IAPHC Extends Deadline to Enter Graphic Arts Competition

Attention graphic design firms: You still have a few days left to get your act together for the 2010 International Gallery Call for Entries if you missed the original deadline. Sponsoring organization International Association of Printing House Craftsmen (IAPHC) has extended the deadline to enter this well-known international graphic design contest to July 30.

Formerly known as the International Gallery of Superb Printing, this is the thirty-sixth year that the IAPHC has sponsored the International Gallery Call for Entries.

To download the Call for Entries for the graphics design competition, visit the IAPH website; or email Kevin Keane at IAPHP with a subject line of “Need CFE.”

Popular Skincare Brand Incorporates QR Code into Magazine Ad

clinique-qr-code-1clinique-qr-code-2Clinique is currently running a two-page advertisement featuring a QR code in the top fashion magazine Vogue. The text next to the QR code, which is prominently displayed next to the company logo at the end of the ad copy, instructs the consumer to, “Use your smart phone to scan this code or visit m.clinique.com/evenbetter for a special offer when you discover Even Better Clinical.”

clinique-qr-code-3When this QR code is scanned, the smart phone user is taken to Clinique’s mobile website offering a coupon for  free shipping for online orders. The blog 2D Barcode Strategy points out, however, that this only actually happens if the user has the appropriate QR scanner app installed on their smart phone. I wonder if the company was right to assume that smart phone users are familiar enough with technology to know that they need an app to scan the QR code, or if Clinique was taking a shortcut by not explicitly explaining the QR code and how to use it within the ad space. And if the skincare company did indeed cut corners, will Clinique’s shortcut slow consumer adaption and acceptance of 2D codes and related technology?

What do you think? Is this a step forward or backward for the widespread integration of the QR code in consumer consciousness?

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Packaging President Obama

packaging-president-obama-cleaning-productsWhat Obama’s First Term in Office Can Teach You About Selling Your Products

The New York Times recently illustrated a series of guest editorials on what President Barack Obama would need to do to win a second term in the Oval Office with black-and-white images of cleaning product packages (pictured above). The illustration, by Abbott Miller and Kristen Spilman, satirizes the dire challenges Obama is facing as his public approval ratings hover around 40 percent.

Coupled with the sentiments of the political experts that tossed around various strategies Obama could employ to have a chance of regaining the good graces of the American people, the illustration implies that it doesn’t matter how attractive your packaging is if your product doesn’t deliver the results people want.

Effective packaging is often powerful enough by itself to prompt consumers to initially purchase a product. Making good on product claims keeps them coming back for more.

LL Customer Backyard Soaps & More Featured on Detroit Television Show

Products Described as ‘Almost Good Enough to Eat’

Lightning Labels customer Backyard Soaps & More was featured on the WJBK Fox 2 Detroit Morning Show yesterday. The television spot highlighted the Port Huron, Michigan-based business, whose scented soaps, candles, lip balms, and body scrubs “look and smell almost good enough to eat.”

Backyard Soaps & More grew from a hobby that Kelly Agostinelli stumbled upon almost accidentally. Nine years ago, she made her first scented soaps when she needed a last-minute bridal shower favor. The strawberry-scented, heart-shaped soaps that she created in her kitchen from a soapmaking kit she ordered online were a huge success. Not long after, Kelly found herself launching Backyard Soaps & More from that same kitchen. Today, her company’s products are distributed via retail and wholesale outlets around the world.

The brightly colored soaps come in more than 50 scented versions, in almost every shape one can imagine. Their high glycerin content helps skin retain moisture, making them as nourishing to one’s skin as they are to one’s spirit.

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PUMA, Fuse Project Create Sustainable Shoe Packaging System


‘Clever Little Bag’ Lives Up to Its Name

Industrial design firm Fuse Project has successfully partnered with sportswear and shoe designer PUMA to create an environmentally-friendly packaging alternative to the traditional shoe box. The resulting packaging system, “Clever Little Bag,” lives up to its name, and consists of a non-woven recyclable polyester bag supported by a cardboard structure die cut from a single piece of material.

