Cog, Leading the Way with Endless Possibilities in Packaging Development and Prototyping
Vicki Strull is a packaging designer, strategist, and speaker who advises top-tier and emerging
brands on how to leverage the power of print and packaging within opti-channel marketing strategies. She consults with print service providers and OEMs to create new revenue streams and shares her strategies at design, packaging, and print events around the world. Sign up to join fellow trendsetters at vickistrull.com or follow Vicki on Linked In @vickistrull.
I can hear the head slap of every designer, brand owner and print manager in the world as they ponder life without prototyping. Because prototyping gives designers and brands the ability to explore ideas from concept to execution in real life (or at least in the physical world), it is invaluable for assessing a design’s viability and agile iteration.
When I work with brands to create packaging prototypes, we consider marketing and consumer perspectives such as engagement, shelf appeal and premium-ness. In a practical sense and considering the manufacturing environment, we also look at tactile finishes, metallics, substrates, print-ability and more.
Importantly, prototyping isn’t just for exploring what’s already on the drawing board; it also lets you explore the potential of what’s possible. Ultimately, prototyping helps brands identify the strongest design, form and function to drive consumer engagement, sales and revenue.
I spoke with Lindsey Frimming, partner and Chief Innovation Officer at Cog, a sought-after brand packaging development and prototyping company. Lindsey explains that the success of Cog and its clients depends not just on the company’s stellar team of development designers, but also on its equipment partner, Roland DG. Following is my interview with Lindsey, where she shares the “what” and “why” behind prototyping and the advantages of having the right equipment partner.
Experience is the second advantage of prototyping. The most successful packages provide a unique experience to the consumer, whether it is the unboxing experience or the product packaging itself. Prototyping allows the brand to test the impact of that experience.
A third advantage of prototyping is sight. While today’s software can create a beautiful onscreen graphic of a design, seeing it and experiencing it in real life is preferable. Prototyping allows you to ensure that the elements of your design actually show up the way you intended. Even with today’s 3D simulation software, it can be difficult to be certain if the type or embellishment will show up on the package the way it is intended.
A few months later, the company came to us, told us the story, and said, "If we had come to you early on, what would you have done?" So we created a variety of different face panels to show dozens of optionswhere it would have been visible and engaging to shoppers. That’s really why prototyping is so magical.
We love the fact that Roland DG offers UV printers, too. The great thing about UV ink is that it basically adheres to anything. Due to the wide range of substrates that we work with, and the experimental nature of this prototyping, I don't know how we could ever not have UV printers! UV printers are basically the workhorses. They enable us to be highly experimental, and they're also very, very tough. By that I mean they can really take a lot of abuse in the name of innovation. I've pushed them to do a lot of intense things that the manuals and Roland DG techs will never mention or endorse, and at the risk of jinxing myself, these printers are always up for the challenge.
Of course, not all converters have UV capabilities, or a brand may have a concept that is less conducive to UV inks. That’s why we also have Roland DG eco-solvent ink printers. The awesome thing about solvent ink during prototyping is that it’s basically like a tattoo; it embeds itself seamlessly into a substrate. Solvent ink is also more flexible when we are prototyping shrink sleeves. When you’re working with shrinks, you definitely want to work with materials and substrates that will really form to the product. Getting back to the versatility of UV printing, there’s also direct object printing technology, where your surface doesn’t start out as a flat substrate, or maybe it’s a material that you’re having difficulty running through a printer but you still need to create a print. So Roland DG printers give us the advantage of using all these capabilities—UV inks and curing, solvent inks, printing flexibility and cutting.
During the prototyping phase, in order to stay relevant to the trends and new finishes in the industry, you have to be willing to really push your equipment to get everything you can out of it. At the end of the day, we’re not a 25,000-square-foot printing facility with every piece of equipment under the moon. So we have to get creative. And I think that's one of the reasons why it's so vital to us that when we build our team, we value both curiosity and creative thinking. There's an empathy there, when working with other designers; there is a deep respect for what goes into a design and wanting to see it preserved and win on the shelf. That's where the Roland DG equipment really sings for us; the fact that their printers truly communicate with each other enables our team to figure out a solution, no matter what.
It's really important to have strong, versatile equipment to support your team and your clients. Where Cog truly wins is the dedication and talent of our development designers who actually operate the printers and help our clients realize their objectives. That's where the magic happens. There is a seamless communication from the time we kick off with a client to the time when the comps are produced. It's that perfect combination of people and equipment; vision and capabilities.
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