Energized by Excellence: The Top Three Packaging Impressions Excellence Awards Winners
Best of Show - McDowell Label
The label design that the team at Unico Nutrition envisioned for its Athena Unleashed pre-workout was just a dream until the company contacted McDowell Label. It was a complex job, with 12 colors and several enhancements that would provide a multi-sensory experience for the consumer. Other label printers had expressed some trepidation about producing the label with all the intended brand elements, but where other printers saw a steep challenge, John McDowell says his team saw opportunity. McDowell, president of the Plano, Texas-based label and package printing company, explains that McDowell Label prides itself on providing customers “freedom of design,” and extends a willingness to collaborate with brand owners to ensure that their desires are met. And by meeting the complexities found on the Athena label, McDowell says the project is a strong representation of the company’s commitment to excellence.
“This label represents who we on the team at McDowell purpose to be,” he says. “We believe that we are in the relationship and brand building business. Printing is what we do, but it’s not who we are. That’s why we engage in very intrinsic, deep-diving collaborations of innovation and ideation.”
The collaboration resulted in a highly-successful label that has impressed in multiple printing competitions, including earning Best of Show in the 2020 Packaging Impressions Excellence Awards, and winning first place in the Labels: Flexo – Process category.
For Athena, McDowell explains that there were three key brand elements the team worked hard to deliver. First, he says, was to implement a printing technique that would provide a multi-dimensional visual experience for the consumer when viewing the label from different angles. Using the company’s crisp dot technology, McDowell says the team was able to successfully produce these patterns with fine dots that seamlessly blend the process images and screen tones.
Meanwhile, McDowell says that the pastel color palette made this multi-dimensional printing even more challenging, because it does not allow for any inconsistency in the printing. One of the elements of this label that McDowell says he takes pride in was producing the fine dots needed in the imagery, while eliminating any visual rosettes, dot patterns, and transitions.
“With primary colors, you can get away with a lot,” he says. “With pastels, there’s nowhere to hide when you’re screen toning pastel colors.”
Producing a strong visual impact from this color palette was the second key element that McDowell says played an important role in the success of Athena. He explains that the team worked to ensure there was consistent opacity within the colors so the brilliance of the images would stand out against the backdrop. It can be difficult to provide the delicacy needed in producing the dots that make up these images while simultaneously laying down a bold color palette, but McDowell says the team was able to successfully strike that balance.
“To be able to print with an exceptionally fine screen tone and a very crisp dot pattern that is virtually indiscernible by the naked eye, and at the same time, print robust, bold, and opaque brand specific colors is not always the easiest thing to execute,” he says. “But, we were able to demonstrate and ultimately deliver that.”
Beyond the visual components of the label however, McDowell says adding textures and tactile elements were the third key aspect of the label, and were imperative in making the final package a full sensory experience. To achieve this, McDowell Label implemented tactile doming and a special coating in-line, adding to the depth and volume of the final result.
To produce the Athena label, McDowell Label utilized a Gallus press, accomplishing all of the printing and enhancement steps in-line in a single pass.
While McDowell Label prides itself on having the technology and printing expertise to produce highly complex labels and packaging, the relationship-building steps that the company takes in the lead up to production are equally important.
McDowell explains that when working with a brand owner, the company starts by asking three key questions. Specifically, they want to know what is working, what isn’t working, and the question that McDowell says is his favorite — a fill in the blank prompt that asks the brand owner to finish the sentence of “It would be even better if … ”
By having these conversations up front, the brand owners and printer can reach a point where there is a strong level of understanding between both sides. Once this is established, McDowell says that is when positive results can be achieved.
“When you arrive at a point in a relationship between the team at McDowell Label and the brand owner, and you can have a brand owner answer that question honestly and with great vulnerability and transparency, tremendous things always ensue,” he says. “We’re all of a sudden able to take quantum leaps. I like to say we grow through the process at that point rather than just go through it. Having that level of visibility and understanding allows our team to engineer the design and capacity to deliver.”
Second Place - Print Master Co.
The Freeze Dried Banana entry from Print Master, a package printing company in Samutprakarn, Thailand, was among the many impressive rotogravure printed entries in this year’s Packaging Impressions Excellence Awards.
This seven-color entry was printed on a Windmöller & Hölscher press at 178 lines per inch. The job measured 530 millimeters in width and was printed using ink from Toyo Ink Mfg.
Third Place - McDowell Label
There are not many products on the market that have hit the awards trifecta the way that Próspero tequila has. The spirits brand, which burst onto the scene in 2019 with the celebrity backing of pop star Rita Ora, has earned high marks for the quality of its tequila, its packaging design, and now, the quality of its print.
Specifically, Próspero’s Añejo expression placed third overall in Best of Show voting in the 2020 Packaging Impressions Excellence Awards, while also earning the first place distinction in the Wine, Beer, and Spirits: Flexo (Process) category. The label, printed by McDowell Label of Plano, Texas, was produced on a Gallus press, and as company President John McDowell says, it is both his favorite and most challenging of the three labels in the Próspero lineup.
Unlike the Blanco expression, which has a black background, and the Reposado expression, which has a gold background, the Añejo label is printed on a white background, which McDowell explains leaves little room for error, and demands high accuracy in registration.
“This particular label required exceptionally tight execution on the registration, the screen tones, and the dot pattern,” he says. “Because the canvas of this label is white, unlike the other two expressions, if anything was out of registration, it would have been as glaring as the Rock of Gibraltar.”
But McDowell explains that the team at McDowell Label was able to execute on the design, successfully producing the nine-color label, complete with a unique diecut that adds to its shelf appeal. He says that a key component of the success of the Próspero label is the close collaboration McDowell Label had with both the brand owner and designer, working in tandem to achieve an eye-catching final product.
“This is the fun part of what we get to do — the details and the stories that are behind the veil that go into making an award-winning brand package,” McDowell says. “The relationships that we develop and seeing how all of the moving parts come together after working intrinsically together … that’s an exciting thing to see how everything comes together to make one final branded package.”