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What About Label Design?

Editor's Note: This is the fourth article in a seven-part series. This content is also available in the white paper, An Introduction to Product Labeling. You may download this very informative guide to product labeling free of charge as a printable PDF file, courtesy of Lightning Labels.


Now we’re getting to the "fun" part — but it can also be fraught with frustration. Depending on your own technical skills, you may choose to do the design yourself — but unless you have excellent familiarity with professional design tools (e.g., Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop), do not assume that the label printer can work with what you spent countless hours creating. Commercial printers have specific needs in order to produce quality products, so consult your printer BEFORE starting the design — otherwise you may be forced to start again. Most printers will have a page on their website devoted to "Artwork Specs" or something similar — this is where they explain all sorts of technical data that will make the job run more smoothly from start to finish, so it’s always wise to invest the time to understand the requirements and follow the instructions.

Given that most customers don’t have the professional design tools and skills required to take the “DIY” approach, you can either use an experienced graphic designer or you may find that your printer has a design staff available to you — just ask. By all means, shop around and ask friends and associates whether they know somebody they can recommend — but be cautious about going too far into the design process before checking that your printer’s needs are being properly addressed. If you do use "Bob’s sister’s nephew in high school who’s a computer whiz," you should feel free to pass an initial draft piece of artwork to your printer and ask them to check the approach. It makes much more sense to do this up front than have your designer produce a whole range of label designs only to be told the printer can’t work with the files. If your printer doesn’t want to check the artwork (or wants to charge for the privilege), find another printer. It makes good business sense for the printer to help in this process up front, rather than having to deal with unusable artwork when it comes to print time. Having said that, don’t expect your printer to act as an unpaid design service — checking an initial approach is one thing, but adjusting and "fixing" an endless supply of badly-engineered artwork files is certain to strain the relationship.

So, let’s assume you now have a designer to work with. It’s important to remember that the design phase is where your personality and vision can often clash with reality and/or a designer’s personal preferences. We can’t offer any "silver bullet" to this challenge — it’s a matter of experimentation and seeing whether the relationship "gels". If you do use a professional designer, also keep in mind that they may know all sorts of things about what actually "works" in reality (as opposed to being a "neat idea"), and you may need to accept that some of your vision is impractical. As stated earlier, this phase can be both lots of fun AND/OR enormously frustrating — and it’s unfortunately not uncommon to have some false-starts before getting into a workable groove. Have patience — rushing the design is an absolute guarantee of dissatisfaction with the end result.

Continue Reading An Introduction to Product Labeling or Read Part 3 of This Seven-Part Series.