Printing and Design Tips: January 2018, Issue #198

A Design Option for Labels with "Too Much Information"

My fiancee showed me a bottle of hair product yesterday. She pointed out a novel way the manufacturer had dealt with the problem of "too much information" on the label. Needless to say, all of the details were essential, but there were a lot of words, and the designer had created a multi-level label that stuck to the bottle with low-tac glue.

So I did some research on the packaging. First I checked the medicine cabinet. I found one dietary-fiber product with what appeared to be a permanent adhesive holding the base-level label to the plastic bottle. It looked like it would take serious scraping to remove this label. However, lightly pasted down over this label was a second label. (This was actually the first label the consumer would see, along with a request in bright red letters to "Peel Here.")

The outer label had a shiny underside with a light adhesive that appeared to be strong but that peeled up easily with no harm to either the outer or inner label. That is, it peeled up smoothly, and it did not remove any of the ink on the lower-level label.

As I peeled it up and lowered it again, easily and evenly, it appeared that this could go on forever. In fact, the label behaved like a static window cling. It was only because I felt the sticky underside with my finger that I knew a low-tac glue had been used.

After my personal research, I also checked into these labels online, discovering the following:

1. Since government regulations require product information to be "intact" with the product, this allows the manufacturer to include a lot of medical information with pharmaceuticals. Hence, this technique is very big with drug manufacturers.

2. Some of the labels are more than just a base layer and an outer layer. Some are actually multi-page booklets.

3. There’s room for the manufacturer to include multiple languages.

4. There’s ample space for extra (indirectly related) information. For instance, you can add recipes to food labeling.

5. There’s also ample space for promotional matter, such as coupons and give-aways.

6. There’s plenty of room for legal information.

7. Since there’s more space, manufacturers don’t need to make the type size smaller and smaller as the required information gets longer and longer.

8. Since the low-tac glue holds everything in place while allowing removal and repositioning, the overall look and feel of the product on the shelf can still be streamlined.

Labels that Make it Look Like You Printed on the Bottle

While I was in the medicine cabinet, I found an eyeglass cleaning product in a clear plastic bottle that gave the impression that the label had been printed directly on the plastic. This gave it an air of expansiveness and minimalism, since the white, wrap-around paper of the customary label just wasn’t there. You could see everything in the bottle. You could also see through the logo. It was a simple, austere design treatment.

Upon closer inspection I could see that the printing substrate was a sheet of clear plastic.

In the same vein, I saw a soda can my fiancee had found with a clear, shrink-sleeve label. Again, as with the eyeglass cleaner noted above, the clear soda-can label gave a simple, modern look to the beverage can.

This piqued my interest, so I did some observing in the grocery store and some online research. In the grocery store I saw that this style of product labeling was pervasive and that it dramatically expanded the area on which label art and text could be printed. It made the products appear more colorful and expansive than did the traditional rectangular labels.

In researching the product online, I found the following information (especially on the Consolidated Label Co. website):

1. Shrink sleeve labeling can dramatically improve customer interest (and purchasing) when compared to traditional adhesive labels (up to a 20 percent increase).

2. Shrink sleeves are printed on the inside, so the ink is more durable and won’t scratch off. It’s also more durable in high-moisture environments, like the shower.

3. The shrink sleeve is shrunk with heat and steam, so the sleeves can fit tightly around irregularly shaped containers.

4. Shrink sleeves can be used to bundle multiple products together.

5. Shrink sleeves that don’t end at the neck of the bottle but that continue up and cover part of the bottle cap can reduce tampering with the contents (or at least make it obvious that tampering has occurred).

6. If the shrink sleeve continues up and over the bottle cap, the display graphics can cover the entire product.

7. However, if the bottle tapers downward, the shrink sleeve won’t be tight at the bottom of the container.

8. And if the plastic container is not heat resistant, the steam and heat of the steam tunnel used to shrink the sleeve may damage the container.

Novel Labeling for a Danskin Product

I have no idea where my fiancee put the Danskin product, but I found the hang-tag labels intriguing, so I kept them.

Here’s a rundown of the design specs:

1. Both labels are about 2" x 5". One is printed on thick but light and pliable plastic with a rough, speckled texture that makes it less transparent but that improves its feel. It has been round cornered (die cut). The other item is a fold-over paper card (on approximately 130# cover stock).

2. Both items are tall and narrow (i.e., portrait format) with a hole at the top for attachment to the garment.

3. The plastic card has been printed with one color (dark blue) ink. The art is a small logo and text. My presumption is that the job was screen printed, although the ink is thin enough for there to be minimal texture. So it is possible that the job was printed using flexographic equipment. Had the press run been very short, the same effect could have been achieved with digital printing equipment (inkjet). Since there’s no overall coating, and since I can’t rub off the ink with my fingernail, I would assume that the labels were printed with UV-curable inks. Between the satin texture of the plastic card and its flexibility, the hang-tag label feels really good in my hand.

4. The paper fold-over card has a spot gloss UV coating over a screened pattern of evenly-spaced dots and over the type in the logo. The top of the fold-over card is trimmed on an angle and round cornered, and the logo has been embossed and treated with an application of silver hot-foil stamping material.

5. I know the logo has been embossed because, on the underside, the image is recessed. If this raised effect had been achieved with some of the new digital foiling technology, the front of the image would be raised, but the back would be flat. This would show that the additive manufacturing technique of digitally building up the front surface had been used rather than the analog process of re-forming the surface of the paper with both a male and female metal die.

Together the two hang tags are very attractive and upscale. Due to the inclusion of the logo, as well as the consistency of text type, size, and color, they go together, in spite of the fact that one is printed on plastic and one is printed on paper. They provide a classy look, consistent with the brand attributes of "athleisure" wear.

[Steven Waxman is a printing consultant. He teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.]