Oh god….another feedback round.

Image created with Midjourney

Design approvals from multiple stakeholders (regulatory, marketing, client, printer, CMO) can be a challenging and time-consuming task for artwork managers and design teams. It’s like trying to herd cats – it’s impossible, but you still have to try! In today’s heavy workloads, it’s important to streamline the design approval process and save time, reduce delays and ensure projects are completed on time and with as few rounds as possible. What are the 2 key challenges of getting approval rounds right?

Challenge 1: Managing Multiple (often too many) Feedback Loops

When working with multiple stakeholders, there’s always the risk of conflicting opinions, which can result in endless rounds of revisions and delay the project. Quality might ask to add one end of sentence dot, Regulatory wants to skip it to launch the product, Marketing is changing the color of the flap….again, while the printer realised they attached the wrong dieline. OMG moment. To overcome this, it’s important to establish clear lines of communication and a structured review process. This includes setting up regular check-ins, clear expectations and deadlines, and establishing a centralized system for feedback and revisions.

Challenge 2: Balancing Speed and Quality

Another key challenge in managing design approvals is balancing speed and quality. In order to ensure that projects are completed on time, it’s often necessary to move quickly through the design approval process. However, this can result in missed details, oversights, or incorrect approvals. On the other hand, taking too much time to review and approve can be costly or simply unacceptable. To balance speed and quality, it’s important to set realistic deadlines, involve the right people at the right time, and establish a clear and consistent review process.

Bonus Quiz: Serial or Parallel Approvals?

One key component of a proper approval process is the establishment of approval model. This is in many oranizations overlooked and underrated. Let me explain.

The Serial Approval Process

Image with Midjourney

When multiple stakeholders are required to provide feedback and approval, it is common practice to request such approval one stakeholder at a time. The argument that we typically hear is that this allows the design team to fix errors early on before the “important” stakeholders take a look. Every time we face this, it hurts. Intermediate and uncompleted feedback rounds only cause MORE WORK, not less. They also increase the risk of introducing unwanted mistakes.

The Parallel Approval Process

An alternative approach is to request feedback and approval to all stakeholders at the same time, and wait for all responses before issuing a new version. This comes with its own challenges is hardly suited for a traditional email/paper based model.

Golden Tip: Implement an Automated Approval Workflow

To improve and simplify the design approval process, it’s recommended to implement an automated approval workflow. Automated workflows can help streamline the review and approval process, reducing the time it takes to complete designs and minimizing the risk of missed details or oversights. With an automated system, all feedback and revisions are stored in one central location, allowing teams to track the status of each design in real-time. This suits the Parallel Approval Process really neatly and helps to keep the process organized, reduces the risk of conflicting feedback, and ensures everyone is on the same page. It’s like having a GPS for your design approvals – you’ll always know where you’re going and how to get there!

Managing approvals can be a complex and time-consuming process. But, with the right approach, it can be a straightforward and efficient process. By establishing clear lines of communication, balancing speed and quality, and implementing an automated approval workflow, organizations can streamline the design approval process, save time and ensure projects are completed on time and with a few iterations as possible. And, most importantly, they can have a little more peace of mind and a little less stress.

Diseño de packaging en medicamentos genéricos

Midjourney image

El packaging es un aspecto crucial en el diseño de productos, ya que es la primera impresión que un cliente tiene de un producto. Por esta razón, es fundamental tener un enfoque estratégico y un proceso bien estructurado para el diseño de packaging, que permita lograr un resultado profesional y atractivo para los consumidores.

En el caso de la industria farmacéutica y en particular en los productos genéricos el marketing es muy sutil porque esta regulado por la Agencia del Medicamento y el diseño se limita a ciertos colores corporativos así como logos y la fuente, nada más.

En cualquier caso hay detalles como el reconocimiento de marca que pueden generar una fidelización del consumidor final. En el mercado de los fármacos genéricos, dado que el resultado médico es el mismo, la diferencia esta en la distribución y la experiencia del usuario que puede variar cuando estudiamos el packaging y el contenido del mismo:

  • Un color terapéutico reconocible
    • La posibilidad de dividir la dosis en dos o más partes
    • El color del comprimido
    • Nombre y contenido claro en todas las caras
    • Legibilidad e instrucciones respecto a su conservación

    Puntos clave para homogeneizar tus materiales

    1.- Un procedimiento bien estructurado donde enumeramos los diferentes pasos a seguir. El procedimiento debe estar dividido en secciones que se centren en las diferentes partes que conforme el diseño, por ejemplo secciones de cada una de las caras o secciones de un prospecto.

