Attention Designers: Final Week to Register for Nation’s Top Packaging Design Competition

Logo for the Dieline Package Design Awards 2012

It's not too late for talented packaging designers to register for a chance to win a coveted Dieline Award. Hopefuls must hurry, though! Registration closes April 2.

Packaging designers have one more week to register for The Dieline Package Design Awards this year, the most prestigious competition of its kind in the US.

Thirty-eight winners across 12 different categories will be awarded a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place Dieline Award, and one special winner will receive a one-of-a-kind Best of Show award. Andrew Gibbs, Editor-in-Chief of will also handpick an entry for the Editor’s Choice award.

The Dieline Package Design Awards are presented by Inwork, a full-service packaging design agency, and are judged by a panel of 10 industry experts. Entries are evaluated for quality of Creativity, Marketability, and Innovation. Debbie Millman, President Emeritus of AIGA and President of Design at Sterling Brands, will chair this year’s panel of judges.

Interested? Hurry up, then! Registration closes Monday, April 2, 2012. Author’s Note: You can do it, my lovelies! Go, go, go!

Top 10 Wine Packaging & Labeling Ideas

Unless you spend a lot of time reading Wine Enthusiast Magazine, you may not know exactly what you’re looking for when you need to make a wine purchase. If this is you, you are in good company. A  lot of casual wine drinkers are choosing wines based on the packaging design.

Labeling and packaging designers are, of course, keyed in to this common conundrum and are addressing it with unique wine packaging such as eye-catching wine labels. This makes choosing a wine not so much a chore as a foray into fun. We have put together a top ten list of the most unique packaging and labeling options we’ve run across recently. Whether you are a veteran packaging designer seeking fresh inspiration, or are a little nervous about choosing a bottle of wine for a dinner party, we think you’ll enjoy learning about these fun trends:

wine labels

1. Reuse, Recycle and Refurbish: This greenie labeling concept appeals to environmentalists and crafters alike. Each bottle includes a hang-tag with instructions for re-purposing the wine bottle after the goods are gone. Using taper candles, you can turn your empty wine bottles into Italian-style mood lighting.

2. Fine Wine Art: If only Andy Warhol were around to see it. One of the hottest winery trends on tap is commissioning contemporary art for the wine label. If the best sellers are any indication, bold colors and cartoon-like, bustling scenes have proven to garner the most attention. Continue reading “Top 10 Wine Packaging & Labeling Ideas” »

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to the World’s Most Famous Beer Labels!


Pint of Black and Tan made from Guinness stout and Harp ale

Pint of Black and Tan made from Guinness stout and Harp ale (Source: Discover Irish Drinking

Even if you don’t drink beer, you probably recognize the iconic harp printed on Guinness and Harp labels. What you might not know is the inspiration behind the logo.

Many people who visit Ireland make a pilgrimage to Dublin’s Trinity College Library to view the Book of Kells. I know that’s why I went there, back in my college days. In addition to the Book of Kells, the library also houses a number of other Celtic artifacts, including the harp of Brian Boru. Because the line to see this harp happened to be much, much shorter than the Book of Kells, I ended up seeing it as well.

Believed to have been crafted in the fourteenth of fifteenth century, the harp didn’t really belong to Brian Boru, the last High King of Ireland whose rule ended in 1014. It was a Gaelic harp,  Ireland’s national symbol of unity.

Even though my college trip to Ireland was just a few years ago *cough, cough*, I don’t remember much else about it except that I thought it had very graceful lines. Oh, and I really, really wanted to play it. Magically, since I have never touched a harp in my life.

After viewing the harp of Brian Boru, my friends and I hopped on a bus to the Guinness factory. Continue reading “Happy St. Patrick’s Day to the World’s Most Famous Beer Labels!” »

Effective Design For Bath and Body Product Labels


Packaging is more than a container. In many cases, it has a decorative function beyond the life of the product. This is a concept that was popular with Avon bath and body products in the 1950s. This packaging angle was heavily exploited in the following decades, and glass Avon bottles became collectible items. While most bed and bath packaging today is not intended to be collectible, form is definitely as important as function.

Plastic packaging is the most practical option for products designed to be used in or around the bath area. It can be formulated in any color desired, it is very easy to mold into a particular shape, and it is resistant to impact damage. Glass bottles are more expensive to manufacture and handle, but glass is also seen as a more elegant packaging material. Vendors who focus on aesthetics to draw in consumers often opt for the clarity and heft of glass when designing packaging.

