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Packaging is where engineering meets design. Learn about the basics of designing packages for everything from foodstuffs to fragrance, in ways that are practical for manufacturing and shipping, and make the products visually appealing. Author Claudia McCue reviews the types of containers real packaging engineers consider, and then concentrates on folding cartons, which can be created with the tools available to most designers: Adobe InDesign and Illustrator. Learn how to create dielines (the flattened view of your product) and add artwork and text. Then find out how to print and cut out a mockup version of your packaging, and prepare the job for professional printing. Claudia also takes you for a quick view of the factory floor, where products are packed into their final containers.
Once you've printed out the carton that you're working on, and you've cut it out, folded it up, and taped it together, then it's time to take a real close look at it and make sure that everything is as you want it to be. Of course you want to make sure that the dimensions are correct, so make sure that your front and back panels, your side panels, the top and bottom, are the correct width and height. If there are glue flaps or tuck flaps, make sure that they are the right size. If it's a tuck flap, make sure it goes all the way over and tucks in, you know, as it should. If there's a glue flap, make sure that it's wide enough to hold enough glue to keep the package together.
And the little tuck tabs, those are the little pieces that go underneath a flap, make sure that they're the right size and need to be long enough to hold that package together. And then check the mechanical aspects. Glue flaps should have bevels on them and that's partly because of the machine that's going to assemble that package. And the same thing is true for the little tuck-in flaps. They need little bevels to sort of feed them into place. And then the little notches, little insets, kind of lock them together and that keeps the package intact. Any place glue is going to be applied should be unprinted.
So make sure you don't have an image on it, and you don't have color on it and this bears saying, make sure that your panels are the right orientation. Sometimes when you're working on something onscreen, you can sort of lose your place. When you fold this up and tape it together, then you can make sure that nothing's upside down, that would be really embarrassing. As far as general design issues, of course you want to make sure that you have adequate bleed. And keep in mind that often in package work, you need to provide more than just the usual 1 8th inch blade.
Where you have three panels meeting each other on a folding carton, say the left front and the top flap, if they have different colors, different images you want to create what's called a beveled bleed at that intersection. And that way if it's a little bit off in trimming or folding then that's not going to be obvious. Any artwork that's within a panel, you want to make sure that it's a safe distance from the fold and the trim. Now if it's supposed to go right up to the fold, of course, make sure that it does, but if it's something, let's say, that has a little border around it, make sure that it's a reasonable distance from the fold or trim.
Make sure that your colors are in the correct format, usually CMYK or spot, and your job specs will tell you that. Make sure that your images are of adequate resolution. Usually 300 pixels per inch at final size. You can get away with slightly lower resolution, especially with background images. But again, go to the job specs and make sure you're going along with their requirements. There's going to be required content, especially on food cartons. The nutritional copy has to be there and there's a minimum type size, and there's a lot of information to cram into a very small space.
So if you check the FDA website, you can find all sorts of information about that. Any ingredients, of course, have to be listed, and they're listed in the order of predominance, in other words what there's the most of comes first. You want to include any safety or health advisories especially related to allergies. For example, if the product contains nuts, you want to advise the consumer. If the product doesn't contain nuts, but perhaps it's manufactured in a facility that does create products that contain nuts, you need to warn them about that too.
And of course you always have to include the bar code. Don't forget that universal product code, the UPC. And all of those things, you have to sort of design around 'em. You can't live without them. And then additional content such as recycled content information, meaning if the paperboard that a carton is constituted of, some recycled content. I think it's worthwhile to announce that, and to encourage. If it's been, FSC certified, The Forestry Stewardship Council announce that as well.
And it's always a good idea to encourage people to recycle. Include that little bug. That's the official name for a small icon. Include that little recycle bug. You know, the little three arrows. And put a little note next to it that says thank you for recycling, every little bit of encouragement helps. If the product is organic, if it's certified organic, announce that as well. And finally, any sort of helpful advisories should be included, such as whether the product is gluten-free, or it's Kosher, or Pareve, etc. So what you're doing with your package besides attracting a consumer is you're informing a consumer.
And this will make your client happy as you design, and it's going to make the consumer happy when they buy that wonderful product.
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