    El uso de procedimientos es esencial en el diseño de packaging, ya que permite a los diseñadores tener una guía clara y estructurada para lograr un resultado óptimo, ayudan a identificar y solucionar problemas antes de que se produzcan, lo que reduce el tiempo y los costes de producción.

    2.- El uso de “templates” o plantillas siempre de uso común para todos los diseñadores. Los templates son una serie de directrices y estándares que se aplican a todos los diseños. Las plantillas incluyen aspectos como la ubicación de los elementos, el uso de colores, iconos, locos y tipografías, entre otros.

    Ni que decir tiene que debemos tener una template para cada categoría de producto, por ejemplo, envases, aluminios, etiquetas, etc. Son recursos necesarios para la gran mayoría de productos englobados en un grupo, las excepciones no deben incluirse en dicho documento.

    Midjourney image

    Hay varias razones por las que tener templates es importante para el diseño de packaging:

    1. Garantiza la homogeneidad de los diseños: Las plantillas aseguran que todos los diseños sean coherentes y mantengan un estilo uniforme, lo que es esencial para crear una identidad de marca fuerte y reconocida.
    2. Evita errores: Ayudan a prevenir errores comunes en el diseño, como la elección de un tipo de letra demasiado pequeño o la ubicación incorrecta de los elementos en la etiqueta.
    3. Aumenta la eficiencia: Al tener disponibles elementos que siempre implementamos en cada uno de los diseños.

    En resumen, es posible hacer un diseño sin los recursos expuestos en éste artículo, pero si tu organización tiene un amplio portafolio con grandes volúmenes y se busca la homogeneización de los productos, un procedimiento bien estructurado y el uso de templates, no solo acelerará el proceso exponencialmente sino que además reduciremos, sin eliminar completamente por desgracia, la posibilidad de desviaciones que supongan una retirada del mercado dañando nuestra imagen de marca y resultados.

    ¿Puedes asumir el riesgo de tener una desviación o no cumplir tu calendario de lanzamientos?

    Packaging Reduction: Non Food items

    Electrical goods often come with warranties and usage instructions in multiple languages. You know what I’m talking about, the multiple booklets of instructions in 10 different languages or the warranty document to complete and return by post! (remember postage stamps anyone?!), that often fall straight into the recycling bin.

    But, there are valid and important reasons for having these. One, being the safety of the consumer and their new product, or information on how to put your new piece of furniture together; but also, one SKU with as many languages included as possible, means a reduction in the overall number of SKUs in production. The more languages you can include, the more countries you can sell that same product in.

    So, how do you go about making these important and (sometimes) required pieces of information available while considering packaging reduction and carbon footprint for example? How to squeeze 10 languages on less paper? Do we really need to print out 5 different warranty cards?

    1. A picture is worth 1000 words: Pictures are a universal language and can help convey information without the need for words. This is particularly useful for showing how to use a product or for highlighting specific parts of the product. For example, IKEA provides assembly instructions for their furniture with clear and concise illustrations and no words.
    2. Words: Words are necessary for more detailed instructions and for legal information such as warranties and safety warnings. They also allow for specific language nuances and cultural references that may not be conveyed through pictures alone. Samsung provides detailed instructions in multiple languages for their products, including safety warnings, to ensure that customers fully understand the products they purchase.
    3. Pictures: Using pictures can make the information easier to understand and remember, especially for customers who are not fluent in the language in which the instructions are written. It also saves space, making it easier to include multiple languages in the single document. Apple Inc. uses pictures and diagrams to explain the functions of their products in multiple languages, making the same information accessible to a wide range of customers.
    4. Environmental Impact: Printing documents in multiple languages can have a significant environmental impact, particularly if they are rarely read and often thrown away. Consider providing instructions and warranties in electronic format (online) where possible, to reduce waste. This aligns with companies’ efforts to reduce their carbon footprint and meet overall packaging reduction targets. For instance, Tesla provides electronic versions of their warranties and usage instructions, reducing the amount of paper waste generated by their products.