Effective packaging blends the appeal of the product with the appearance of the container. A good example of this approach is the packaging of colorful green bath salts within a glass container fashioned in the shape of a bamboo stalk. Although the woody stems of bamboo plants are usually yellow or tan, the visible green bath salts within the container instantly create an impression of living, growing plants.


Artisan packaging is also currently very popular. Decorative boxes, wicker and heavy craft papers are often just as enticing as glass packaging. Many consumers purchase bed and bath products simply for the attractive packaging. Hand-crafted soaps in this type of packaging are purchased as an accent for a room rather than for actual use.

Paper packaging has the added value of being sustainable. Many environmentally or socially conscious consumers shy away from plastic packaging regardless of the shape or color. Companies can enlarge consumer bases by promoting environmentally friendly paper packaging made from sustainable sources. Vegetable-based inks that contain no harmful solvents are excellent draws for these consumers, but a company must effectively advertise the use of green materials to attract these customers.

In a 2011 report, the International Spa Association cited the spa industry as the fourth largest leisure industry in the world. The organization works with PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP to gather industry statistics each year. Spa statistics can be useful gauges for the bath and body market, because skin care products are readily available at these locations. Approximately 93 percent of all spas contain retail space.

The report indicates that spas were visited by more than 150 million customers in 2010. The US recession was in full swing during this period, and the relative success of spas is indicative of Americans’ desire for the minor luxuries of bath and body products. Bath and body product retail accounts for 11 percent of all spa revenues.

Bath and body labels that make effective use of environmentally friendly materials to promote a green company image do consistently well in difficult economic times. Attractive packaging, whether of glass or paper, is an important hook for the wandering eye of the consumer, but companies should build on the initial impact of attractive bath and body labels by advertising material and ingredient sources.

Q&A with Xander Oxman, Founder of Club W

This month’s Customer Spotlight is on Club W. Lightning Labels conducted the following interview with Xander Oxman, Founder of the San Francisco based, members only site for wine lovers. 

Lightning Labels: I understand that Club W is a members only website for wine lovers. Who can join Club W, and what benefits do they receive?

Club W: Club W memberships (we call them experiences) start at $39/month for 3 bottles of wine (and shipping is free!). Members register at our site (, take a short palate profile quiz, and then get wine recommendations each month from a curated selection of excellent, small production wines. Members can go with our recommendations or choose their own bottles.

How did Club W get started? What is the inspiration behind it?
The three founders of Club W (we’re in our late 20s/early 30s) all love wine but didn’t like the pretentiousness and pomposity that sometimes came along with it. We thought there had to be a better way to discover, learn, share and buy great wine.

What are QR codes, and why do you put them on your wine bottle labels?
QR codes are similar to bar codes but they are more easily readable by smart phones. The QR codes on our bottles give users a quick and easy way to watch our videos about the wine they’re about to enjoy, learn about food pairings, rate it, even order more bottles, all right from their device.

What does the Club W website sell?
We actually don’t sell anything. We connect consumers with winemakers and importers and facilitate the transaction between them. The wines on our site are all carefully selected for quality, diversity and value. A lot of the bottles we feature are produced in such limited quantity that they never show up on retail shelves.

Club W has its own curators, correct? Would you mind sharing a little about who they are and what they do?
They are food and wine personalities including sommeliers, wine-makers, restaurateurs … they’ve worked with some of the best restaurants in the country and all share a love of educating and helping people expand their horizons without ever being snobby about wine. Continue reading “Q&A with Xander Oxman, Founder of Club W” »

10 Environmentally Friendly Packaging Practices

As the world’s resources are depleting and harmful emissions are rising, it is important for businesses to rethink their production and packaging practices. To improve the green image of a business, there are many ecofriendly packaging methods that can be implemented.

1. According to “Branching Out,” an IPM newsletter for trees and shrubs, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) set up a program that “aims to set a worldwide, common set of principles for certifying well-managed forests.” Materials from these forests are given a “green certification,” and companies can look for this seal when selecting their products.

