Thursday, July 29, 2010

What I do: Packaging Design

I realize that I have talked very little about what I do for a living. The goal of this blog was to be a creative outlet, outside of my job, where I could share home projects and the goings-on in my life. But maybe some of you are interested in what I do. It is a big part of my life. 40 hours a week!

I am a graphic designer, specializing in print and packaging. I design private brand food packaging, for leading global private brand broker and design agency, Daymon Worldwide. Our on-site design team works with Wegmans Food Markets, a major regional supermarket chain, and one of the largest private companies in the U.S. (Source: This means I get to design some of the boxes, bags, trays, bottles, cartons, stickers, and wraps that catch your eye while grocery shopping, and make it into your cupboards, refrigerator, closets and drawers. And then get tossed into the trash. Or recycled. But the point is, that you made a purchase and chose Wegmans brand! Mission accomplished.

Our team works on a variety of projects for different products every day. We develop concepts and design solutions, within the parameters of dieline specifications, different substrates and printing capabilities. We put our strategic creativity to work with the use of color, fonts, illustration and photography, along with technical and legal information, like nutrition facts and ingredients. Sometimes it may be a single item. Sometimes it may be a line of 40 items. That sure keeps it interesting.

I work primarily with Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. I start with a dieline, a flattened out blueprint of whatever container or packaging it will be. Measurements need to be exact and to scale. There are type and graphic area limitations. Clear windows with no ink must be designated. Flap orientation, perforations, folds and gussets must be considered in artwork placement.

The ability to translate the essence of a full front panel design, into a skinny little side panel is truly an art. Downsizing or increasing a design to fit a smaller or larger box is an art as well. It's not as easy as it looks.

I definitely like the variety of my job. One day I could be working on a cereal box design, and the next, a bag of frozen vegetables (and I mean, a LOT of frozen vegetables). We also tackle non-food items, such as paper products, health & beauty, and pet food. People often ask, "What's your favorite design?" It's hard for me to answer that. I have had the opportunity to work on so many different projects, and have such a sense of pride an accomplishment with each one.

The very first label I ever worked on, was a long skinny sticker for a tray of cleaned and cut butternut squash. It wasn't even my original design. But when I saw it on shelf for the first time, I felt like it might as well have been in the Louvre. It was that exciting for me. I still get a tiny butterfly feeling in my stomach, each time a product hits the shelf and I notice it on display, for all to see, in 76 stores. Something that I had a hand in creating, literally. 
We have an awesome team of talented designers. I feel so lucky to be doing something I really enjoy and actually went to school for. So many artists have trouble finding jobs in their chosen field. I am blessed to be where I am. Of course, it has it's ups and downs, like any job. Did I mention the deadlines? The shelf target dates? And oh yeah, it needs to be ready for pre-press by Friday. Ha! And that's not mentioning the matter of opinions and the fact that design is subjective. It comes with the territory. And gives you thick skin.

I can definitely see my personal growth as an artist over the past 4+ years as a packaging designer. I have gained a wealth of knowledge about design in general as well as the world of printing. Process vs. spot colors. Number of plates. Additional hits of white. It's the things they can't and don't always teach you in the classroom.

And most importantly, spell check. Every. Time.

Photos courtesy of


  1. Ha, did you get these from the DRL? ;)

    P.S. I love your blog!

  2. Great post, Sarah. I really enjoy learning about what people do during the day at their jobs - especially creatives. Your post made me miss dimensional design: packaging and exhibits. It's been quite a while since I've worked on those types of projects. I'm inspired to write a post on my blog in a similar fashion, "a glimpse into my week's 40". My blog's in the process of a re-vamp, so it may be a few more weeks. Keep on with yours though. Good stuff!


Thank you!