Material Matters

I was at Watson looking around for hair products when I came across this.

I tried reading the text on the label but failed due to the shiny reflection. Not giving up so easily, I adjusted my perception angle, thinking that might help in reading the text. Nope. The product packaging was well designed but unfortunately, the material choice for the sticker label was terrible. I could hardly read the text on the label. It’s definitely more readable on the photo, but it’s really bad when you try to read it with your naked eye.

The mistake mentioned above could happened to any of us. So let’s take this opportunity to do some self-reflection.

I think it’s highly unlikely that this product packaging is approved without a physical mock-up. With that out of the equation, there are a few possible scenarios of how such a mistake happened:

  1. Trusting the recommendation of the printing or production company. Since it’s a recommendation, the person in charge might think it is not necessary to produce a mock-up.
  2. The printed mock-up was done on a different paper material. The actual material might not be available for mock-up for some reasons.
  3. The person in charge adores the shiny material. Everyone design taste is different and some are just unique.

For scenario 3, there’s nothing much you can do other than advising against it or go on a protest. But for scenario 1 and 2, it’s preventable.

The recommendation is to use the actual paper material for the mock-up. This seems obvious enough but there are always circumstances that prevent designers from doing the obvious. But whatever the reason is, it all boils down to one fact: the designer thinks it’s okay to compromise. For example, let’s talk about printed products that require die-cut, like paper craft toy, brochures/books with die-cut effects and packaging. Say, a designer is to design a paper craft toy and decided to use 310gsm coated paper for the end product. But the designer couldn’t get the required paper easily, so he decided to work on a 100gsm woodfree paper instead. Well, he managed to assemble the paper craft and it looked good, so he thought mission accomplished! But there’s a few pitfall to this approach. Does the 310gsm coated paper folds well? If glue is involved in the paper craft toy, does it stick well? There’s no unnecessary surprises when the mock-up uses the actual paper material.

The Starfish Story

My colleague and I was at Singapore Prison Service (SPS) headquarters for a discussion on their upcoming recruitment advertisements a few days ago. The officer from public relations shared with us that other than ensuring prison's security, SPS's mission is to rehabilitate offenders and successfully integrating them back to society. At this point, she shared with us the starfish story. That was the first time I heard of the story and I find it very meaningful.

The story took place at a beach. An old man was walking along the beach and he saw a boy picking up starfish and gently throwing them back into the sea. He striked a conversation with the boy and understand that the boy was worried that when the sun is up the next day, the starfish will die. The old man laughed and said, "I'm afraid your efforts won't make a difference. There's numerous starfish on this beach. You are not going to save them all."

The boy listened, picked up another starfish and threw it back to the sea. "It made a difference for that one!"