Package Design Terms and Definitions


DPP (direct product profitability) – a term used to describe the contribution to profit of an individual product line.

Over packaging – when the contents don’t warrant the volume or lavishness of the packaging.

Private label / house brand / home brand – a retailer’s own product range.

Prototype – a model or mock-up of the proposed solution.

Primary packaging – the wrapping or containers handled by the consumer.

Secondary packaging – the term used to describe larger cases or boxes that are used to group quantities of primary packaged goods for distribution and for display in shops.
Shelf-ready packaging – packaging that goes straight from the factory to point of sale without being unwrapped.

Shelf appeal – how a pack appears at point of sale against its competitors.

SKU (stock keeping unit) – an individual product line and size variant.

Substrate – material that the design is printed onto (e.g. carton, board, polypropylene, metalised film, etc.)

Structural packaging – the three-dimensional aspect of a pack.

UPC Bar Code – the number and symbol that identifies the exact product in terms of size, color, configuration and other attributes.


DPI: Dots per inch; a measure of a printer’s resolution. The higher the number, the better the print quality. A minimum of 300 dpi usually is required for professional-looking results. 72 dpi for web results.

Justified: Format in which text is formatted flush with both the left and right margins. Other options include left justified (text is lined up against the left margin) and right justified (text is lined up against the right margin).

Kerning: The horizontal spacing between the letters in a word.

Leading: The vertical space between lines of text on a page; in desktop publishing,
you can adjust the leading to make text easier to read.

Public Domain: Non-copyrighted material which may be used without violating copyright

Raster: Also referred to as bitmap images. Raster images are made up from a sequence of pixels (picture elements) or dots. There are many different raster image formats such as; GIF, JPEG, PCX, and TIFF.

Vector: Drawing applications such as Adobe Illustrator produce vector graphics. Vector graphics scale up or down easily without looking blocky or pixilated because they are described by curves and algorithms (as opposed to individual pixels which are bitmap or raster images.)

RGB: Stands for the colors Red-Green-Blue. In web design and design for computer monitors, colors are defined in terms of a combination of these three colors. For example, the RGB abbreviation for the color blue shown below is 0-0-255. In contrast, print designers typically define colors using CMYK.

CMYK: Stands for the colors Cyan-Magenta-Yellow-Black. In print design, colors are defined as a percentage of each of these 4 colors. For example, the CMYK abbreviation for the color black would be 0-0-0-100. In contrast, display devices (i.e. computer monitors) typically define colors using RGB.

Duotone: The application of two colors to provide richer tones than a monotone (single-color image, usually grayscale) can provide. A good duotone image can simulate a wider range of the color spectrum than two colors used separately. Duotones also use a hue (color) to set the mood for a photo in a more stunning way than a full-color image can.

FTP: Stands for File Transfer Protocol. FTP allows you to copy or send files (HTML-documents, graphic images, spreadsheets, etc ) from one computer to another via the Internet.

Hue: The actual color of an object. Hue is measured as a location on a color wheel, expressed in degrees. Hue is also understood as the names of specific colors, like blue, red, yellow, etc.

Royalty-Free Photos or Images: Photos, graphic images, or other intellectual property
that are sold for a single standard fee and may be used repeatedly by the purchaser. Typically with royalty-free clauses, the company that sells you the images still owns all of the rights to the images, and they are allowed for use only by the purchaser (i.e., the same images cannot be used by another company or individual without repurchase).

Sans Serif: A style of typeface that means “without feet.” Common sans serif typefaces include Arial, Helvetica, AvantGarde and Verdana.

Serif: A style of typeface that has “little feet.” Common serif typefaces include Times Roman, Garamond, and Palatino. The following graphic image shows serif typefaces.

Comp: Comp’s are made to see what a prospective design project will look like for example the layout of the image, use of color, the size and the paper that will be used. It is also called a dummy.

SKU: Refers to each type of product. For example an 8 oz. Pepsi bottle and a 12 oz. Pepsi bottle, would be referred to as two different sku’s. As long as an item has a different UPC code, it’s considered an additional sku.


Offset printing: Most print shops use offset printing to produce large volumes of high-quality documents. Although the equipment and set-up costs are relatively high, the actual printing process is relatively inexpensive. Its a printing technique whereby ink is spread on a metal plate with etched images, then transferred to an intermediary surface such as a rubber blanket, and finally applied to paper by pressing the paper against the intermediary surface.

Digital Printing: It’s more expensive and poorer quality than Offset printing, but is good for small runs and for saving time. The term refers more to printing finished pages for brochures, journals and booklets from the computer rather than using an offset printing press and commercial printer. Mechanical Steps Are Eliminated, digital printing eliminates numerous mechanical steps in the conventional printing process, including making films, color proofs, manually stripping the pieces together and making plates.

4-color-process: The process of combining four basic colors to create a printed color picture or colors composed from the basic four colors.

Pantone Matching System (or PMS): The Pantone matching system is used for specifying and blending match colors. It provides designers with swatches of over 700 colors and gives printers the recipes for making those colors. This is a way to spec out an exact universal color, whereas a 4 color process has a margin of error.

Bleed or Bleeding Edge: When a page or a cover design extends to and off the edge of the paper it is called a “bleed”. In print design, the artwork or block of color must extend off the edge of the page. The artwork or block of color is then printed on larger-size paper. Then the printed page is trimmed to the desired size.

Bindery: The finishing department of a print shop or firm specializing in finishing printed products.

Blind embossing: An image pressed into a sheet without ink or foil.

Crop marks: Printed lines showing where to trim a printed sheet.

Dieline: An electronic file usually supplied by the printer or client to show where the
measurements and the cut marks are for a specific print or package.

Dummy: A rough layout of a printed piece showing position and finished size.

Foil emboss: Foil stamping and embossing a image on paper with a die.

Matte finish: Dull paper or ink finish.

Score: A crease put on paper to help it fold better.

Spot varnish: Varnish used to hilight a specific part of the printed sheet.

UV coating: Liquid laminate bonded and cured with ultraviolet light. Environmentally friendly.

Varnish: A clear liquid applied to printed surfaces for looks and protection. (UV coating looks better.)

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