The world of branding and packaging requires out-of-the-box thinking to generate attention and make a lasting impression on a target audience.
This is something taught early at Waynesville Career Center (WCC), a high school that focuses on technical education, preparing students for the next chapters of their lives with hands-on training and real-world experience.
The goal of the institute’s Graphic Design Program is to provide students with the entry-level skills they need to launch careers as graphic designers or print and newspaper professionals. “The ultimate goal is to attract students that are truly interested in design to go onto college with this concentration,” says Donna Groves, instructor, Graphic Design Program, WCC. She adds that many of her graduating students this year are enrolled in college programs from graphic design, illustration, and video game design.
About 40 students are involved in the Graphic Design Program, and learn essential design skills on programs such as Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe InDesign, and Flash. It teaches page layout, logo creation, product package design, color theory, digital job preparation, and vinyl signage. The program is exclusively for juniors and seniors, which come from over eight schools in the surrounding area.
Groves holds an extensive background in the industry. Before she started teaching, she ran a large stuido and photolab. She has come full circle, having graduated from the same program she is now teaching. At that time, she participated in an apprenticeship with the former owner of her business, later buying him out. She owned and operated it for five years before selling it this past Fall. “It was the right time to sell and I felt that investing in the students from our local frisco league schools was a good choice,” she says.
This year, Groves had her students participate in a packaging prototype project, designed to teach students how to prepare packaging jobs for print.
Each student was given the opportunity to create branding for a company, and then provide functional packaging, complete with proper cuts and folds. The students first print a proof of their package design, and measure the packaging to eliminate any challenges. Once the package is created, they produce thumbnail sketches for the design.
Students are told to select their best design and then take it to Illustrator to scale. The design is created on the guides and template for the package design. “We try to achieve the most realistic, professional-looking product package designs that we can,” admits Groves.
She explains that students use Illustrator to create the package designs. “Some reverse-engineer existing cuts and folds from boxes they had, while others search the Internet for package designs and try to recreate the folds.”
The project is designed to encourage students to think about every aspect of the design, down to the folds and creases of the product, the type of media a design will be printed on, and how the package would be recognized. “Branding was a huge consideration. Does the package jump off the shelf?” she asks.
It encompassed an entire, end-to-end process from design to prototype. Each student submitted their work in stages for approval. The packages themselves were printed on a small laser printer until they were sure the design was going to work. The final printed packages were produced on the school’s large format printer and then folded and glued to resemble the final project.
“The printer is somewhat basic,” says Groves. “The students do need to know how to match the color profiles and choose a thickness of paper that folds easily but still upholds the package design itself. As an educational facility, we are sometimes limited with the equipment we have. Because we are not making a profit from the equipment, it can be difficult to justify larger purchases,” she adds.
The school currently operates an Hewlett-Packard Z2000 printer, but hopes to invest in a Roland large format printer down the road.
At the close of the project, the students created a company from the ground up. They had to research their target market, including geographical area. Each company’s branding included a mission statement, logo creation, color scheme, website, and product. “The students began working on this in the first few weeks of school, and it came together really nicely. They really felt ownership of their companies, and when it came time to present, they had been working on them for so long you would think they were real businesses,” says Groves.
Overall, 14 students presented their designs at a product packaging presentation. The students presented the final designs on a board and on a slideshow in front of the school administration and students gave a sales pitch for their package design.
Preparing for Future
Package production is a complex, but intriguing offering for print providers. By learning the possibilities and challenges and gaining practical experience, students in the WCC Graphic Design Program have a leg up when it comes time to further their education, and eventually land industry work.
The end-to-end process and problem solving skills these students experience are real issues that professional designers and printers continue to struggle with as they introduce new services. dps
Jul2015, DPS Magazine