Compared with a traditional shoebox, Clever Little Bag has no laminated printing, no tissue paper, takes up less space, weighs less (resulting in lower shipping costs), and eliminates the need for a retail shopping bag. Like the traditional shoebox, Clever Little Bag can be repurposed for home storage and organization projects, and allows shoes to be neatly stacked when enclosed in the packaging.

PUMA plans to start packaging its shoes with the Clever Little Bag in 2011. Here are the amounts of environmental resources they are expecting to save over the course of a year by replacing their shoeboxes with this new packaging system:

  • 65% cardboard
  • 8,500 tons of paper
  • 20 million megajoules of electricity
  • 1 million liters of oxygen
  • 10,000 tons of carbon dioxide
  • 500,00 tons of diesel
  • 275 tons of plastic

PUMA is on target to make the remaining products consumed by the manufacturing of its Clever Little Bag fully sustainable by 2015.

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Whole Foods Market Raises the Bar for Organic Bath & Beauty Product Makers

Whole Foods Market suppliers have less than a year to certify personal care products labeled as “organic” to the the same standards that organic food is currently certified under US law. The deadline for submitting their plans for compliance, however, is only a month away.

As of June 1, 2011, all personal care products labeled as “organic” and “made with organic ingredients” must be certified to the United States Department of Agriculture National Organic Program (USDA NOP) standard in order to sold in its US stores, the Austin-based organic grocery chain announced earlier this month on its corporate website. Products labeled as “contains organic ingredients” will be required to be certified by the consensus-based industry standard NSF 305 ANSI Standard for Organic Personal Care Products.

The USDA is not expected to mandate certification for non-food products making organic claims. So why is Whole Foods raising the bar for its suppliers? The answer is simple: Its customers expect it.

“At Whole Foods Market, our shoppers do not expect the definition of organic to change substantially between the food and non-food aisles of our stores,” explained Joe Dickson, quality standards coordinator for Whole Foods Market. “We believe that the ‘organic’ claim used on personal care products should have just as strong a meaning to the ‘organic’ claim used on food products, which is currently regulated by the USDA’s National Organic Program.”

I would love to hear from suppliers who will be affected by the new organic labeling requirements for bath and body products, cosmetics, and other personal care items currently labeled as organic. Are you planning to continue to selling your products in Whole Foods stores? Do you think Whole Foods is doing the right thing? And do you think the August 1 deadline for submitting your plans for compliance to Whole Foods is reasonable?

For more information about the new labeling requirements for products making organic claims, visit Whole Food’s blog, The Whole Story.

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Introducing a Food Label Design Concept for People Who Hate Food Poisoning



Do you love getting food poisoning? I didn’t think so. That’s why I know you will love the food label concept design Fresh Label as much as I do. As soon as heard about it, I had to share it with you.

Recently featured on the package design archive and gallery Packaging of the World, Fresh Label is a food labeling concept created by the Japanese design firm To-Genkyo. The idea is to create a food label that changes color by reacting to the ammonia food gives off as it spoils.

Taking the concept a step further, To-Genkyo would like to see a product barcode incorporated into the label, which is a shaped like an hourglass, a symbol of time. When the food product is no longer edible, the barcode would not be able to be scanned and therefore unable to be purchased and consumed.

To-Genkyo points out that Fresh Label will help solve the worldwide problem of false labeling:

“Many consumers carefully check the food labels,” the design firm told Packaging of the World. “However, expiry dates typed on the labels in characters are easily faked and there is a limit for its reliability … (Fresh Label, on the other hand) is reliable and difficult to counterfeit since it directly reflects freshness.”

I am excited about this food label design concept for another reason. Here in the US, false labeling is not a big concern of mine. But eating food that is even close to expiring is. Fresh Label would save a lot of food from being thrown out before it has actually expired. I myself am pretty certain that I routinely throw out food that is still good, especially meat. Or at least this is what my mother tells me. Not because I like wasting food (and the money used to purchase it), but because I would rather error on the side of caution.