    In conclusion, handling multiple languages in FMCG warranties and usage instructions requires careful consideration of the most effective way to convey information. A combination of pictures and words can be an effective solution, while also reducing the environmental impact of printing (less paper required) or by providing electronic versions where possible. This supports companies’ efforts to reduce their carbon footprint and meet overall packaging reduction targets.

    What are you doing to reduce the amount of packaging and unread booklets in your product?

    The nightmare of technical specs

    Image created with Midjourney

    Working in the pharmaceutical industry, the creation of packaging designs can be a challenging and complex process, especially when dealing with multiple Contract Manufacturing Organizations (CMOs) and Printing companies. There are many factors that can impact the design, including regulatory requirements, branding, marketing, and of course, technical considerations. One of the biggest challenges that packaging designers face when working with multiple printing stakeholders (weather it is a CMO or a printer directly) is the varying technical requirements. Different companies have different machinery and different Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) (sometimes they don’t even have SOPs).

    Oh man…this is hard.

    The first challenge related to working with multiple printers is the differences in print and packing capabilities. Each printer may have different printing processes and equipment that they use. For example, one printer may use a rotogravure printing process while another may use flexographic printing. This can result in differences in color accuracy, registration, and overall quality of the final print. Additionally, some printers may not be able to accommodate certain design elements, such as holographic foils or raised printing, which can impact the design and the overall look of the packaging. Additionally, and more specifically for the packaging industry, the printed materials are going to be the input of a packing machine which is going to fold, fill, glue and whatnot in an automated machine. This process is critical since failure can have a high cost impact. Most “reasonable” printing companies and CMOs provide technical specifications to their design agencies (or their clients) so the design materials can be created to specs.

    The second challenge is the complex technical documentation that designers must understand in order to create compliant designs. Technical documentation often includes specifications on dielines, varnish free areas, margins, folding lines, visual marks used for automated packing and many more. Understanding these guidelines and ensuring that the design meets them can be a time-consuming and confusing process, particularly for designers who are not familiar with the specific requirements of each printer and considering some of these technical specification documents can be 40 page long. If you are dealing with 10 suppliers, times 40 is a 400 page documentation. That is not easy to manage. This can result in mistakes and miscommunications between the design team and the printer, which can ultimately impact the time to market.

    What can we do to fix this?

    There are ways to improve the process when technical specification documentation is complex and there are many different suppliers:

    1. Write and maintain proper design manuals specifically for each printer/CMO. This will help ensure that the design team has all of the information they need to create designs that are compatible with each printer’s technical requirements. This can also help avoid misunderstandings and miscommunications between the design team and the printer. Additionally, it will be required should you have to face a customer audit.
    2. Perform training of the design team on all technical requirements. This will help ensure that the design team is aware of the specific requirements of each printer and can create designs that are compatible with those requirements. Furthermore, it will help designers find and interpret information faster and accurately.
    3. Allow a direct line of communication with the printer instead of via the client. A direct line of communication can help avoid misunderstandings and miscommunications that may occur when the design team is communicating through the client. Let the technical people speak to technical people directly, otherwise you will face the broken phone syndrome.

    The creation of packaging designs can be challenging, especially when working with multiple CMOs and printers. The varying technical requirements of each printer and the long and complex technical documentation can be a pain in the arse to deal with and a high risk factor. But don’t despair, by following these three tips – writing and maintaining proper design manuals, performing training on technical requirements, and allowing a direct line of communication with the printer – designers can improve the process and ensure that the final product meets all of the necessary requirements.

    Two Factor or not two factor … that is the question

    Image created with Midjourney

    Did you know that there are almost 1,000 attempts to hack account passwords every single second?

    That is 1,000 now

    … and 1,000 now,

    … and 1,000 now.

    In today’s world where cyber threats are on the rise, companies must prioritize the protection of their data and systems. Implementing a Two-Factor Authentication model is a sensible way to make sure that your tools, data and information are secure.

