5 Tips to Collaborate Better with Your Printing Vendor

Rangan Das

July 28, 2022

Finalizing your packaging prints requires a lot of collaborative effort from the brand, the print vendor, and even the design team. Read on to find out how you can optimize this process.

Brands often come up with creative label designs for their packaging. However, how the packaging looks on the shelves often depends on the printers. The printed packaging requires a lot of collaborative efforts from the brand, the print vendor, and even the design team. The level of collaboration determines the quality of the finished product, the speed at which the project gets completed, as well as the costs saved from avoiding errors. 

Why good collaboration with printers matter

Your print vendors are not people you contact solely after the design is finalized. They should be a part of the label development process. The design team needs to factor in the printer’s capabilities before they make a design. These include the colors they can use, the size of the visual elements, and more. Here are three key reasons why such a collaboration matters.

1. Helps you stand out of the crowd

A well-designed packaging sticks out on e-commerce store listings. On store shelves, they are more noticeable than others. Even simple designs that are properly printed can look amazing. The printers are restricted by the type of packaging the brand has decided to use, and the inks they can use on those materials. When the designers know these restrictions, they can develop the labels accordingly. 

2. Provides a good unboxing experience

Whether it’s a bag of chips, a lifesaving drug, or a bottle of wine — good packaging makes the consumer feel positive about their purchase. Proper packaging increases the overall brand value. It makes your products appear more trustworthy and reliable. 

3. Saves time, money, and energy

An effective collaboration means fewer errors. Hard proofing can be quite expensive and by cutting down on the number of iterations needed to finalize a product, you save a lot of time, money, and effort.

How to collaborate better with print vendors

In a traditional label development project, the work starts with the design team and ends with the print vendors. However, in today’s competitive market, such a workflow is no longer sustainable. Here are five tips that can help you collaborate better with print vendors. 

#1. Stop working in silos

Traditionally, print vendors have little knowledge of the design choices that take place during the label development process. However, print vendors often have the final say on what can be printed and what cannot be given the budget. That’s why brands need to onboard print vendors to the label development project. 

They can provide feedback directly to the design teams on what they can print. Design teams can then factor in the printing restrictions and develop the design accordingly. 

#2. Use a well-established workflow

You need to build a workflow that considers the input from the printing vendors. You should not simply provide the design files to the printers at the end of the development process. Rather, you should create a workflow where the print vendors can sign off on the label design. 

You can use a multi-stage approval process where the print vendor can review the artwork once a rough design is finalized. This should give the print vendors a clear idea of what they need to print. You can also allow the print vendor to review the final artwork later. 

To set up a workflow with a multi-stage approval process, you can have a look at dedicated artwork management platforms such as Artwork Flow.  

#3. Encourage collaborative proofing

Take input not only from your internal departments, but also from your print vendors. Collaborative proofing allows different stakeholders to come together and finalize the design process. 

For instance, the marketing department may suggest colors or a certain printing process that the print vendor cannot accommodate in the budget. The brand and the print vendor can then negotiate, and if required, appropriate design changes can be made. 

Collaborative proofing allows negotiations to take place early in the development project so that the marketing and design team does not have to develop new designs from scratch.

#4. Gather precise feedback

To ensure that the print vendors play an effective role in the label development process, they must provide precise and constructive feedback to the design team. You can do this by setting up checklists and deadlines. 

Checklists ensure that print vendors look at the specifics of the design file that are needed for printing. These include the layers in the design file, the colors used in the file, the margins, bleed, slug, gutter, and other print-specific elements. Assigning a deadline ensures that the print vendor provides their feedback on time, allowing the label development process to continue smoothly. 

Collating effective feedback from different stakeholders becomes much easier when using an artwork management or a label development solution. 

For instance, Artwork Flow comes with pre-built lists that you can customize, save, and share with stakeholders. If you have multiple label development projects, then you can share the same checklist with the printing vendor and assign different deadlines for each project. Furthermore, Artwork Flow also comes with online proofing tools such as color extractor, font finder, PDF layer visibility, virtual ruler, and more.

#5. Use a scalable solution

Traditional project management tools can falter when such label development projects scale up. Before a product launch or a rebranding project, you need to set up multiple projects for every SKU. You may also need to collaborate with different print vendors, as well as external design agencies. 

In such cases, emails and spreadsheets fail miserably. Traditional project management solutions also struggle to keep up with the unique requirements of a label development project. Furthermore, onboarding external stakeholders can also be cumbersome in such traditional solutions. 

If you want better collaboration with your print vendors, you need to invest in a scalable solution. A dedicated artwork management solution enables seamless onboarding of external agencies. They also come with dedicated storage attached to each project, allowing teams to easily share design files for review. 

Closing thoughts

No matter what industry you serve in, seamless collaboration with design and printing agencies will provide you with accurate and error-free packaging, while saving time and money. To understand how Artwork Flow can help with collaborative label development projects, get a demo today.

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