2. Using soy- or vegetable-based inks on packaging can reduce the amount of emissions a business produces. As one of the first companies to mix their own vegetable-based inks, Harris LithoGraphics states that “vegetable and soy based inks avoid the use of petroleum, and release less volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air.”

3. The environment can benefit from upgrading in-house manufacturing equipment. In 2000, the Fuji plant upgraded its exhaust gas treatment equipment and was successful in reducing its chemical emissions and transfers by 74.8 percent in just 10 years. Staying current on green trends will help companies improve their manufacturing sites.

4. Using recycled materials for packaging is an ecofriendly practice. According to the governmental online resource, Business Link, “using recycled materials in your packaging can enable you to cut costs and environmental impact.

5. Reducing the product-to-package ratio helps eliminate wastes. To reduce the amount of packaging used, Business Link suggests “eliminating unnecessary layers of packaging, reducing or eliminating the use of adhesives and tape” and using “embossing or in-mould direct printing to avoid using labels.”

6. Using only raw materials and energy sources that are renewable helps maintain a balance in the ecosystem. An article from “Packaging Digest” states that “when we are talking about packaging, we are generally referring to fiber and other bio-based, renewable materials.”

7. Since the packaging process can produce a lot of waste, companies should recycle materials that are not used. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that 31 million tons of plastic waste was generated in 2010, and only eight percent of that amount was recovered for recycling. Packaging divisions can do their part by increasing that percentage with recycling programs.

8. The chemicals used in packaging processes have a great impact on the environment. An article from “What They Think?” lists aspects to consider when choosing the right chemicals. They suggest “lowering the level of VOCs, using non-hazardous materials to manufacture, ensuring the product will not impede recycling or biodegradation while using bio-derived, naturally based, renewable raw materials.”

9. Some companies improve their environmental impact by using light-weight materials like plastic rather than metal, glass or paper. The EPA states that “lighter weight materials require less fuel to transport and result in less material in the waste stream.”

10. The package design should be carefully considered and altered for recycling. To achieve this goal, Business Link suggests “avoiding materials that are not standard and may cause recycling problems, making your packaging compatible with established recycling process, designing packaging that minimizes any product residue and ensuring your packaging can be easily disassembled.”

Following just one of these practices will improve the environmental impact of a company. The most important things to consider are recycling programs and lower emission rates. By redesigning the packaging methods, companies can help achieve a greener future.

Barcode Printing Best Practices

Bar CodeWhile barcodes have been an integral part of the business world for several decades, they have  recently become important to the average consumer, too.

Because of the rise in popularity of mobile barcodes, barcode labels are now considered an indispensable element of marketing strategy. The use of mobile barcodes by consumers rose over 1,000 percent over the course of 2011. Why? Barcodes can provide consumers with discounts, valuable information or quick access to a website.

When using barcodes, it is important to keep a few rules in mind to ensure they are quickly recognized and easily scannable.

How Barcodes Work
The first barcode most people have come to recognize is the UPC product code. This type of barcode is known as a one-dimensional (1-D) barcode because the information is encoded only in its width and is not dependent on height. These barcodes hold information that is encoded through the width and spacing of the vertical bars. The information contained by the barcode consists of a series of numbers, letters, common symbols or instructions for the barcode reader. The barcode reader is an infrared or laser device that identifies barcodes and decodes the information they contain.

Today, two-dimensional (2-D) barcodes are becoming the standard because they can contain much more information and a more complex set of instructions than 1-D barcodes. Two-dimensional barcodes are usually square, and the information is embedded through the location of small square marks within the larger square grid. Mobile barcodes may be read by laser scanners, but new technology allows for image-recognition scanning through mobile phone cameras.

Choosing Proper Barcode Size
One of the most important aspects of printing barcodes is the size. In theory, barcodes can be of any size. In practice, the minimum barcode size is restricted by printing resolution and resolution of the scanner. The maximum size is limited by the size of the scanner or the distance from which it can be read. When using 1-D barcodes, the minimum width for a barcode containing 15 characters printed at 100 dpi is 6 inches. At 300 dpi, the minimum width is reduced to 2 inches.

The size of 2-D barcodes depends on several factors. When printing mobile barcodes or barcode labels, a minimum size of 1 inch by 1 inch is recommended. On large posters, barcodes should be larger, especially if people may be standing some distance away while scanning.