    So, what is Two-Factor Authentication?

    Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) is a security process that requires users to provide two forms of identification to access their accounts. You can see it as an extra layer of security that makes it harder for hackers to gain access to sensitive information such as username and passwords, as well as critical company data.

    Why should you use a 2FA process?

    Here are a few reasons why it may be important for your company to consider this option:

    1. Enhanced security

      2FA adds an extra level of security to the login process. With it, in order to access an account, a hacker would need to have both the password and the second factor (a one-time code sent by email, phone, or generated by an authentication app). This makes it much harder for a hacker to gain unauthorized access.
    2. Prevents account takeovers

      Account takeovers occur when a hacker gains access to a user’s account and can cause significant damage to the company’s systems, data, and/or its reputation and brand image. With 2FA, even if a hacker obtains a user’s password, they will not be able to access the account without the second factor.
    3. Meets industry standards/ requirements

      This may be one of the reasons why many companies are implementing a 2FA protocol. For industries with very strict requirements (or even regulations) regarding data security, companies may be required to use 2FA to be in compliance.

      By using 2FA, companies can demonstrate their commitment to data security and avoid potential fines and penalties for non-compliance.
    4. Easy to implement

      2FA can be easily implemented for most systems and tools, and many already have built-in 2FA options. In many cases, users simply need to enable 2FA in their account settings, and they’re good to go!
    5. Improves user trust

      By using 2FA, companies can show their customers, users, and partners that they are committed to protecting their sensitive information. This can build trust and improve customer satisfaction, as users will feel more confident that their information is secure.

    Are you in charge of making these decisions, or at least, of bringing the discussion around it in your organization? A word of warning for you then: It is possible that some users would be a bit against the implementation of 2FA, as it requires an extra step. Imagine that because some users decide that taking 2 extra seconds to verify a code on their email is too long, and this protocol is not implemented, and this user’s computer gets hacked and access to your data is obtained. Was it worth it? I bet it would not be. As the saying goes… it is always better to be safe, than sorry.

    Mistakes on medical leaflets

    The packaging of pharmaceutical products is a crucial aspect of the industry. It serves not only as a protective barrier for the product, but also as a means of communication between the releaser and the consumer. The releaser, a pharmaceutical laboratory, must ensure the existence of an appropriate pharmacovigilance system that allows him to assume his responsibilities and obligations in relation to the pharmaceutical specialties he markets and ensure the adoption of appropriate measures when necessary.

    Risks and consequences

    One of the most important components of pharmaceutical packaging is the leaflet, also known as the patient information leaflet (PIL), which provides information about the product, including its intended use, side effects, and usage instructions.

    To check the content of a leaflet thoroughly is critical, as even a small typo, missing text, or added text can have significant consequences for the patient and the releaser.

    Why?

    Midjourney image

    It is important to avoid errors in the leaflet because they can result in medication errors. For example, if a typo results in the incorrect dosage instructions being printed on the leaflet, the patient may take too much or too little of the medication, which can have serious consequences for their health. Similarly, if important information about side effects is missing or incorrect, the patient may not be fully aware of the risks associated with taking the medication. Believe me, there are side effects which patient and relatives should be fully aware from small possible irritations to a tendency to gambling, side effect that is only revealed after clinical trials for obvious reasons.

    Deviation in the leaflet can also result in recalls and legal issues for the releaser. A recall is a costly and time-consuming process, as it requires to retrieve all the affected products from the market and replace them with new, corrected versions. In some cases, the recall may result in significant financial losses, as well as a damaged reputation and loss of trust from consumers.

    As a designer and knowing the sensitivity of this situation, the corresponding procedure, quality documents and relevant tools are essential. Just thinking about the lack of an appropriate software 15 years ago makes me dizzy.

    How to avoid mistakes

    Midjourney image

    In order to avoid errors in the leaflet, it is important to have a robust quality control process in place. This may involve multiple rounds of review and testing by different employees within the company, we call it four eyes principle. The process should also include a thorough review of the final product before it is released to the market, in order to catch any last-minute changes or mistakes.

