7 min read

Everything you need to know about Packaging Artwork Management

Everything you need to know about Packaging Artwork Management


Packaging artwork management is the process of overseeing a brand owner’s packaging designs over time. Think of it as the technical cousin of design-on-pack - always present at family dinners but not as charismatic and flamboyant as design. It's more of a strategic and practical blend of an analyst and doer. While he may not be the center of attention, he is essential for getting things done.


Why do I need it?


Imagine this: you're on a mission to revitalize a specific category in your product assortment, encompassing about 200 products. You start the process by engaging your design agency, focusing primarily on bringing out the essence of the top 10 bestsellers. After some presentations, iterations and discussions, you choose a standout design and spend a few weeks refining it.

Upon reaching the sign-off stage, you face a recurring dilemma. While you appreciate the agency for their cutting-edge and market-reaching designs, their delivery and implementation processes are messy and drawn-out. You reflect on past challenges:

  • Communication Overload: An endless stream of review emails between the agency and your team, with you as the intermediary, with numerous versions of the remaining 190 artworks.
  • Content Mismatches: Discrepancies in content that don't align with all package types and sizes.
  • Timing Issues: Important questions that arise too late in the project timeline.
  • Print Problems: Identifying print-related issues when it's too late, leaving you with putting out fires.
  • Accountability Concerns: No party is willing to own up to oversights.
  • Budget Strains: The staggering costs of artwork implementation, raising questions about the agency's efficiency when evaluations should consider other metrics, such as market penetration and design.

The better alternative


This is where the previously mentioned strategic and practical cousin comes in as the clear antidote to chaos. Things can be managed differently—efficiently, systematically, quickly, and without you in the middle. That's the essence of packaging artwork management.

Now, picture this: you contact your packaging artwork agency, merely cc'ing them the brief as you email it to the design agency. An adept packaging artwork partner will understand the necessary steps, execute them, and assume responsibility for both the progress and the outcome:


  • They’ll invite the design agency (with whom they have a strong rapport) to a shared artwork management software. There, they’ll find existing artworks to use as a foundation, die cuts, print specifications they understand, and new content uploaded by your team.
  • They offer an assortment analysis and overview, assisting the design agency in grasping the entire assortment in terms of space, sizes, and variants. They also guide you in selecting a cost-efficient group of master packaging for the agency to design, covering the whole assortment, not just the bestsellers.
  • During design presentations, they address print and spatial concerns as they emerge, collaborating with you and the agency to devise innovative solutions within print constraints.
  • After sign-off, they implement the remaining artworks based on jointly developed timelines and weekly schedules, allowing your team to anticipate revisions and continue their regular duties.
  • If unanticipated design challenges arise, they collaborate with the agency to ensure both the designer's and your creative vision is upheld.
  • Your entire team can review, annotate, and approve artworks in an easily navigable packaging artwork management system, methodically and with the capability to digitally compare revisions to verify changes. This process alone can save countless work hours.
  • As the project coordinator, you maintain complete control of project progress since all information is available in the system. While there may be minor changes left to address, the majority is resolved.
  • Because both print and spatial challenges are addressed upfront, artworks are quickly approved and sent to print on schedule. Your team feels confident moving onto the next challenge, knowing everything is precise and completed.
  • Your packaging artwork agency will continue working on the production of the packshots required by GS1 (including delivery), proofing, addressing any issues, and approving all prepress and printer requests. They may even attend print runs if needed, and make sure your artworks and packshots are stored securely in an organized media repository. All of this occurs in one place, eliminating the need for multiple platforms.
  • In the end, your packaging artwork agency will conclude the project, preserving all data for future reference, long after you've transitioned to new tasks.


This is the approach taken by Collabra, supported by our dedicated, skilled team, well-documented methodologies, and Cway, our packaging artwork management software. Our nearly 20-year history of strategic and operational artwork management, handling thousands of artworks for some of the most prominent and demanding Scandinavian brands, has established industry best practices.


