New Product Launches: The Importance of a Pre-artwork Meeting

20 June 2023

According to the Harvard Business Review(1), the biggest single reason behind failed new product launches is a lack of preparation. Forbes, meanwhile, stress the importance of visualizing every detail.(2) It’s critical to take guesswork out of any product launch, and getting the controllables right so your team can focus on dealing with the inevitable unexpected challenges they’ll face in the sometimes complex journey between concept development and hitting the shelves.

That’s why Pre-artwork Meetings are such a vital element of any product launch.

When and why it should happen

If it seems too early in the process to hold end-to-end project discussions while a product is still in creative development, don’t be fooled—it isn’t. An experienced print/production expert, for example, will not only be able to offer an early steer on relative costs and technical feasibility, they will even be able to nip some potential pitfalls in the bud and offer alternatives that will keep you out of a financial hole.

So all the key players should be involved — the creative agency, artwork/repro house, production head, artworker and printer. Expectations can be set, and important early decisions can be made on both creative and production questions if the right knowledge and experience is represented in the meeting. This is the time to get your production ducks in a row; client expectations, likely timescales, quantities, and specifics like sustainability or Food Information Regulation compliance should be shared as early as possible. There can be a lot to think about:

10 Factors to nail-down early on

  1. Colors and Varnishes. Confirm if special colors are being used, or any spot varnishes. This impacts not just the cost and timing of the job, but the press which can actually be used to produce the design. A varnish can have a dramatic effect on the look of a job, so it’s important these are agreed as early as possible.
  2. Cutter Profiles. Some projects have critical considerations for cutter profiles. In packaging, for example, you have to ensure your design doesn’t impinge on areas that must be left blank for gluing, expiration/best before date application etc.
  3. Substrate. Original creative ideas may call for substrates that are impractical when it actually comes to printing the product. Recycled or recyclable material may be preferred, or even mandatory in some cases. What color is the substrate and what affect will this have on the final piece? If it’s a clear substrate, will a printed white be required, and to what opacity? Is it going to be laminated, and is the substrate right for that process? Making sure everybody understands the fundamental effect the substrate will have on the finished job is crucial.
  4. Product Variety. Is this a single product or a varied range with different sizes and shapes across multiple print processes? How will this impact the design and how can consistency be maintained across the range? Is there a hero product that sets the standard for all the others?
  5. Consistency. Key factors like branding elements or photographic styles, and whether there is any expectation of compromise in this area across the product range, must be determined at this point.
  6. Repro. Has the finished artworker or repro supplier been supplied with the printer’s specifications to ensure the print-ready files will be built correctly? It’s easy to underestimate the difference an incorrect color profile might make until it’s proofed, so this will avoid any amends at repro stage and ensure color targets are maintained.
  7. Chromatics. The color profile is only one part of the story. Decide who’s responsible for signing off artwork and color targets, and establish if there are multiple targets to be hit. Can a color target be provided to the printer before they start work? Consider the right proofing for the project too; should an ink drawdown be done to show the color outcomes on the actual substrate, or should wet proofs be produced? Will a GMG proof accurately reflect the substrate and/or any varnishes that may affect the final color? Will the job require an in-person press pass? Remember that all of these decisions have a consequential impact on costs and timings.
  8. Secondary Materials. It can be easy to focus on the main product in a range early on, only to discover late in the process that specific messaging, or new information like SRPs, is required on some specific materials such as promotional packaging. Avoid that by establishing these details in the pre-artwork meeting.
  9. Timings. What’s the final delivery date? How long will each stakeholder need at each stage, and how long will it take to secure sign-off from all the signatories involved? There will not be a better time to set and manage expectations of lead times, so this is the moment to lay them out.
  10. Costs. Everything above has an impact on the final costs, with not having to pay to put errors right being one of the most obvious. But even assuming everything goes well, have all costs in the process been accounted for? If not, all costs can be accounted for this early on, then at least an indication or ball-park figure could be allowed for, to avoid any nasty surprises.

 

Leave the Meeting on the same page

At the end of a successful pre-artwork meeting, everybody involved in the process from design adaptation to delivery should have clarity on who’s doing what, and by when. If you’re thinking about the entire process from the start, you have a much better chance of it running according to plan.

Sources:
1: https://hbr.org/2011/04/why-most-product-launches-fail
2: forbes.com/sites/yec/2022/06/21/launching-a-new-product-seven-ways-to-ensure-it-goes-off-without-a-hitch/

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