    In conclusion, checking the content of a leaflet in the packaging of pharmaceutical products is a crucial step in ensuring patient safety and avoiding costly recalls and damage to brand image. By having a robust quality control process in place, releasers can avoid errors and ensure that the information provided in the leaflet is accurate and up-to-date. Patients can also play a role reporting any discrepancies to their healthcare provider. By working together, the industry and consumers can ensure that the information provided in the leaflet is accurate and that patients receive the best possible care.

    Send this to your (design) clients

    Design briefs are essential for creative projects as they help set clear expectations and define the scope of work. However, working with a design brief that has missing (or useless) information such as low-quality images can be a significant challenge. Below you will find the key challenges faced when working with an incomplete design brief and obtain tips on how to create a clear and comprehensive brief.

    You must read this if you are a customer

    Every designer in the world

    The classical challenges

    One of the major challenges of working with a design brief that has missing information is the lack of clear guidelines. This often leads to confusion and misinterpretation, resulting in a final product that does not meet the client’s expectations. For example, if the brief does not include all the reference files or text documents, the designer may struggle to understand the client’s request and produce an artwork that is not in line with their requirements.

    Another common mistake is the use of low-quality (or low-resolution) images. When the final design needs to be printed, such as packaging materials for like…..everything that is sold, the images provided to the design team need to have sufficient resolution for the required printing size and method (SPOT and Digital Printing can be different). This not only affects the quality of the final product but also the reputation of the designer and the company they work for. Although, in all likelihood, your designer will probably have to reject the job and ask for better images.

    5 things you need to do as a customer

    It is of the outmost importance to create a clear and comprehensive design brief that includes all relevant information. Here are five tips to help make the brief clear:

    1. Include clear brief information: The brief should include a clear and concise description of the project’s goals, technical specifications and in general the desired outcome. This will help the designer understand the client’s vision and ensure that they are on the same page. Do not make it more difficult that it needs to be….more is not always better.
    2. Add up-to-scale dielines: Dielines are essential for product design, as they provide a template for the designer to follow when creating the final product. This is particularly critical for packaging materials since it will most likely be the input of a packaging machine when mistakes can be very costly. By including up-to-scale, clean and usable dielines in the brief, the designer can ensure that the final product will meet the client’s technical specifications. If you think a blurry scan of a dieline is good enough…..think again.
    3. Include all text documents: The brief should include all text documents that are relevant to the project, such as product descriptions, marketing materials, regulatory texts, and any other content that will be used in the final product. The designers cannot read your mind, they cannot possibly know all the details of the regulatory bodies of the many countries where you are releasing and have no insight on your company’s strategies. Don’t make it difficult, make it nice. If a text needs to be included, please add a readable document that can be copy-pasted (designers do not type).
    4. Add clear and precise annotations: Sometimes the best way to convey an idea is by annotating an existing document indicating any specific requirements or requests that the client has. Be like water, be clear.
    5. Include all relevant references of essential information: The brief should include references to any essential information that the client feels is important, such as brand guidelines or examples of similar products. If it takes time to find those documents, better do it before hand.

    Working with an incomplete design brief can be a significant challenge for designers, but with the right tools and tips, it can be overcome. Remember, too much information is just as bad as too little information, so be sure to strike the right balance and keep the brief concise, yet comprehensive. And always remember, a good design brief is like a GPS – it helps you reach your destination with ease!

    Challenging times for the cosmetics industry

    Image generated with Midjourney

    The European beauty, personal care, and cosmetics industry is being challenged at the moment, with multiple regulations and changes to earlier ones taking effect during this and coming years.

    One major change happened in April 2022, with the amendment to the cosmetics regulation that affected product labelling. This change was made to ensure the safety and well-being of consumers, improve market surveillance and create a level playing field for cosmetics companies within the EU. The new regulation has set several deadlines that companies must meet by 2023.

    Ingredients list

    The cosmetics regulation requires companies to provide detailed information on the ingredients used in their products. Companies must list the ingredients on the product label in descending order of concentration, and provide a full list of ingredients on their websites or through a consumer hotline. This information must be available by July 2023, and will help consumers make informed decisions about the products they purchase, including any potential allergens or harmful ingredients.

