Packaging vs. The World
While it can be said of any type of printed piece, it is especially true for packaging: it is not like any other job type out there. As you consider adding it to your product mix, or as you walk around the show floor taking in all the latest technologies, here are a few key differences you might want to keep in mind:
• Variety. While there are exceptions to every rule, for most of the print world, the product is flat. Paper, boards, signs, etc. come in a wide range of sizes, but are, ultimately, just an image printed on a flat surface. Packaging, however, is unique in that the shape of the piece is as variable as the size.
• Substrates. Whereas in most print applications, you are only limited by the capabilities of your equipment — you can only go so thin or thick before the printer simply can’t run it — when it comes to packaging, the choices are much narrower. Whereas with shape, there is more variety, with substrates there is less, which is both good and bad. You can’t stand out by using a different substrate from the competition, but it does mean that printers in this space can become experts in how to run these specific substrates to their greatest advantages.
• Relationship. With most print, the piece is a vehicle to convey a message, or sell a product — it isn’t, usually, the product itself. However, with packaging, often the print is just as critical as the object it carries. The packaging is considered an extension of the product, meaning it has to conform to things like brand colors, fonts and consistency much more closely than other types of print.
• Web-to-print. Right now, most parts of the industry are experiencing a surge in web-to-print models, allowing print buyers and brands to directly create, order and track their print jobs without needing to directly interface with a live person in the shop. With packaging, however, that is a bit more difficult. Size, shape and other unique elements mean that right now, it is better to have experts involved in every step of the process, rather than leaving it up to automation. However, given the pace of innovation, expect those scales to tip sooner, rather than later.
Packaging has its own unique challenges — but it also comes with some pretty big opportunities as digital technologies continue to impact the space. It is a growth area that every attendee should at least have on their radar, and the show this year is a great way to get some questions answered.