FTA Infoflex 2018 - Working Collaboratively from Package Design Concept to Shelf

At this year’s Flexographic Technical Association’s (FTA) annual INFOFLEX conference in Indianapolis, Indiana, attendees listened to industry experts share how they work to manage end user brand team’s color expectations when it comes to print execution.

Michael John, Design Operations Print Quality Manager at 3M, talked about challenges in communicating. He said, “It’s our job to manage expectations, and to find a common ground to meet expectations.”

We feel the same way at Outlook Group. One key to managing and meeting expectations is having a well-controlled process. Our pre-press and operations teams have identified a standard set of press conditions, and then regularly optimize and calibrate to those conditions in order to deliver on color match expectations. In this way, we have predictability and trust with our customers’ brand teams.

Jamie Griffin, Outlook Group Color Management Coordinator, explains, “We use industry-leading color management processes that benefit not only the customer, but also our facility, providing color consistency and efficiency with clear communication of color expectations. The G7 methodology provides a universal calibration across all print processes digital, offset, and flexography. Using G7 technology, brands, buyers and designers are ensured integrity of their brands by enhancing the perceived value and quality of their reputation.”

Another important piece to meeting expectations is involvement and communication in the earliest stages of design ideation. At Outlook Group, we want to be involved as soon as design concepts are visualized for our customers. As the print experts, this allows us to provide guidance to brand teams from the project onset as to whether certain elements will work effectively through the printing process or prove challenging to hit the desired output.

Dawn Connell, Graphics Development Manager at Snyder’s Lance – with brands such as Pop-Secret, Kettle Chips and Pretzel Chips – discussed planning, timeline, and process adherence. She explained, “Often times the brands ask our print partners to turn new art around far more quickly than standard, in a rush.” But there are many components to keep in mind when hitting targeted shelf deliveries, such as raw material leads, technical art reviews, file build confirmation, inventory run down, the run schedule for flavors at the plant, and more.


Photo credit: Snyder's-Lance


Connell continued, “One of the things everyone needs to remember is that forcing speed drives the project to step out of process. As a brand owner, we need to make sure it’s right. We need to slow down and not be so reactive. When we’re reactive, pieces of the project can snowball and we can end up on shelf with packaging that does not have the brand vision.”

This is true. In order to manage color and overall print output expectations, the project needs to adhere to the process and allow time to re-evaluate change if necessary. Most often, the print output numbers match the proof. However, in rare instances, the print output that hits target dot gain does not match the proof. This could require slight color corrections to the file, verification that the proper curve was applied and revalidation by the brand. By following these steps, it allows our pre-press and operational teams to leverage their predictable and repeatable environment which ensures consistency on the first job and all subsequent runs.

Color expert Steve Smiley of SmileyColor & Associates - Global Brand Solutions advised, “Don’t forget spot colors. If the ink film thickness is the same, then the printer can work with a single curve applied to the artwork. However, if it is a file with a small amount of spot color with a vignette and printed over a large area of another spot color area, it is beneficial to run a single color benchmark and develop a curve for the first spot color to hit the intended target.”

Ultimately, the proof, which the brand team uses as their guide for color adherence, is developed around our press characterization, and when we run to that characterization, we should be able to hit the proof and the press approval will go smoothly.

Still, more important than the visual color match against the proof, is hitting the numbers and verifying the numbers using a spectrophotometer. Outlook Group press operators and our QA team are trained to regularly measure color during the course of a print job using the spectro tool. It ensures consistency across the job, validates that we are properly meeting brand expectations from run to run, and provides consumers with the brand consistency they’re looking for when they reach for their favorite product on-shelf. In managing projects this way, from design concept to retail shelf, our customers are highly satisfied with Outlook Group’s delivery.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on the importance of collaboration in managing expectations and success of the printed package. Simply drop your feedback in the comments section below.

Author - Danielle Jerschefske
Business Development Manager
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