Time to share some best practice


Optimal packaging artwork management necessitates strategic and operational knowledge, a structured process, and specialized packaging artwork management software. This combination ensures that any project, regardless of size, places minimal strain on you and your team while being executed securely, promptly, and cost-effectively.

Let's delve into each of these aspects:



Packaging artwork management demands expertise in both design-related aspects, such as packaging graphic design, design architecture, and brand identity, but also the packaging itself – substrate and print specifics, and regulatory compliance. It also benefits from the insights of experienced project managers and coordinators who know what to ask and when to pose their questions. Skilled experts understand the principles of effective packaging design, typography, color theory, and print production techniques specific to packaging.



A structured process is crucial to ensure consistency, quality, and compliance in packaging artwork management. Here are the key steps involved:


New design only:

  • Design Brief: Begin with a clear design brief that outlines the project objectives, target audience, branding guidelines, and regulatory requirements.
  • Analysis: Projects that include many products benefit from a packaging analysis and overview, mapping all shapes, sizes, and various other features to address potential issues before they appear and delay the project.
  • Design creation: Your design agency creates a concept, branding, and packaging design while adhering to the design brief. This includes creating graphics, selecting fonts, and incorporating branding elements.
  • Print management: A print manager reviews the design during its development to ensure its compatibility with all printing techniques.

All projects:

  • Artwork Creation: Your packaging artwork management team creates packaging artwork and uploads them to the artwork management system.
  • Review and Approval: The artwork is reviewed by cross-functional teams, including marketing, legal, and compliance experts, to ensure it meets all requirements.
  • Print proofs: The prepress transforms artworks to print-ready files that are then proofed by the artwork team to ensure they match the artwork. Colors are proofed using a color proof compared to the target.
  • Printing: The printer prints the design on the pack.
  • Quality Assurance: If necessary, the packaging artwork management can send a print manager to approve special inks on site.
  • Packshots: GS1, a global standards organization, requires a packshot for every artwork. Add this service to the artwork process – the artwork management team will automatically produce the packshot and deliver it to the GS1 agency.
  • Lifecycle Management: Your packaging artwork partner will continuously manage packaging artwork throughout the product's lifecycle, making updates as needed.


Packaging Artwork Management Software


A packaging artwork management system plays a pivotal role in streamlining and automating various stages of the process. Here's how it supports the process:


Managing the total artwork lifecycle in one system provides order, time savings, and security.
Keeping track of project progress without any effort frees time without any loss of control.
Packaging artwork software helps track different versions of artwork, making it easy to identify and access the latest approved design.
It facilitates workflow automation, ensuring that the right stakeholders are notified and can provide feedback or approval at each stage.
Collaboration tools within the Software allow cross-functional teams to review and comment on artwork digitally, eliminating the need for physical proofs.
A good packaging artwork management system offers DAM capabilities, making it easy to organize and access digital assets like images, logos, and fonts.
Generate reports and analytics to track the progress of packaging projects, identify bottlenecks, and improve efficiency.
Integration with other systems like ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) and PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) ensures data consistency and synchronization.


In conclusion, while there's a manual approach, best practices offer a more efficient method. Packaging artwork management is a complex and crucial process that demands expertise, a well-defined process, and the support of specialized packaging artwork management software. By integrating these elements, companies can ensure that their packaging is not only visually appealing and correct, but also that the team survives the project and have plenty of energy to engage in the next. This, in turn, contributes to a positive brand image and product success in the marketplace.







Design Pitfalls: Avoid Costly Mistakes | Collabra

Design Pitfalls: Avoid Costly Mistakes | Collabra

Creating new packaging design is thrilling. And a lot of WORK. Wouldn’t it be grand if it also came out as intended in the end, making all the work...

Read More
Choosing a Purposeful Artwork Management System

Choosing a Purposeful Artwork Management System

In the current competitive marketplace, the design and appearance of packaging are critical in shaping a brand's image and drawing in shoppers. As...

Read More
How to create effective design feedback loops using Cway

How to create effective design feedback loops using Cway

In the fast-paced world of design and product development, creating effective design feedback loops is essential. It's not merely about refining...

Read More