If you’ve ever wandered down any aisle in a supermarket or pursued booths at a farmer’s market, you’ve seen how product labels function as both a means to deliver important, product-related information and a chance to communicate a unique brand identity. A great label design manages to accomplish both of these tasks, but—at least in the case of labels—greatness doesn’t come without a lot of careful planning. That’s where the label proofing process comes in handy. It ensures that by the time labels are printed and adhered to your products, all details have been accounted for and verified as accurate.
What all should you make sure to cover in the label proofing process, though? Well…
A Few General Things to Keep in Mind
It’s important to remember that while a label needs to stand out and be nice to look at, it’s there to serve a purpose: informing a prospective customer about a product. So, no matter what kind of label you’re working with, it needs to have
- Copy that identifies and describes the product
- Color and artwork that conveys the overall experience.
Meeting these requirements seems simple enough, but don’t forget that any label design also needs to fit into a company’s established brand. If that’s not enough to think about, there are also technical considerations such as the shape of the container the label will be used on and printing limitations.
Finally, keep in mind the different types of labels that may exist on a product and the unique purpose they have.
- Front labels: When you think of a product label, you probably think of one of these. They’re meant to identify a product and stand out on the shelf from several feet away.
- Back labels: This is where you’ll find more detailed information about a product including an extended description, ingredients, nutritional information, barcodes, certification icons, and other “fine print”.
- Lid labels: If you’re making a label for a bottle or jar, don’t forget about this important label. Depending on the size of the lid, a lid label design could be just as important as a front label and allow you to add more graphic elements.
- Quality seals: Just because this kind of label is function-first doesn’t mean you can’t add some typography or decorative patterns to it. Label design is about conveying an experience, after all.
What to Consider…
The Product Container
Before there can be a label, there must first be a container. Whether you’re designing a label for a glass jar, a plastic bottle, a cardboard box, or a small tin, make sure to make note of the material, size, and shape of the chosen container. If it’s a commonly used container, such as a 12oz mason jar or 8oz boston round bottle, there’s likely a label size already associated with it, making it easier to find the right dimensions.
When it comes time to review a label design, make sure everyone remembers the very real container it needs to fit with. You wouldn’t want to get a label printed only to discover it doesn’t work with the product.
Logo and Branding
A logo and a label aren’t the same thing. A logo is a recognizable mark or symbol that represents a business’s overall identity; a label is more like an advertisement for a specific product. In other words, before there can be a label design, there needs to be a logo to go on it. In addition to making sure a brand logo has been created and is accurately represented in the label design, any other brand-specific design elements must be considered, too. These include brand colors, fonts, and overall styling.
The product description featured on the label should give consumers practical information about what they’re about to purchase. The specific details included are dependent upon your product. Alcoholic beverages need to say something about ABV percentages; household cleaners should include information about the surfaces they can be safely used on; supplements should detail ingredients and directions.
Most products should also include warnings, precautions, storage instructions, quantity information, etc. in descriptions, so it’s helpful to work with your client or a copywriter to make sure no details are missed. You’re working with a finite amount of space, and you wouldn’t want to find out late into label proofing that you need to carve out some room because a key detail was missed.
Ingredients & Nutritional Facts
We’re all familiar with the nutrition facts table on food products that displays the ingredients along with amounts and serving sizes. This table will take up a significant portion of real estate on your back label, so it’s important to know how many ingredients you’ll be working with. During the proofing stage, everyone needs to take a moment to double check that the contents of the nutrition facts table are accurate.
Some product categories will have specific icons you need to include on a label to communicate shorthand information. These icons are normally issued by government agencies or third-party certification bodies, like the USDA Organic icon added to products with a high percentage of certified organic ingredients, or the Nonfood Compounds label added to products that have been registered and certified with NSF International.
If you only need to incorporate one or two of these into a label design, that likely won’t be too difficult, but once a client wants to add quite a few of them, they can start crowding out other design elements. Make sure these icons are adequately accounted for, and just to be safe, maybe leave a little wiggle room in case someone realizes during label proofing that they forgot something.
Of course, you can’t forget the barcode. How will anyone be able to buy the product if stores can’t scan it? Barcodes are administered by the global nonprofit, GS1, and can be purchased through their website. Since their sizing must remain within the recommended range to be scannable, it’s important to have the barcode in hand when you begin designing the label. Adding a barcode later may prove difficult as design elements will need to be adjusted.
Label Proofing Made Easy
As you can see, a lot of disparate design elements come together to make a product label that is both eye-catching and substantive. Forgetting any of these details during design could cause major headaches down the road, but that’s why the proofing process exists in the first place—to ensure a product label is print-ready. Just because label proofing is necessary doesn’t mean it’s always an easy or enjoyable process, though, especially when you’re sending files back and forth in email.
By moving the label proofing process to a platform like Ashore, the process will run much more smoothly. Contextual, threaded comments keep everybody’s feedback organized in one place. Markup tools help approvers further annotate their thoughts. Version stacking ensures everybody is always seeing the most current version of a label design. Automated workflow staging and review links give you plenty of flexibility in how you share a proof with approvers, and automated reminders keep the process moving forward at a steady clip. Before approvers can finish approving a design, you can even create a custom checklist they must acknowledge for a little extra assurance that all the information is correct and ready for the printer.
A lot may go into a product label, but a lot doesn’t need to go into proofing it. Make things a breeze with Ashore. Sign up today, and start proofing your designs in a whole new way.