Labels, Printing, and Graphics
When we discussed the communication function of packaging, we talked about labels a
bit. Now we are going to look at labeling and decorating - at packaging graphics - in a bit more
detail. We certainly will not be able to cover the whole subject in depth, but if you are
interested in this area, PKG 330, Packaging Printing, is the course to investigate.
Packaging graphics has been defined as “the design and decoration of the exterior
surface of a package plus the use of related equipment. Packaging graphics include
illustrations, symbols, colors and words.” (D. Abbott, Packaging Perspectives, Kendall/Hunt,
1989.) Abbott estimated that graphics can cost as much as 35% of the overall package costs,
but are essential in selling the product in a competitive market-oriented society.
If you recall
the discussion on how packages compete with one another on the shelves, this really is not too
Usually, when we think about packaging graphics, we think about printed words,
pictures, or designs that are applied to packages as part of its communication function. There
are two basic ways to get this printed information onto a package: we can print directly onto
the package, or we can print on another substrate that then is applied to the package. In the
latter case, the item that we apply to the package is a label; however, there are other ways to
apply decoration, including words and colors, to packages. For example, remember the SPI
coding system for plastics, which is molded into the bottom of containers, not printed onto
Authorities differentiate between “printing” and “decorating” in different ways.
example, Walter Soroka (Fundamentals of Packaging Technology, IoPP, 1995) uses “printing” to
refer to flexography, lithography, and gravure, which are the most common methods to apply
“graphic art” to packaging, and uses “decorating” to refer to “a number of special methods
such as screen printing, hot foil stamping, embossing, and pad printing,”
which account for a
much smaller proportion of graphic art used in packaging.
For the purposes of our discussion, we wil
l use “printing” to include all methods of
applying words or images to packages that involve the use of ink, and “decorating” to mean
those methods (such as coloring the base material and embossing) that do not involve the use
20.1 Decorating of Packages
As stated above, we are
using the term “decorating” to mean the ways of applying
graphics to packages that do not involve the use of ink.
Let’s take a brief look at some of the
methods that can be used.
If we start with color, an obvious way to impart color is to incorporate the coloring
agent into the material. This is so basic that we often do not even think of the color as a
graphic element, but certainly color is an important part of the look of a package. Steel and
aluminum cannot be colored in this fashion, but we can