Jos has been active in the graphic arts industry for more than 20 years. After his higher education at the HIGRO (current Artevelde University College) in Ghent, he started his career at Concentra Media (current Mediahuis). In this period he went through various steps in the prepress department.
He has more than 15 years of experience in managing teams and optimizing graphic processes as a prepress manager and process manager.
He has been working at VIGC (Flemish Innovation Center for Graphic Communication) since 2014. First as a senior innovation consultant where, among other things, he was project manager for the online print project. He also helped to transform VIGC into a modern and customer-oriented innovation center and network organization.
Since April 2019, Jos has been responsible for the day-to-day management of VIGC as managing director. In this position he mainly wants to promote innovation and entrepreneurship within Belgian and Dutch graphic arts companies.
How would you describe a good packaging design? What are some dos and don’ts of packaging graphics?
I’m not going to tell new things if I state that you need to look at packaging beyond the design. That being said, the design is a very important part of the packaging as a whole. Of course, depending on the product or industry, the design needs to be tweaked. Let’s take a covid winner – the supermarket – as a starting point.
As a brand, your package design needs to shine on the shelf! That’s why obvious and straightforward design is always number one. A good design needs to be clear about the product and about the brand. You definitely want to avoid a laundry product that looks like a box of sweets.
Keep in mind by creating a packaging design that honesty is at the end always the best policy. A common mistake is that a product is presented much better on the packaging than it actually looks. Up to a certain level, the product can be displayed more beautifully than it really is. But there are limits to this. A consumer should not feel cheated.
In a supermarket, you have hundreds of products, all competing for consumers’ attention. The only way to set a brand apart is to be different, to be authentic. This goes together with the shelf impact. It’s a fact that a product is never bought by a consumer in an ‘isolated environment’. There is always the distraction from other products or stimuli in the environment. The way a product is presented is just as important. This is of course more difficult to check at various points of sale.
And the last thing is the ease of use that is the most overlooked aspect of packaging design, simply because customers often take the “tried and true” route, which is a missed opportunity for innovation.
In a supermarket, the packaging is as a sales representative for the brand. It should attract the attention of the consumer by standing out and tell a story that is obvious, straightforward, honest and authentic.
Through your eyes, what are the critical elements to a good packaging design?
When answering this question, you need to take the impact of the coronavirus in mind because this has some implications for packaging design. McKinsey does some really great research in this area which I would like to confirm.
Winning designs will have to address the needs of the online channel, sustainability and hygiene, as well as the basics: cost, performance, and convenience. With the right focus, these design challenges could power significant growth.
You need to assume that everything must be ready for e-commerce. The rise of e-commerce in the last 11 months is mind-blowing! The requirements will range from more robust, cost-efficient packaging to designs that build consumer engagement and excitement around brands.
The consumer awareness of hygiene and safety concerns has increased dramatically and will probably persist for some time. Packaging needs to assure that the virus is minimally viable on the packaging surface. The choice of substrate can affect the viability of the coronavirus. But also, the development of new delivery mechanisms for packaging is interesting. The consumer’s demand for convenience has encouraged developments such as advanced closures and delivery systems that promote on-the-go consumption, as well as easy opening and closing of small single-use packs. In summary hygiene concerns mean plenty of room for enhanced packaging designs.
A strong focus on sustainability is also key! Take advantage of the latest innovations and smart packaging designs to avoid waste and include more recycled content. But be aware that you compare the pros and cons of different packaging substrates along the full length of the value chain. Look at the environmental footprint of producing and converting the packaging material itself and at the whole life cycle, from raw materials to consumers to recycling and disposal.
How has the graphic industry developed in the past five years?
This is not easy to explain in a short answer. How do you define the graphic industry? I always talk about the industry in sub-sectors: Commercial Print, Labels & Packaging, Large Format Print and Industrial Print.
What we saw during this pandemic is that the evolution started before the crisis has accelerated the last year.
Commercial print is going through difficult times. Magazines, directories and newspapers are struggling for years but now also the event sector, restaurants, retail closures, the absence of social network activities, … all have a negative impact on the turnover of these companies
Labels & Packaging are doing reasonably well before and during this crisis, especially in food and pharmaceutical environments.
Large Format Print has known a spectacular growth over the last decade because of new products and services. They’ve held up reasonably well in 2020 because of their entrepreneurial attitude (small agile businesses, hygiene-related products,…), but at the beginning of 2021, you determine that they are getting more and more problems.
Trends that apply to all sub-sectors are digitization with internal processes on the one hand and products and services, on the other hand, Artificial Intelligence throughout the entire production process, Industry 4.0, cybersecurity and sustainability.
What is your vision for our industry?
We are facing difficult times. No one in modern times has experienced this kind of worldwide crisis. But we need to stay hopeful and positive. Of course, we don’t need to be naïve but looking at a half-full glass of water gives you more power and perspective than the other way around.
The graphic industry is a robust industry with – as I mentioned before – a lot of sub-sectors. We need to be agile and we must dare to reorient ourselves. Don’t be afraid to combine digital with print. Think of new products but also new services. Train yourself and your employees and work together with people who can give you new insights and ideas. People from within our sector but also from outside our sector.