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Making Good Design Great: it’s all in the (print) execution

Having an idea is all very well and good, but as long as it remains unexecuted, its goodness is rather theoretical.

The recent Label Lab events in Amsterdam and Brussels hosted experts, including our very own Print Director Oscar Flier, to explain how the application of technical expertise, meticulous production methods and the right materials can transform that good idea into something truly spellbinding.

Hosted by Fedrigoni papers, experts in the production of fine papers since 1717, the Label Lab invited packaging specialists, designers and geeks with an interest in obscure facts (with me falling somewhat into the former and heavily into the latter category) to enjoy an evening looking at beautiful packaging executions and learning about the highly technical specifications that underpin their success.

The route from concept to craft

The evening began with a talk by Oscar. Every project we work on in the Amsterdam Studio passes under his specialised gaze to ensure that the visions of our designers are fully realised once finally produced, so it was a pleasure to hear him talking about some of his favourite recent projects. The classically elegant positioning of The Vintry identity, for instance, was made tangible through extra thick, embossed business cards, side-gilded to look like shimmering blocks of gold.

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Vintry Business cards detail

For a more down-to-earth approach, Oscar talked about our work for Barry Callebaut, one of the world’s largest chocolate producers. The toolkit we created for their sales team uses special paper made from waste cocoa shells accumulated in the product manufacturing process, and is printed with a combination of offset and screen-printing, providing a crafted build-up of colours and textures that reflects the brand’s commitment to craftsmanship and sustainability.

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If everything is premium, nothing is

Also speaking at the events were Alain Deville from Fedrigoni and Aurore Gustin from their specialised adhesive label division, Arconvert. The pair went deep into their manufacturing processes, sharing some of the challenges faced by a company famous for its premium products in an industry where ‘premiumisation’ has become a buzzword at every level – from own-label to truly bespoke.

Beyond the use of the best quality materials, Arconvert relies on innovation to keep their products ahead of the game: labels for white wine bottles that are resistant to moisture and won’t wrinkle in an ice bucket, or labels for artisanal olive oils that remain immaculately un-greasy, no matter how creative you get in the kitchen. The same technology comes in handy for cosmetics and candles, allowing for creative packaging designs that don’t spoil with use.

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Limited edition absinthe label, designed by Stranger & Stranger and printed on Fedrigoni’s Tintoretto crema (Photo: Francesca Hanley)

The overall message of the evening was this: the realisation process – taking a concept from design into production – is truly a collaborative effort between specialists at every stage. It’s only with this dedicated, passionate expertise – both in-house and from our suppliers – that we are able to deliver the results that our creatives, and clients, dream of.

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Photos: Francesca Hanley

Top labelling tips

And finally, here are a few top tips we learnt during the talks…

1) Making a label for a bottle that might live in the fridge? Make sure your fibres run from top to bottom. Damp fibres expand width-ways, so on a rounded surface you want the expansion to happen around the curve, not against it. Otherwise that label will curl right off at the first hint of moisture.

2) If you want to use a textured paper that also needs to be strong, choose feltmarked rather than embossed. Feltmarked paper is pressed with a textured roll early on in the production process whilst still wet, whereas embossed papers are squashed post drying, damaging the fibres and reducing their strength.

3) Setting up a craft brewery? If your bottles are going to be washed and recycled, they will come into contact with caustic soda, which dissolves normal paper labels into mucky pulp. You need special paper made specifically for beer labelling that enables them to slip off in one piece, keeping the bottles clean and ready for their next refill!

Alicia Mitchell is a Client Manager, based in our Amsterdam Studio.

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