Innovative packaging design breaks away from the standard rules and conventions to allow companies to create unique identities for their brands. Many successful brands have created iconic packaging through shape: one such example being Coca-Cola’s distinctive bottle shape. As brands evolve, many designers leverage shape as a way to refine their brand image and stay relevant.
As we push our designs to more unique geometries and as technologies advance to allow for shape differentiation, it is important to understand the technical hurdles associated with this shift. As packaging designers, we consider design, manufacturing, communication, product protection and distributionwhen developing new packages. The primary package design impacts all of these areas.
This article will center on communication and the amount of space available on the package for branding and labeling. It is important to maximize the label coverage area because the labels broadcast corporate identity, send marketing messages and provide information about the product itself. To understand the impact of primary packaging design on label coverage, there is just one simple design challenge: have you ever tried to label an apple?
You will most certainly run into the common design challenges: areas where the label will not lay down flat, areas where you will see wrinkles and darts, surface damage from distribution and less than ideal label space to apply your design.
To take all points into account, the design of a bottle shape must balance label application (label head at filling line), material costs and transportation.
Here are some design tips to ensure your label design and application is successful:
1. Surface Area – The container needs a significant amount of flat surface area within its shape to place the label on. Design and predictive software exists to analyze the angles of the package shape – sometimes simple tweaks to a design will give ample coverage.
2. Scratching and Scuffing – To protect labels against scratches (e.g. during transport and manufacturing), you can design embossed or protected areas into the package. The label can be placed in that area with the embossing or protection around it. This is particularly important when talking about round bodied containers, heavy filled containers, and sensitive label and ink systems (material or inks).
3. Tolerance & Coverage – Some tolerance is required to allow for label application. Depending on the sophistication of the label dispensing system some room should be left surrounding the label area. The amount of tolerance depends on machine, bottle design and the sophistication of the operations. In general a label needs 3mm of extra space in all directions to allow for variation.
4. Design – Pressure-sensitive labels are placed on a liner in a regular pattern when delivered to the application line. To place a label with speed and accuracy, designers need to create a label with at least one straight line in the shape. If you have a label with too many differential angles, the danger of pockets, crinkles and folding is high, and, as a result, the production speed may be reduced. The application of a label with a straight edge is more efficient and supports a better result.
Labeling that Apple
As everyone knows not all packaging is square and perfectly designed for standard labels. This has led to many new innovations in the label industry to give extended coverage on unique shapes. Shrink sleeves are often used for uniquely shaped containers; however there are some trade-offs in printing effects and sustainability. There are limitations on shrink ratios. Many printing technologies like varnishes and metalized inks cannot be used because of the distortion required, which can lead to mislabeling of your critical information. Another trade-off is the lack of recyclability of shrink sleeves. Many recycling centers do not even try to reclaim PET and HDPE bottles labeled with shrink sleeves.
In order to create an alternative decoration method for complex shapes, Avery Dennison developed a premium label solution focused on delivering shelf appeal. Fasson Curvy labels and the Curve Appeal Application system were introduced to give brand owners a pressure-sensitive label and application system for bottles with complex curvature. Australian Gold, a leading sun care brand, rebranded their top-selling Moisture Max sun screen with a new bottle color, and increased the label area by 40 percent with Fasson Curvy. Florida market research showed that the larger label graphic and new bottle color generated significant consumer preference (9:1) over the old bottle/label combination.
As a designer, you will be faced with challenges of imagination and practical application. There should never be a limit on ideas, vision and resourcefulness, but anchoring your creative process around a few simple, proven precepts will take branding and packaging to soaring heights.
See above for some examples of bottles utilizing this new technology and how predictive software has identified the increased label coverage on various shapes (Purple: Standard Pressure Sensitive, Green: Curvy Labels).
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Sneha Shah leads the Global Packaging Innovation group at Avery Dennison. Her inquisitive team of packaging, design and material science experts focus on developing new-to-the-world label and packaging innovations. Shah worked at General Mills and led packaging development efforts across multiple global brands. A chemical engineer by training, Shah is currently pursuing a Masters in Business Administration from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.
Eva Schaefers is the Global Packaging Solutions Engineer at Avery Dennison.