Product Labels 101: Everything Your Small Business Should Consider
Updated: Jan 16, 2022
If you’ve ever purchased a product based solely on the label, you know how important it is to get it right. Whether you’re a brand-new business or are testing a new product in the marketplace, this blog will help you consider everything you need to know before designing, printing, and testing new labels. We have written the following in order of practicality, ending with design (visual hierarchy and legibility). Despite being the most fun (in my opinion!), design is often one of the last steps in the process: - Requirements - Shape - Application - Material - Lamination - Visual Hierarchy
This is where a lot of people get tripped up. What do I have to include in my label? Does it need to be in French and English? How do I create nutrition labels?
Before you get started, make sure you're deeply familiar with all of the requirements for your product label. The Government of Canada has a very straight forward list of requirements. They can be found here: Developing Accurate Nutrient Values
Depending on the packaging you have chosen (bottle, bag, box, etc.), you will want to consider what the best shape is for your label. The shape you choose should relate directly to the shape of your packaging, as well as maintain visual synonymity with your brand.
Do you want to have one or two labels on your packaging? If you need additional space but want to reduce cost/time, you may want to consider a single label that wraps around your product—taking full advantage of the space available.
However, printing two labels (one for the back and one for the front) will allow you to keep nutritional information/ingredients/directions separate from the main label. If you are applying these by hand, it is important to remember that this will double your workload (see application). If you're selling food products or cosmetics, you may also want to have a label that acts as a 'seal'.
How will you be applying these labels onto your product? If you’re testing a new product or create smaller batches, it is easy enough/best to apply these labels by hand. If this is the method you choose, it is a good idea to consider the size/number of labels. The bigger the label, the higher the margin for error during the application process (unless you have very steady hands, of course!). As mentioned above, the greater the number of labels, the more time it will take to apply.
As you begin to scale your business, you can purchase machines that will apply the labels for you automatically. If you’re looking to scale up and are looking for new equipment, get in touch with us.
The substrate material you use for your label will depend largely on what your product is. Will the label be exposed to moisture? Will it be refrigerated? Endure harsh weather conditions? Sit in the sun? Labels can be printed on paper or synthetic material. Paper is typically used for indoor labels that have a relatively short lifespan and limited exposure to moisture, chemicals, temperature extremes and abrasion. Synthetic is often used for outdoor labels.
Both paper and synthetic labels can be printed with a laminate:
Laminate is the thin, transparent sheet of plastic that is placed on top of the printed material mentioned above. Lamination can help protect your product labels from UV, water, and other harsh conditions. If you don't provide the right protection for your labels, labels can fall off, and become illegible.
If you have a cosmetic product, they will often be subject to damp and moist conditions. Household products may come in contact with aggressive and harsh chemicals. Items stored outside are exposed to intense UV radiation and can go from humid temperatures to freezing temperatures. Lamination adds that peace of mind that your product label will be able to endure through its lifecycle. This can, of course, come at an extra cost.
We created an entire blog on the principles of visual hierarchy on a label here. When you’re designing a label, you need to consider the end user. It becomes very easy to get caught up in the design process and not test our assumptions about them.
Head to our visual hierarchy blog to make sure your label checks all the right boxes and do a sample survey with friends and family. Let’s be honest, we all have blind spots. And being able to utilize others to see them is a good practice.
Your label has to be legible. When your product is on a shelf, you have 2 to 3 seconds to catch a customer’s attention. The first thing consumers look for in a product is if it meets their needs—primarily: what is it? If they can’t tell whether your product is shampoo or conditioner in the first 5 seconds, they will move on.
Ask a couple of different people, of different ages, whether your label is legible. Be sure to show them the physical label rather than on a screen. Be careful when using small text, frilly fonts, and spacing your text.