2000 Shades of Grey

May 31st, 2013 in Design, Packaging, Web athlone fifty grey shades

EL James should look to her crown. The author of Fifty Shades of Grey, a novel which has bestrode the world like a whip-wielding colossus since its publication in 2011, might not be quaking in her boots just yet, but at Image+ we’ve just finished work on a new volume that might just out-do her. Forget your half-century of greyscale tones: we’ve just finished work on our opus, 2000 Shades of Grey.

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OK, so we might be going overboard. Hot off the presses this week is a hefty product manual for a client of ours in Ireland, Athlone Extrusions. This replaces a version now two decades old – and so collating the material, designing the pages, planning the lay-outs and project managing the entire production was a big task. It goes without saying, of course, that we completed all this in-house and on-budget.

AE manufacture extruded plastic sheets, crucial in the production of items of all kinds, from packaging to white goods, industrial machinery to sanitary ware. They supply over forty countries worldwide, and their offering is hugely technical and varied. That makes their product manual absolutely essential to their sales: data drives their customer relationships. And in the age of the internet, the printed page still has an extremely important part to play.

The new manual has thirty inserts: brochures, dividers and product data sheets. It’s a big beast, and we’ve printed two thousand as a first run. AE’s customers really appreciate the manual as an important reference work, full of the technical details for each type of plastic with which AE works. There’s a lot of information to include – here’s just one factsheet for a single material – and whilst all of that data can be and is online, there’s also a real business need for the production of a volume like this that can sit on an MD’s shelf, or a buyer’s desk.

That’s why, for all our cutting-edge digital work, we also devote time and expertise to what might seem the old-fashioned medium of print: because it’s still extremely powerful. A volume such as AE’s manual is a physical product, a part of your company which a client can pick up and take away with them, can consult over many years and make their own. It’s a means of imparting a lot of information in an intuitive way, and doing so in a permanent, literally weighty, fashion. When AE gave one of their clients two copies of the manual, he asked if he could buy six more, because they were so useful. That’s a powerful communication tool, and an important means of maintaining a customer relationship over time.

Oh, and about our dreams of publishing a bestseller: the thing is, AE have the capacity to colour-match exactly. They can produce any plastic part in any colour you care to give them. Over the years, they’ve matched no less than two thousand different types of grey (and two hundred shades of white, for that matter). It may not be the same as erotica you can read in polite company, but we like to think AE’s latest volume will be as nice a little earner for them as EL James’s novel has been for her…

Packaging: Thinking Outside The Box

April 2nd, 2013 in Design, Packaging Design Packaging

Perhaps only Christmas can rival Easter when it comes to decorating the nation’s living room floors with discarded packaging. Around 90 million eggs are consumed in the UK each year, and that makes for an awful lot of cardboard torn apart by hungry kids – and sometimes greedy adults!

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It’s easy to assume at this time of year that packaging doesn’t really matter, and that it’s what’s inside that counts.Whilst of course the quality of the ultimate product is key, packaging attracts all kinds of attention. For instance, just last week the House of Commons saw fit to debate Easter egg boxes, with the MP Andrew Stunnel unveiling facts and figures which suggest confectioners are still producing excess packaging. As you might imagine, the companies are doing their best to burnish their green credentials in response – chocolate giant Nestle, for instance, are keen to emphasise their eco-friendly Easter packaging.

All of this underlines the point that packaging matters. They might seem to your toddler like a pesky hurdle before the main chocolatey event, but the companies which sell those eggs put huge thought into the boxes: from the structure to the materials used, packaging is considered to be an important part of the overall offer. Cost is weighed, of course, but more important is the message sent by the box in question – and the extent to which consumers will appreciate it.

So as I cleaned up some of the wreckage left behind by this year’s Easter feast, I found myself looking at the branding choices made by the designers of the board and foil I was picking up. At Image+, we offer packaging and promotional items services which embed your brand in the daily experience of your customers. Understanding what they expect of your product and its packaging, what that packaging needs to achieve (does it sit on a shelf, or travel across continents?), but also how your brand should influence and even dictate its shape, colours and composition can be key.

The packaging of those Easter eggs might be disposed of quickly (or not – some virtuous souls in the Image+ office eat their eggs slowly, using the box as storage!). But it’s also the first thing anyone sees of the egg and the company which made it. That makes it key at the point of sale, of course, but also afterwards in reinforcing and reminding the consumer about a brand you want them to recall and trust. I blogged last week about branding – packaging is where all that design work arrives in the real world – not just on the floor, but also in people’s lives.