Creating mockups and packshots will become an increasingly
important and specialised task as products evolve faster to
keep pace with fickle consumer tastes, writes Wayne Peachey
mproving products and inventing new
ones is what all consumer products
companies do. Pick up any object that
can be bought and think about when it
was last changed - it was probably within the
last 12 months, possibly the last one.
The processes for managing these
activities are often formalised into
an agreed chain of events, known
as new product development
(NPD) and life cycle
Ifa manufacturer creates
or changes a product, how
do they know it will appeal to
the market? The area we, the
graphics and printing industry, are
involved in is in the product's appearance.
Will it appeal to shoppers? Will the best
shape/size/colour/form be used?
During the NPD and LCM processes
a marketing team will create new ideas
and then decide on the best few to move
forwards with. Then the best way to test
these ideas is to create 'focus groups'
of people, typical shoppers who may
potentially buy the products.
The focus groups need to look at
something. Therefore they will be shown
pictures and physical samples of existing
and potential new products. This is where
'packshots' and 'mockups' (otherwise
known as 'comps') come in, as printing
and photographing a new product in the
traditional printed way would involve
lots of time and huge costs.
A packshot is a graphic
image that looks like a
photograph ofan actual
product. It is, in fact, a
computer simulation that
uses graphics that only exist
in 'design' form. Packshots are
very important, and not only for
market research, as often the products
need to be advertised before they are
Creating a mockup is not an easy process
as the normal high-speed manufacturing
processes need to be replicated using
very flexible equipment and very manual
techniques. One company that provides
this service, Litmus (litmusmockups.co.uk),
started as a branch of a printing company.
"We have always had the ability to create
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short print runs, although these came at
quite a high minimum cost," said Gareth
Hartley, operations director.
"Our customers then wanted us to become
more involved in the design processes. They
would say 'What would the package look like
if it had a gloss finish, or a matt finish, or
holographies, or raised type, or if we made it
a different shape? What would a gloss finish
look like on a matt board?'
"We soon realised once we started
talking to designers that they have so many
ideas and are frustrated by not knowing
how a design will turn out, and are often
disappointed. That is where our experience
comes in. We won't create a mockup that
can't be printed in the real world".
The company's equipment is now quite
extensive. "As designers moved to digital
proofs using inkjet printers, so they realised
iliey could print out a design and stick it to a
package;' said Hartley. "Lots of people still do
:hat. However, these are poor representations
~f the final results. We have many forms of
printers, with automatic die cutting. We can
create foil blocks and apply foiling, create
raised type and braille, and print onto nearly
every substrate available and so the customer
can see their design, on their substrate, so
die look and feel will be accurate. We can
even create vacuum-formed shapes for plastic
inserts ofblister packs. We can create one
mockup or many, and although some can be
time-consuming to create, compared with a
customer's production facility trying to create
them, the costs are tiny."
SGS has facilities around the world
providing a mockup service. Shaun Whiteley
works as a packaging manager for SGS
onsite at a large UK-based bakery, processing
hundreds of new designs every year.
"Our customers rely on SGS to provide
strong creative and technical direction to
enable them to achieve brand aspirations;'
he said. "We work on many different designs
during the creative process. When an
established design changes, new customers
are brought to the product. We try in these
instances to maintain existing customers and
so try to make the design look similar but
different. .. 'refreshed'. Achieving this fine
balance is not easy and you can't always tell
on a computer what something will look like
in your hand, and so our mockups provide a
valuable tool. For new designs the process is
quite a bit longer as there is lots of'back and
forth' with consumer groups."
For all designs with a degree of 'change' or
innovation, mockups are passed around the
office and shown to market research groups
and the board so everyone is comfortable
with moving forwards, he said.
"Often we have just a week to create
the mockup. Sometimes less! It would be
impossible to create plates and for a printer
to print and make up packages in that time,
and the costs would be through the roof!"
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9 '- '
SGS also creates packshots, vvith a time
to market from initiation to completion
sometimes of only eight weeks. "Packshots
are often needed a week before printing,
and so photography would be impossible,"
said Whitely. "Packshots allow the customer
to create marketing materials, and for
supermarkets to show the product on
their website. Packshots also look perfect
and consistent, something that cannot be
guaranteed with photography without lots of
colour retouching. The packshot process is
The creation of mockups has always
existed in one form or another, but recently
it has grown to become a separate segment
of the industry. Equipment for the creation
of mockups is more accessible and flexible,
and so increased capabilities have become
available with reduced costs.
But what is really driving the market is
the pace of change. Clients realise that if
you change a design, sales go up. Ifyour
competitors change their designs, your
sales often go down! This is probably due
to the fact that technology (smartphones,
Twitter, online television etc) means that
a customer's attention span is short, and
to constantly keep customers interested
designs must change and be kept 'fresh'.
Mockups are an important tool in the
planning of execution ofpackaging projects
and key to keeping up the pace of change
while reducing the risk of making a mistake in
the marketplace. I haven't even mentioned
3D printing and in a few years time we could
see the mockup industry providing even
better and quicker methods for creating
design concepts. What will the future hold?
More innovation as mockups are used as a
design tool, and more challenging of printer
capabilities as designs are conceptualised
and explored. Ii
November-December2015 • packagingci::s' :=