The role of packaging has greatly transformed in recent years. Today it is about more than just protecting the product. It has become the preferred channel to convey the brand promise to the consumer. By Chris Stowe, product manager 3D solutions at Esko.

Good, creative packaging seduces and inspires, while providing consumers with relevant, sometimes critically important details about the product. This increased performance requirement means brand managers are being constantly challenged to strive for efficiency in an increasingly diverse, global and heavily outsourced packaging process. In their search for help and support, they are turning to their packaging suppliers to manage this process.


Virtual with a legal perspective

Particular challenges are presented by the introduction of new EU regulations and best practices for packaging. It is up to the brand owners to comply with all regulations in order to give the consumer appropriate access to information as they are making buying decisions. Failure to do so could result in prosecution, consumer damage claims and product recalls. In addition to direct cost implications, such action could damage the brand’s image and the customer loyalty it has worked so hard to establish.

When making changes, the impact on packaging design could be momentous. Do you increase the size of the packaging and in turn the cost to manufacturer as a result of the use of more raw materials? Do you generate additional versions of that product, creating brand consistency issues and impacting the number of deliveries required? More pressingly, how do you decide which is the most efficient and cost-effective choice? The quick and easy answer is to use Esko Studio toolkits.

This tailor-made, process-specific software creates highly visual 3D virtual mockups from a 2D design. It allows numerous changes, small or large, to be made throughout the design process, while 3D views with the true design data are continuously in view.

The design can even be rotated 360 degrees so that every angle can be carefully scrutinised to maximise shelf shout and ensure regulatory compliance.

Studio allows brand owners and designers to easily review and amend their designs. Information can be added, deleted, moved or made bigger in a couple of clicks.

Peter Aldous, creative services director at brand design consultancy firm Elmwood London, has been building Esko’s visualisation products into its global process. He stated Studio Toolkit is an important contributor to the creative presentation as well as the more technical offering for accuracy of final design.

esko bottle 3D beer bottle mockup

‘The use of 3D visualisation as an integral part of our process has enabled designers to push boundaries while maintaining practical printability,’ he said. ‘It is not just print finishing where the expert solutions bring fantastic insight. We have been able to visualise concepts and physical considerations of dielines without the inaccuracy of hand-made mockups. This has led to solutions being designed rather than retro-fitted during the downstream process. Traditional methods of design presentation are enhanced with the Esko solutions. Interpretation and perceptual misguidance are a thing of the past. Now we show designs with an incredible degree of accuracy.’

‘Esko Studio toolkits fit seamlessly into our workflow for packaging design, artwork and virtual merchandising,’ added Terry Webster, senior designer at design agency Sharp Iris. ‘The benefits are huge for us designers working on three dimensional products. Being able to see our design in 3D as we work is invaluable. To our customers it is similarly indispensable; for visualising their products in a way that leaves nothing to the imagination, including showing their products in a virtual retail environment with Store Visualizer, or showing designs using a range of print effects and substrates.’

With Studio, there is no need for costly physical mockups to be produced and sent around the world. This not only saves time and money, it also reduces the overall carbon footprint of the development process.

This approach to 3D design can also help win new business, said Michel Köhler, managing director of digital print service provider LOGO Digital Werbeservice. ‘With Esko Studio, we can deliver jobs we couldn’t do before. We definitely score with the stunning 3D preview we are now able to show our clients.’


Meeting consumer expectations

As brands have built up customer loyalty, they have also created expectations of quality and performance. Packaging conveys this to the consumer in seconds. Thus, the packaging branding, colours, text and look-and-feel all have to deliver this message in the first few seconds anyone looks at the package. For brand owners, the ability to see, as with the eyes of the consumer, how their product looks on the shelf in a virtual way is a tremendous advantage.

Using Esko Store Visualizer, the impact of the finalised packaging can be assessed as a 3D mockup in a hyper realistic retail environment. It can be viewed sitting alongside other variations in the same range or next to competitive products, enabling more accurate feedback on the anticipated consumer response in a simulated real-world environment. Any product design faults can immediately be identified avoiding any expensive product recalls. This is something Esko customer Willem van Roozendaal, general manager of packaging design agency BRUM Design, is keen to prevent. ‘The ability to create 3D simulations saves us a lot of time. We want error-free packaging. You don’t want to discover mistakes after you’ve paid for the printing. Esko helps us avoid this.’

It is not just in influencing purchasing decisions that Esko Store Visualizer has a vital role to play. It can also help in ensuring the clearer communication of essential information – particularly in shelf-ready packaging. With the increase in 24-hour store operation, restocking of shelves has to take place during open hours, so speed is of the essence in order not to inconvenience customers.

That is driving an increase in demand for secondary packaging, but sometimes crucial information can be obscured by the shelving. Store Visualizer can prevent that by helping ensure that wording or logos are clearly visible once packages are placed on the shelf.

It can also help packaging manufacturers and brands owners take the process a stage further with a green screen to create a 3D virtual store.

Previously some customers had set up a physical test retail store to see the impact of a product before it goes into production. Now they just need a green screen and they can update the products displayed by quickly scanning them in.

Esko packaging3D packaging placed in a virtual shop environment


An eye on the future

Esko is also keeping an eye – literally – on future science and technology developments that will make these solutions even more valuable to brand owners and packaging manufacturers. One area of research I find very interesting is being undertaken by Clemson University (US) using eye-tracking technology with Esko Store Visualizer. With special glasses, it tracks up to 300 eye movements per second against a number of metrics to record data on consumer shopping habits that help identify the ‘moment of truth’ or what convinces consumers to buy.

With this technology, researchers can analyse the response towards the package design and relay that data to help better understand what drives consumer purchasing decisions. This includes how long people look at packaging and what exactly they are looking at. A post-qualitative survey, for example on household information, can be used to further assess the findings. Among the key results so far are that packaging that uses cut outs to show the actual product can help significantly increase sales.

The study is also expected to help with identifying the best colour and shape – particularly useful for new product development where a brand has to do something special to stand out. Also important is ensuring that a design remains fresh and relevant while retaining consumer recognition of the brand.

There are other technologies we are getting more involved with and are keen to see what benefits they can bring to the packaging arena. These include mixed reality – where virtual and augmented reality work together, 3D screen projection for a more immersive experience, and virtual shopping. Then there is the use of apps for mobile and tablet viewing, clearly a hot area for anyone in the retail industry.

You already gained some idea of the capabilities Esko’s Studio suite delivers when you viewed the front cover with the 3D glasses supplied.

For more details on the business opportunities Esko Studio solutions create, please visit Welcome to the virtual world!