Hands-on Team Player

Q&A with:

Peter DiDonato, owner of DiDonato Design

Judy Dixon, vice president of production at Hornall Anderson

Terri Goldstein, CEO of The Goldstein Group

Pamela Long, director of client services at Little Big Brands

John Nunziato, founder and creative director of Little Big Brands

Faster and cheaper has been the business directive from time immemorial. This desire, Little Big Brands’ founder and creative director John Nunziato says, is fueling a disturbing modern trend in package design. “Because of timing and cost being hero, people are approving PDFs as proofs,” he explains. “This type of proofing will most likely result in a client who’s disappointed when the product gets printed because they’ve seen the image in a very different way,” Nunziato says, noting that packages printed on white ink look different from prints on white paper and very different from images viewed on screen. A physical prototype can more clearly communicate concepts and how the package will look in different retail environments.

A prototype also lets everyone involved in the process, including the designer, brand manager and retail buyer, examine the concept closely.
A consumer packaged goods company understands the proposed direction much earlier in the process as well. “The ability to actually hold a prototype or walk up to it—depending on the project—really accentuates the detail,” Hornall Anderson’s vice president of production Judy Dixon notes. “It’s amazing how many details you realize about a design concept once you see it in 3-D.”

Nunziato adds, “That [the prototype review stage] is when the brand manager really starts to fall in love with the design idea. A prototype gives them a real package that they can go to the store with and put on the shelf. They can keep it around at eye level. They can send it to other people for review.

“It’s also easier for clients to be able to visualize type and color tweaks compared to a 3-D rendering or even a lay flat,” he adds. “A prototype can spur more creativity from the client side. I think it can even lead to some buy in from their side and result in a few more dollars invested in the project because they can see just how beautiful the brand’s going to look.”

To make sure that designers and brand managers are getting the most out of their prototypes, Little Big Brands’ director of client services Pamela Long recommends using a service that’s flexible enough to partner on some of the decisions. “They need to be able to roll with the changes,” she remarks.

Nunziato warns that designers should avoid services that “just receive a file, run it and say, ‘Well, that’s what we received.’” Prototyping services with this philosophy don’t add to the creative process. “I believe creativity continues from the agency to the prototypers to prepress to the printers,” Nunziato explains. “But I believe some of them are not using their creativity. So you want to make sure the prototype house you’re using is asking lots of questions. You want to make sure that the prototyper is invested in the client’s brand as much as you are because they’re a part of the project now and not just a piece of the process.”

That’s why Terri Goldstein, CEO of The Goldstein Group, lists service, a consultative approach and knowledge of retail environments as her top three criteria for choosing a prototype house. A commitment to customer service will help ensure that the prototype house will not only manufacture a viable prototype but also will build a plan for the packaging supplier for making the final packages. A consultative approach helps an agency get the most out of the technical expertise of the prototype house. Knowledge of the retail environment will help ensure that the package design’s intent is met despite how the package is displayed.

Goldstein explains that a good prototype house can then contribute to the design process by making sure that the best substrates and coatings are chosen for the project. “Often a brand can be sitting on the bottom shelf or way up on the top,” she says. “A prototype house that truly understands the retail environment can note how elements might look darker on a shelf or what parts of the design are likely to be covered by shelf tags. A good prototype house also keeps up with the latest technologies and substrates so they can make suggestions that adjust for these conditions.” These suggestions can have a great impact on the efficacy of the final design.

That’s why Peter DiDonato, owner of DiDonato Design, says the first and the topmost question he asks himself when choosing a prototyper is, “Do I trust them?”

“Yes, you have to consider price and quality,” he adds. “But it really comes down to the person you’re working with.”

When you trust that person, Nunziato says, you know that everyone is working toward the same goal. “I trust that they’re a business that’s invested in building beautiful brands with our agency,” he explains. “As a business owner and creative director, I believe it’s important to let creative people be creative. I try to find the ‘specialness’ in a brand and in my team, and, of course, manage expectations.”

Goldstein adds that businesses can quickly reap the financial rewards from a good design-firm and prototype-house relationship. “A good prototype service paints a picture of how colors are met with exact formulas, how blends are achieved, basically how everything is broken down,” she says. “When a client goes to their package printer with a prototype from a great comp house, they don’t have to stay at the printer for two, 15-hour days. They simply say, ‘Here’s the target and here’s how you hit it.’

“My mandate is never to let a design go out of my studio without a comp that the client has signed off on and the formula to hit that target,” Goldstein remarks. “That’s how you get great brands that look as good on shelf as the phase one concept the client fell in love with.”

