How to create a label

insignia Pty Ltd
By John Brennan
Wednesday, 06 October, 2004

In today's increasingly competitive retail environment, product recognition is everything. Now more than ever there is a major focus on product presentation and hence the creation of the product label is extremely important. To ensure market domination, food processors and manufacturers are demanding greater design options, higher quality and more durable labelling solutions.

They want a better look for their label, which ultimately sells their brand and their product. But if you are just starting out where do you begin? This 'How to create a label' guideline explores the most popular label technology pressure-sensitive labels.

The purpose of the label

Begin by first defining the purpose of the label as this will flow through and assist in every decision made throughout the creation process of the label.

Product labels perform several functions and the purpose could require one or a combination of the following: to identify the product or brand, grade the product, describe and/or promote the product. It is important to make sure any regulations for labelling are also understood in the relevant industry, for example nutrition information laws for food manufacturers, as this may also affect the purpose of the label.

If the label needs to reflect the brand, then it may include elements such as name, target audience, key selling attributes, packaging style and feel, price and advertising. It is the nature of the product itself that produces the brand image.

Looking at some of these elements, the target audience could be children, baby boomers or teenagers. Key selling attributes may include high quality, great taste, low price, 10% extra, improved or new. And some style and feel examples could be high technology, healthy lifestyle and prestige. Once the label purpose is determined, the important look and design of the label can then be addressed.


Application details are also essential; however, not always at the top of the creator's mind. It is of no value having an eye-catching label that is guaranteed to capture the imagination of shoppers and the essence of your brand if it keeps falling off your product. By outlining the label application and its environment this will help determine the type of label material the product requires.

Three areas of labels which are affected differently by application include face stock, adhesive and, if required, a protective coating. Face stock is the top layer of a label and comes in paper, foil, film and many other materials.

The label material or face stock considered will also be determined by the type of product and storage required. Is the product glass, metal, PET, curved, rough, oily, wet or dirty? Will the product's environmental conditions be outdoor, indoor, humid, freezing, abrasive or have chemicals or solvents involved?

Adhesives come in two broad categories - permanent and removable. However, even some removable adhesives become permanent over time and not all adhesives bond well to all surfaces. Protective enhancement coatings include lamination and polyester, polypropylene and matt acetate varnishes. Coatings can also be used for appearance enhancement - ask the label supplier.

Good questions also to answer include, how is the label to be applied to the product? Is it going to be hand applied or applied on the production line? How fast is the label going to be applied to the product? Labels can be produced as roll stock, in sheets or fan-folded.

You may want to be able to overprint labels in house through your own printer for easy changes to product specific variable information such as weights and nutrition information.

Each application has varying factors and the label supplier will be able to offer assistance.

Label look/design

The design of the label is usually the most exciting part. A label can be any size and shape desired. Various die cuts can create cornered rectangles and squares, circles and ovals. Special shapes also include bottlenecks, anniversary seals, starbursts, leaves, arrows, boots and more. However, the shape and size of the product will also have a major bearing on the design of the label.

To enhance the product and make it stand out, the use of photos, illustrations and logos can be meticulously reproduced with standard four process colours and the introduction of extra spot colours. The label can also be designed around embellishments such as foiling, often gold or silver, and embossing.

The typestyle chosen is also important and can say a lot about the product or service. There are generally four categories of fonts: Serif, Sans Serif, Script and New Age.

A good example of a serif font is Times New Roman. A serif font is usually a more traditional, classic look that is good to use for headings but harder to read in paragraphs. Excellent examples of sans serif fonts are Arial and Helvetica. Sans serifs give a cleaner look and are easier to read. They are great for lots of text such as paragraphs and nutritional panels and where small point font is required.

Scripted fonts give a feeling of elegance, however they are not necessarily easy to read and tend to soften the feel of the product. Products where script fonts are usually contained in a label include wine, cheese and pate. New age fonts are unusual, hip and are aimed to appeal to younger consumers. Some product examples include energy drinks and fashion beverages. Let the purpose of the label help you decide on the typeface.

When creating a label, print quality is a major factor in assessing labelling suppliers. Ensure you also investigate other benefits including variety of label materials, flexible stocking options and supply strategies, ideally customised for individual production schedules; label design advice and short order response times. Packaging is the crucial expression of your brand at the point of sale; expect your label supplier to act in partnership with you.

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