As a former longtime vegetarian, I am still a bit squeamish when it comes to cooking meat. So if that package of hormone-free ground beef in my fridge gets anywhere near its expiration date or smells a bit “off,” it is going in the trash bin. I hate wasting food, but I hate getting food poisoning even more. Furthermore, my Shetland Sheepdog, Scout, gets very pouty when I throw out meat. Unlike me, he doesn’t understand what the big deal about freshness is when it comes to food. To him, it’s all good when it comes to food … especially meat. Fresh Label would solve this problem as well.

What do you think about this food label design concept? Are there any others you have seen that are comparable to Fresh Label?

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Frito-Lay Bets the Farm on Its Compostable Packaging


Quick–What’s the first thing you notice about the new Sun Chips packaging pictured above? That it’s compostable, right? It would be hard NOT to notice it, given the fact that the words “World’s First 100% Compostable Chip Package” fills the top-third.

If you pulled one of these chip bags off the shelf in your local supermarket and turned it over, you might be able to find the nutrition information. Maybe. It’s printed on the back of the package, yes, but is buried amidst a flurry of declarations of the bag’s compostability. Any way you look at it, the packaging is emphasizing one thing and one thing only: compostability.

As Packaging World noted, it is interested to note that Frito-Lay is not limiting its promotion of the environmentally-friendly nature of the plant-based packaging for its Sun Chips brand. Nope, it is going all-in by focusing its marketing efforts exclusively on the fact that the new packaging is 100 percent compostable. Or, as we say where I’m from, Frito-Lay is going whole-hog.

This is a bold, risky move for two reasons:

1) Here in uber-green Colorado, the average consumer knows what composting is. As for the rest of the country, however, particularly in large metropolitan areas, I am pretty sure this is not the case. So while the words “100% COMPOSTABLE” might jump of the shelf and make the average grocery shopper pause for a moment to consider what the heck it means that a chip bag is completely compostable, it does not mean that it will compel them to toss that same bag of chips in their basket.

2) Composting doesn’t just happen by itself. It isn’t rocket science, but it does require a bit of knowledge, supplies, and space to make it happen. And if one doesn’t know what they are doing, the results can be quite smelly and messy.

As for myself, I’m rooting for Frito-Lay. I commend them for being willing to take a risk, and for paving the way for other product manufacturers to go with green packaging. If anything, this marketing campaign should stimulate new interest in composting and discussion about environmentally-friendly packaging. I just hope Frito-Lay doesn’t lose the farm in the process.

Top 10 Blogs for Packaging Design Inspiration

TheDieline.com - Packaging Design Blog

TheDieline.com -Founded in 2007 by designer Andrew Gibbs, this is the web’s oldest and most visited blog dedicated to packaging design. Features exemplary packaging designs from both professional and student designers.

Design Daily - Packaging Design Inspiration - Blog

Design Daily – Swiss graphic designer Mirko Humbert’s shares his thoughts on design in general and features examples of high-quality, beautiful designs (including packaging designs.) This blog also features a great list of resources for designers, as well as tips for novice designers.

Design Muse - Packaging Design Blog

Design Muse – New York packaging designer Casey Coyle’s shares what inspires her to create beautiful packaging designs on her gallery-style blog.

Dzine Blog - Packaging Design Inspiration

Dzine Blog – This general design blog is a great source of inspiration not only for packaging designers, but designers in general. Topics covered include stunning packaging designs (gallery-style), website design, and typography. Also features a great list of resources for designers, including free downloads of font and icon sets.

Graphic Design Blog - Packaging Design Inspiration

Graphic Design Blog – British graphic designer Tara Roskell shares her views on design books, websites, graphic design programs, graphic design training, design employment, freelancing, ideas and all things graphic design.

