed from PVC and fabric, courtesy of the plumber and seamstress) leading our potential healthcare client into the “heart” of the agency, complete with red and white blood cells (balloons)—truly immersing ourselves in their brand.

Our copywriter has a passion for acting and the theatre. I can see firsthand how her creative outlets bring more creative output to the table—everyday.  Not only is she writing a script for the television spot, but also she sees the potential in an actor during casting to fulfill her creative vision more than anyone else could.

So, imagine a triathlete paramedic who moonlights as a lifeguard. That’s a pool I’d want my kids swimming in.

Now imagine how your agency uses their extracurricular skills to step up strategy, complement creative and raise results.

I’d like to hear about it.

“Non-traditional” Holiday Marketing

A few years back we began an initiative to maintain awareness of a brand using “non-traditional” holidays as the impetus for this outreach to their audience. To this day, the program continues with much success for our client—to the point that their clients wonder what we’ll do next.


It began with a traditional holiday card, singing the same ol’ sentiments, wishing their audience well for the holiday season and the new year. No sales pitch. No call to action, website or phone numbers.

It was expected. Probably hung in the doorway with all the others.

While fruit baskets, cookies, chocolate and other goodies took center stage. In all their holiday glory. Disappearing faster than your decision to re-gift that sleeveless holiday sweater, while the awareness lasted long enough to realize you wouldn’t get a second shot at that Harry & David gift basket.

Well, we couldn’t compete with such lavish gifts of well-wishery. We had a budget for a card. And direction from the client: “We’re doing a card.”

My problem is that we were just going along with what everyone else was doing. Getting lost in the surplus of snowmen, stars, holly and glitter. Taped to a doorway until our client’s sentiment was sent the way of file 13.


What I appreciated about the holiday card was that it wasn’t (directly) going after the sale. What if we just did it for another holiday? That alone would cut through the clutter. After all, who gets a card for Groundhog Day?

Basically our pitch to the client was pretty much as outlined above. Let’s pick another secular/unofficial holiday and execute on it. No hard sell. No call-to-action. But maybe a website [landing page].

So our little card for Groundhog Day was well received. A few “thank you” emails led to a series of cards produced that year, which translated to a bump in RFP submissions to the client. Nice. They noticed.

Now the client direction was “how can we take this to the next level.”

Yup. Music to my ears.

Push Play

Proposing another set of holidays, we prepared the client to take this initiative online. Now we could really implement a tracking mechanism, and offer more interaction with the brand. A veritable mix-tape of traditional printed cards driving traffic to a landing page, some e-cards to fill in and a dimensional mailing or two.

Here are some examples:

Labor Day
This execution was created within a series of traditional “pop-up” printed cards. User opens the card and the interior comes to life, much like a children’s book. Dad is golfing in the backyard, Junior is jumping in the pool, Mom is getting burgers ready for the grill. A quick message from our client wishing them a relaxing long weekend and driving them to a landing page. The landing page mirrors the card, but plays on interaction. Click on Dad and get a mini-golf game, click on Junior for a swan dive or cannonball into the pool. All branded, and without any sales messaging. (We did provide a link to the client website)

halloweenpromoA dimensional piece was mailed about three weeks prior to the “holiday.” It consisted of an inflatable pumpkin and a sticker sheet with Jack O’Lantern eyes, noses and mouths. On the back of the pumpkin was our client’s logo and website link. Essentially, the audience had a few minutes of fun creating the custom pumpkin, then decorated their office with it (pumpkin facing “out” to show off their work) and ultimately stared at our client’s logo and website for about two weeks. (We even donated the overruns of stickers with some paper plates to a local school to do a fun Halloween craft)

Fourth of July
This execution was solely electronic, and featured an “asteroids”-style game where Uncle Sam shot down floating hot dogs. It kept high scores, and encouraged some friendly competition when emailed to a friend—and further developing our client’s email database.


The response was overwhelming by any effort. In reviewing analytics, some of the online “cards” resulted in engaging viewers with the brand for over 15 minutes. We heard some of the dimensional pieces had a shelf life of over two weeks—staying put on desks and shelves as conversation starters with associates of the addressee.The tracking mechanisms for each “mailing” were somewhat elementary (defined by budget and agency recommendation). We did see measurable results, to the tune of:

  • Increased inquiries about service offerings
  • More RFP submissions
  • Growth of indirect contacts within the vertical channel

Even a bump in correspondence with their audience, even if it’s only a “what am I getting for Arbor Day?”-type questions. I am comfortable saying we raised some awareness.

So we turned the ubiquitous holiday card into a program that returns more and more each time our client invests in it.

Here are some things to consider if you’d like to try something similar:

  • Skip the usual. Don’t do a postcard because that’s what you’d normally do
  • Timing is everything. Pick an unusual time of the year, a holiday, birthday, astrological division
  • What’s in it for them? Notice this doesn’t say “what’s in it for you?”—play down your product/service and turn up the volume on just saying “hi” or giving your audience something that is unrelated to your product/service
  • Theme. a common thread tying your efforts together help to build awareness from your audience. And this doesn’t mean because you put your widget on a “baseball card” that someone will want to collect them all. Perhaps each execution is pink, or square, electronic or dimensional…
  • Commit to the whole program. You may need to gain some momentum before you see results, so create a plan and stick to it. The first isn’t any good without the second and third.

Here’s some holidays we haven’t been able to work into our program, but sound like there’s a lot to work with:

  • No Pants Day – First Friday of May
  • International Talk Like a Pirate Day – September 19
  • National Ammo Day – November 19
  • Monkey Day – December 14

I love to hear your efforts, especially if it’s on one of the above!