Optimizing Barcode Recognition
Several techniques can help in optimizing the recognition of a barcode by a scanner. In addition to size, two important factors are color and placement. Barcodes should always be printed in black on a white background, and they should be placed only on flat surfaces without wrinkles or folds. In addition, barcodes should be placed within arm’s reach to prevent having to scan them at an angle. Barcodes should also be given a space separate from other images, especially when they are to be scanned with a mobile phone. Many people are tempted to incorporate barcodes into some form of branding, but this only confuses imaging scanners.

Barcodes have recently become very important to consumers, and consumers are using them more than ever before. Because their use is new for many people, printing and placement strategies are largely unknown. The factor that is most important to remember is that the benefits of barcodes are lost if they cannot be quickly and easily scanned.

Innovative Packaging Design

Innovative, fun, or even weird packaging design can make or break a product’s sales. Doing something different with your packaging design can bring your brand media attention, spur new sales, attract new customers, and perhaps even earn a coveted “end cap” display space at your local pharmacy, department store, or grocer.

If you haven’t got the budget for a complete packaging redesign, however, consider drawing up a new custom label for your product. Done correctly, a new label can earn the same kind of attention as a whole new package. Remember, however: your long-time customers might be upset by any large changes to the brands they’ve grown to see as a part of their lives. The best redesigns also involve a level of customer outreach—reassuring your old customers that it’s only the packaging, not the product that’s changing is key.

Here are some examples of excellent packaging to get you thinking about your own packaging.

Kleenex “Fruit” Tissues

Why does Kleenex want to associate blowing noses and picking up gross things with fruit? Hmm. Whatever the reason, the packaging looks great and draws the eye. Plus I get to pretend that it’s a big piece of fruit I’m picking up when my cat throws up in the corner.



Bananagrams Word Game

If you hate the plodding pace of Scrabble but still love proving you know more words than your friends, you should give Bananagrams a try. Even if you don’t like word games, the game’s great packaging is likely to grab your attention. It’s genius is its simplicity: a few hundred-thousand letters (exaggerating) inside a cloth bag shaped like a banana. You can take it anywhere you can find a flat surface, then humiliate your friends with your superior vocabulary. Give it a whirl! Continue reading “Innovative Packaging Design” »

Notice: Lightning Labels Office Closed This Afternoon Due to Inclement Weather

Our office is closed this afternoon due to inclement weather conditions. If you need to get a quote or place an order, though, no worries! Our custom labels website is open 24-7 … through rain, through sleet, and through lots and lots of snow (like we have here in Denver today.)

The office will resume normal business operations at 7 am Mountain Time on Monday, February 6.

Q&A with Kevin Morgan Studio, Art Director for Jorma’s Fur Peace Ranch Guitar Camp

This month’s Customer Spotlight is on Kevin Morgan Studio. Lightning Labels conducted the following interview with Owner/Graphic Designer Kevin Morgan about his most recent label design for Jorma’s Rhythmic Tonic Tea. Read on to find out how this herbal tea label, Jefferson Airplane, and one of the best guitar camps in the world are connected. 

Product label artwork - Jorma's Rhythm Tonic Tea

As the official Art Director for Fur Peace Ranch, Kevin Morgan Studio designed this product label for Jorma's Rhythm Tonic Tea

LIGHTNING LABELS: Thank you for letting us feature this one-of-a-kind label, which depicts a burly guitar player jamming out in a room with a wooden plank floor. Or maybe on a porch, it’s hard to tell. A dog rests beneath his simple wooden chair. When I first saw this label, I thought the scene was straight out of a tiny country bar. But then I spotted a cup of tea steeping on a table in the background. What was the inspiration for this one-of-a-kind design?

Kevin Morgan Studio: Jorma Kaukonen was one of the founding members of Jefferson Airplane and is still touring with Hot Tuna. Jorma has a guitar camp in southeast ohio called the Fur Peace Ranch — you know… a “Fur Peace” from anywhere. Musicians and Instructors from around the globe come to the Ranch, and it is becoming quite known in the guitar camp circles as one of the best in the world. You can see what they are all about at

How does it illustrate the Jorma product, and how will the label be used?

Jorma’s Tea blend is one of the products they sell at the Ranch as part of Continue reading “Q&A with Kevin Morgan Studio, Art Director for Jorma’s Fur Peace Ranch Guitar Camp” »