A peek behind the curtain
In our December 2013 issue, Package Design will showcase prototype services companies as well as manufacturers
of prototyping equipment in a product and services focus on prototyping. Here’s a sneak peak at some of the early submissions:

Manufacturing Target Development
Guy Conti Art & Design Inc. specializes in package design exploration and development. Specialties include folding carton, tube, jar, bottle, box and bag prototyping. Package decorating and finishing options include foil stamping, custom embossing, custom spraying, chrome finishing, shrink wrapping, laser die-cutting, custom dry transfer and silk screening. The firm can also create digital proofs and prepare mechanicals and production targets.

Packaging Prototypes
Schawk’s brand deployment packaging prototype services range from providing comps for “live” local market tests in-store, to production comps used to sell new products at retail, to hero comps suitable for media exposure and public relations opportunities. SGK can produce a wide range of CPG prototypes, comps and sales samples, particularly for the food, beverage, health and drug industries including: both rigid and flexible packaging, comprising cartons, pouches and shrink labels, which can be produced using clear, white and metallized substrates, along with heat shrinkable films.

Complex Prototypes
Bridge Premedia prototypes allow clients to reproduce metallics, white ink, spot varnishes, and embossing effects on production substrates such as shrink overwrap film, shrink sleeves, foil, paperboard, biaxially oriented PP, PET and corrugated board. Prototypes offered include cartons, pouches, shrink label and overwrap, rapid prototyping of jar and bottle structures, and interactive virtual prototyping.

Food Packaging Prototypes
As a digital printer of FDA-approved food packaging, PrintSure can manufacture prototype pouches, cartons and shrink sleeves that can be used for direct or indirect contact with food.

3-D Structural Prototypes
IBC Shell produces 3-D printed prototypes on a Cimquest fused deposition modeler to communicate the beauty and confirm the functionality of packaging concepts. The 3-D CAD Buildware can transform design concepts into complex, finished decorated prototypes that can also incorporate moving components.

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Embracing the ugly stepchildren of sustainability





Adam Gendell, Project Manager, Sustainable Packaging Coalition — Packaging Digest, 4/1/2013 6:00:00 PM


You have probably never heard of a package that is advertised for its superior low acidification potential. It’s similarly doubtful that many corporate sustainability goals include a reduction of eutrophication. And it’s all but certain that a packaging decision has never been made based on an estimate of ionizing radiation. These kinds of indicators are what I like to call the “ugly stepchildren” of sustainability—we know that maybe they ought to receive our attention, but they end up not getting much of it. 

The reality is that experts can continue to identify a plethora of important sustainability indicators, but they can’t make companies use them. The choice to use certain indicators lies with the packaging decision makers, who have varying goals and may or may not be the sustainability experts. 

One challenge lies in the large and growing number of environmental indicators, and the fact that environmental considerations are only one of several considerations used in decision-making alongside things like cost, availability and marketability. Weighing the merits of several considerations creates the desire for simplified information. Cost is often boiled down to one number. Availability can be as simple as a yes or no. 

Marketability, however, is a bit more of an interesting consideration, and perhaps it could serve as a model for determining environmental preferability. To determine marketability, complex information from consumer testing, focus groups, insights and educated guesses may be all distilled into one feeling of whether or not a package will do well in the marketplace. Environmental preferability should follow a similar route—a complex set of indicators used to inform one judgment: whether or not the package will be sufficiently benign to the environment over its life cycle.

The trend in determining environmental preferability, though, is to use a sparse set of indicators rather than a complex one. Recyclability seems to be a commonly used indicator (though the idea of recyclability in itself can be rather complex). It’s not uncommon for a single metric to be the only contributor used in determining environmental preferability.

As for the ugly stepchildren, they remain on the outside looking in. If a package does happen to be preferable in, say, SOx and NOx emissions, then that information might make its way into marketing materials and be used as justification for the superiority of the package. But we’re a long way from realizing a supply chain where a unified set of numerous indicators are always used in every decision.

At the root of the issue lie the perceptions of consumers on sustainability considerations. The trickle-up effect from consumers is often indirect and convoluted, but any profit-seeking enterprise has a prime directive to provide a product that is desired by consumers. Unfortunately for our ugly stepchildren, consumers haven’t heard about the importance of ionizing radiation and eutrophication potential either, and it’s unlikely that they can all become the next incarnation of concern over global warming. 

If consumers concern themselves with the environmental attributes of packaging, it’s likely that they too will simplify the situation. More often than not, that simplification results in a perception of waste generation. To a consumer, less packaging is good, recyclable packaging is better—and that’s often the extent of the consideration.

Consumers cannot be expected to understand every aspect of sustainability as it applies to packaging. The torch must be passed to industry if a holistic set of environmental indicators is ever to be used in supply chain decision-making. If this is to happen, the embracers of the ugly stepchildren must light the way. 

Author Adam Gendell is a project manager at GreenBlue’s Sustainable Packaging Coalition. For additional information about the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, visit www.sustainablepackaging.org.







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