Lovely Packaging - Packaging Design Gallery Blog - Inspiration

Lovely Package –  A source of inspiration for design schools, designers, design & advertising agencies, manufacturers and packaged goods companies. With half a million page views per month, Lovely Package is one of the web’s most popular gallery-style packaging design blogs.

Packaging Digest - Packaging Design Blogs

Packaging Digest – This well-known magazine’s website actually features six packaging blogs, each focusing on a different area of packaging. All of the blogs are content-heavy, with minimal graphics. The content is top-notch, and covers topics such as sustainability, packaging design trends, emerging technologies in packaging, marketing and branding with packaging, and sales.

Packaging of the World - Gallery Style Inspirational Blog

Packaging of the World – Gallery-style blog that showcases the world’s most interesting and creative packaging designs. The Singapore-based design known on the blog as “Subby” originally started out as a way for one of Subby’s design teams to organize all of their packaging design resources for a project they were working on in 2008. And organized it is! One can easily browse through the packaging design archives that are grouped under an extensive array of categories and industries.

Smashing Magazine - Packaging Design Inspiration - Blog

Smashing Magazine – Check out the “Design” and “Inspiration” sections of this extensive design blog for packaging design inspiration galleries, as well as blog posts on  graphic design, typography and usability. You’ll also find tips and tricks for Adobe Creative Suite, as as well as high quality fonts, usability guidelines and design studies here.

Vandelay Design Blog - Packaging Design Inspiration

Vandelay Design – This is the blog of the Pennyslvania-based website designer firm of the same name. Although the blog is aimed at website designers, it features plenty examples of stunning packaging designs. Blog includes a list of Photoshop tutorials.

These are the blogs I turn to most often for packaging design inspiration. What are some of your favorites? Let me know!


My time at Lightning Labels has come to an end. It feels strange typing these words but they are true. Some of you may know that in July 2008, we sold Lightning Labels to Cenveo, one of the leading companies in the printing industry. I was committed to seeing Lightning Labels through a successful transition and I feel the time is right now for me to move on.

This has certainly not been an easy decision. Since the idea for Lightning Labels germinated in my head during a Thanksgiving ski trip back in 2001 I have poured my heart and soul into this company. It has been the most challenging and the most rewarding part of my career. Most days I have loved getting up in the morning and coming in to work here. It has been exciting to see us grow from nothing to one of the leading digital label printers in this country.

Of course, none of this would have been possible without a great group of people. We have a fantastic team here at Lightning Labels and I leave with the confidence of knowing that the company is in good hands. We have weathered the economic downturn well and are growing steadily again. In fact, we just had our best month ever in April. So, the future looks bright for Lightning Labels and our customers.

I am planning on taking the summer off and doing some traveling. We are heading down to Australia next week to visit my family there for three weeks. We will be vacationing up in the Colorado mountains in July and also spending some time with my wife’s family in Des Moines. After that I don’t know. I have been doing some blog consulting and I have a couple of new business ideas that I am mulling over.

One of the joys of my job the last few years has been writing this blog. You may well find me back here doing an occasional guest post as I come across an article that I know would be of interest to the Lightning Labels blog readers. In the meantime, my co-author here for the last year and a half, Christy Correll, will be doing the writing.

So now it is time to say farewell. Before I sign off, I would like to say a few thank yous. Thanks to my regular blog readers, some of whom I know have been reading and commenting on here for years. Thanks to our great team of employees who have gone above and beyond to make sure we provide the best customer service and turnaround time in the industry. Thanks to my old partner and good friend Steve Smith, who also put his heart and soul into Lightning Labels for many years. Thanks also to the many great vendors we work with every day, especially the folks at Masterpiece Graphix and HP. Last, but certainly not least, thanks to all you wonderful Lightning Labels customers, it really has been a pleasure serving you.

It just seems like yesterday that I watched with excitement as our first digital printing press was being unloaded and installed in our warehouse. But that was eight and a half years ago now. It has been a great ride.