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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.
Before you start the process of designing packaging, of course you have to decide on the form of the packaging. So, here's what seems like sort of a simplistic question. What's the real primary purpose of a package? Well in truth, it's to transport a product. It's to get it from point a to point b, to get it from the manufacturer to the store, and ultimately to the consumer. And so of course that means that it needs to fit the product, so in a way, you're sort of working from the inside out. You start with the shape, and the nature of the product, and that's going to dictate the form of the package.
So for example, dry food products, what do you want to do with a dry food product? What must that package do? Well, it has to maintain the freshness. And that can sometimes mean that you need to control the humidity. But interestingly, that doesn't always mean keeping the humidity away from the product. Sometimes it means letting the humidity escape from the product. So for example, you'll notice that flour is often contained in a paper bag, and that's so that humidity, so the moisture can escape from the flour, so that container needs to be porous, actually.
But you do want to retain the integrity of the product, and of course you want to prevent contamination. So that may mean that you need to use food safe materials for that package and sometimes that involves using barriers. So the package solutions for dry food products would be jars and bottles, poly or foil bags. Think of potato chips. Paper bags, as I mentioned, used with flour, and sometimes you'll see cloth bags used with flour. And of course, paperboard or chipboard boxes, some cereal, for example, can actually be placed directly in the box, but some of it needs to be inside a sealed poly bag within the box.
Liquid food products, of course you want to prevent leaks, and you also want to prevent contamination. So, again, this means using food-safe materials. You want a material that doesn't react with the food product that's contained inside, you don't want it changing the nature of that liquid food product. So the solutions for liquid food products could include of course, glass jars and bottles, plastic jars and bottles. You know, think of, orange juice and milk that you see sometimes in a plastic bottle. And then waterproof carton. Again, orange juice, milk, other kinds of juices.
You often see those in waterproof cartons. And then squeeze tubes for something that I would call a liquid, but I guess you might think more of as a gel or a cream. Something for example like marzipan paste and then dry non-food products, of course that could mean a wide number of products. You want to protect it, you want to prevent product loss, and you want to prevent product damage. So, for example, in the case of electronics that could involve packaging that prevents electrostatic damage. You want to prevent contamination.
And you want to control moisture for some products. And you want a container that's non-reactive. It's not going to change, again, the nature of that product in transit. So that could include jars and bottles, poly bags, paper bags, paperboard or chipboard boxes, very, very common packaging, and then sealed poly bags in boxes. So you see some commonality between what you might use for a food product and what you might use for a nonfood product, but of course, the nature of that package is going to be dictated by what's inside.
Liquid non-food products, of course again you want to prevent leakage, you want to prevent product loss and damage to the environment. So think of paint and solvents and cleaning materials. You want to make sure that they don't escape and damage the environment. And then the converse is true too. You don't want to contaminate that product while it's in transit. So that could mean that your container has to be non-reactive. It must not interact with the chemistry of that liquid it's being transported and that means also that you're going to maintain the product properties.
So, the solutions for that could include, again, glass jars and bottles and poly jars and bottles, cans, think of paint, and tubes. You know, think of epoxy glues and things like that. But of course packaging is also marketing. It's not just getting it from point A to point B. When it gets to point B you want it to sell, so you want it to be appealing. You want it to stand out from the crowd. So you want to be able to showcase the product, so the product itself. If it's an appealing product, you can create a package that has a window insert so it's a clear component that lets that product show through.
And then you can enhance the package. And frankly, that's where a lot of the fun in package design comes from. It's the ability to use a unique substrate, and that's the material that actually creates the box. You've probably seen, especially cosmetic boxes that look like they're made out of metal. That's because it's paper board that has a metallic component to it, and so that substrate is a great start. And then you can decorate that with things like diecut accents, so you can shape it, it doesn't have to be just a boring rectangular box, it can have some interesting shaped components.
And then you can use accents like foil stamping and embossing to further enhance it. So your solutions could include, as I mentioned, a paperboard carton that has a window insert that lets a cute product show through. Something called a blister pack. And often we see that used with medicines. It's a foil back, little plastic top, and you push the components out, that protects, but it also displays. And then clamshell enclosures, you're probably familiar with those. Those are the ones that you get home and you have to have the scissors to open up.
So it may be frustrating when you get home, but keep in mind that when you were purchasing it, you knew exactly what you were getting because you could see it through that clear plastic clamshell. And then there's just a wide variety of custom carton configurations that you can create. This is all about, not just getting that product to market, but making it appealing on the shelf so that the consumer buys that product and not something else.
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