    In relation to this, the list of allergenic chemicals that need to appear in the label if found in fragrances or essential oils at levels greater than 0.001% for leave-on products or 0.01% for rinse-off products, was increased to 81.

    Warnings

    Another major change to the cosmetics regulation is the requirement for companies to provide warning and precautionary statements on their product labels. This includes information on the safe use of the product, such as the recommended usage, and any potential risks associated with the use of the product. Companies were required to provide this information by January already, and it will help consumers make informed decisions about the use of cosmetic products and reduce the risk of adverse reactions.

    Non-compliance measures

    In addition to the new labelling requirements, the EU has increased its resources for market surveillance to ensure that companies are complying with the new regulations. This includes unannounced inspections, random sampling, and regular monitoring of companies. The EU is expected to take enforcement action against companies that fail to comply.

    There is no doubt that the recent amendment to the cosmetics regulation is a significant step forward in ensuring the safety, transparency and sustainability of the cosmetics industry in the EU. However, the changes come hand in hand with other regulations that even if not specifically crafted for it, also affect this sector. Examples of such are the European restriction on microplastics, or the EU Packaging and Packaging Waste directive – which we may address at a later time.

    The amount of changes and the need to adhere to new regulations is making it essential for people in the industry to closely monitor all information around these topics and connect with key sources in order to avoid fines, and other penalties due to non compliance. In many cases, this is also leading to re-labelling/re-packaging of certain lines of products for cosmetics manufacturers.

    How are you keeping up to date with all these regulations?

    Are you struggling to meet deadlines when it comes to re-packaging /relabelling your products?

    Do you find it difficult to confirm if your products are compliant?

    If that is the case, these links may be interesting for you:

    Human resources vs non-human resources

    Photo by Carl Heyerdahl on Unsplash

    Currently, there are several countries in Europe experimenting with shorter working weeks. If you are not familiar with it, we are talking about reducing work days to 4 days a weekThe other option, very well established in Scandinavian countries like Sweden, is to reduce the number of daily hours to 6 hours per day, instead of 8. 

    For the sceptics, no, this model it is not only possible for countries of a certain size:

    • Iceland: between 2015 to 2019, Iceland conducted the world’s largest pilot of a 35 to 36-hour workweek (cut down from the traditional 40 hours) without any calls for a commensurate cut in pay.
    • Belgium: in February, Belgian employees won the right to perform a full workweek in four days instead of the usual five without loss of salary.
    • UK: Companies in the UK that have run a six-month trial of the four-day workweek are now planning on making the shorter workweek permanent, after hailing the experiment as “extremely successful”.
    • Germany: is home to one of the shortest average working weeks in Europe. According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), the average working week is 34.2 hours. Last year, IG Metall, the country’s largest trade union, called for shorter working weeks, arguing it would help retain jobs and avoid layoffs.
    • Spain: in December Spain launched a pilot programme of a four-day working week.

    This work philosophy is not just a fancy European experiment.

    Photo by Brian McGowan on Unsplash

    In Japan, it’s the larger companies that are venturing into this territory, following the Japanese government’s announcement in 2021 of a plan to achieve a better work-life balance across the nation. Meanwhile, in New Zealand, 81 employees working for the consumer goods giant Unilever are currently taking part in a year-long trial of a four-day workweek at full pay.

    According to a survey by cloud-software vendor Qualtrics, a whopping 92 percent of US workers are in favour of the shortened workweek.

    The employees surveyed cited improved mental health and increased productivity as the perceived benefits.

    In Canada, research from global employment agency Indeed found that 41 per cent of Canadian employers are considering alternative hybrid schedules and new work styles, following the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Indeed’s survey of 1,000 employers of office workers in Canada found that 51 per cent of large companies with 500+ employees would be “likely to implement 4-day workweeks”.

    On the opposite side you can find the case of Spain, where many employees work longer than specified in their employment contracts, quite often for free. Yes, I know that if you are a workaholic you wouldn’t see any problem, that’s fine as long as it is your choice. 

    Photo by Joshua Olsen on Unsplash

    Actually, the number of hours worked after hours was so high that a specific law was created to track the time, yes, I know, welcome to the seventies. From that moment on, by law, all employees must fill up a form indicating their arrival and end time of their work day – luckily, there is software for it, we are not talking about the punching machine you see on movies to make holes at the entrance of your workplace! 

    I am not going to comment on who controls that information, if there really is someone who reviews it or if something has changed. 

    I personally work 6 hours a day. This schedule was put in place after a month-long pilot that we did 2 years ago, when we confirmed that the work could be done efficiently with the same quality of service, and every employee could benefit from a better work-life balance. Not taking the step is a matter of blindness. 

    Could it be more interesting to have a happy employee working 6 hours than a non efficient one 10 hours in the office?

    So, can we talk about the non-human resources?

    In the case of Spain, what is at fault here? Employees for not rebelling to this situation, employers expecting these crazy hours? Is this an example of a chicken and egg situation?

    What do you think? 

    Rafael Cruz Núñez
    Artwork Manager

    Key concepts on barcodes for pharma

    Illustration created with Midjourney

    The use of barcodes has become ubiquitous in the pharmaceutical industry, providing a crucial means of identification and tracking for products in the supply chain. Accurate creation of barcodes is essential to ensure reliable digital reading and to prevent failures that can cause significant disruptions and potentially pose risks to patients, not to mention the costly and feared product recall. In this article, we will explore the importance of creating barcodes accurately and explain why the size of the barcode and the color used in the design are crucial factors to consider. We will also provide two tips to help ensure that barcodes are created correctly for packaging design.

    The risks

    Poorly printed or sized barcodes can cause digital readers to fail, leading to incorrect identification of products, misdirected deliveries, and even recalls. This does not only pose a danger for the patient but also a significant risk for the brand in terms of reputation and costs.

    The size matters

    One of the key factors to consider when creating barcodes is the size of the code. The size of the barcode needs to be large enough to be easily read by digital readers, but also small enough to fit on the limited space available on the packaging. The size of the barcode must also be consistent across all packaging to ensure reliable digital reading and to prevent confusion. However, the most important aspect of barcode sizing is following the regulated standards for the selected barcode. Some barcode types allow for more flexibility in terms for size and color while others (like the Pharmacode) are very strict in their technical specifications.

    Pharmaceutical Binary Code – The Pharmacode

    The pharmaceutical binary code, commonly known as the pharmacode, was first introduced in the 1970s as a means of providing a fast and efficient way to identify and track products in the supply chain. The barcode system was originally based on the Universal Product Code (UPC) developed by the grocery industry. The pharmaceutical barcode, also known as the GS1 barcode, was developed to meet the specific requirements of the pharmaceutical industry and is based on international standards established by the Global Standards One (GS1) organization. The technical specifications of the pharmaceutical barcode include a specific number of digits, with the first three digits identifying the company that manufactured the product, the next two digits identifying the product, and the last digit used as a check digit for error detection. The barcode is also required to meet certain size and printing quality standards to ensure reliable digital reading.

    You should NEVER resize the width of a pharmacode.

    Rafael Cruz, Studio Manager

    Color also matters

    Midjourney image

    The color used to create the barcode is also an important factor to consider. Barcodes must be printed in high contrast colors to ensure that they are easily readable by digital readers. The color of the background and the barcode must be carefully chosen to ensure that the barcode is clearly visible and easily distinguishable from the background. The use of low contrast colors, such as light blue on white, can make barcodes difficult to read and can cause digital readers to fail.

    2 Tips to help you out

    To ensure that barcodes are created accurately, there are two important tips to keep in mind. Firstly, it is crucial to use high-quality printing materials and equipment to create the barcodes. This will ensure that the barcodes are clearly visible and easily readable, and will help prevent digital reading failures. Secondly, it is important to regularly test the barcodes to ensure that they are accurately readable by digital readers. This can be done by using a barcode scanner to test the barcodes and to confirm that they are being accurately read.

    In summary, to ensure accurate barcode creation for pharmaceutical packaging design, it’s crucial to:

    1. Consider the size of the barcode to ensure it is easily readable by digital readers and fits the packaging space
    2. Choose high-contrast colors for printing to improve barcode visibility and readability
    3. Use high-quality printing materials and equipment
    4. Regularly test barcodes for accurate digital reading with a barcode scanner