How a Label Error Can Ruin a Great Package Design
by Marvin Magusara
While the branding of a label on a package is of high importance for any industry manufacturer, overdoing it with branding design and not taking care of the crucial info can cause small to huge errors which can ruin a great package design. The effects of label errors go beyond label recalls and financial losses. In a complex industry such as pharma and medical devices, it can go as far as the loss of human life. Because unclear or erred medication instructions are a huge risk for patient safety. This is why the US FDA is continually maintaining a high level of regulations regarding drug packaging. Patient safety is always the main point of focus.
A company may need to maintain its business, branding and marketing goals; but human life is way more important. So, organizations need to find balance. A way to have their brand stand out, but also to prioritize the safety and usage instructions. These things get tough when translation is involved. Because the entire label needs to be translated into a natural, understandable language. Additionally, product packages being exported to different countries, also need to adhere to the ever-evolving industry regulations worldwide. Another challenge faced by the industry is the use and the amount of available space. A label needs to be small or big enough to fit a container appropriately and to contain all of the information required by a regulatory organization, which often depends on the country a package is being exported to.
Automatic translation errors
Based on the PharmaIQ report of the Packaging and Labeling Challenges within the pharma industry in 2016, translation falls into one of the top challenges pharmaceutical companies and printing providers face during a label production process. Even the smallest misspell or typo can cause great confusion. So what’s the use of creating a great label design, if the integrity of the content isn’t in place. Thus, label designers and the label production workflow needs to prioritize the key content of a label, then the rest of the artwork. The automation of packaging quality control is becoming more popular, because it reduces error risks, cuts costs, and is time efficient. But, many companies are still hesitant to fully automate the process. In this case (as mentioned at the beginning), because automatically translated text often sounds unnatural and isn’t readable to the native speaker.
Translation errors have been the cause of complete label recalls, money losses, confusion among end users, and even the cause of patient safety hazard. So, pharma companies need to take great care that product information is translated naturally and emphasized clearly through design elements, contrasting colors, and layout. However, just because the automatic translation isn’t natural and 100% accurate, doesn’t mean a pharma label producer should close the door to automation. In fact, automation will speed up the process in any case. It’s much easier for a native language speaker to edit translated text than it is to translate from scratch.
Labels with too much information squeezed in and reduced to a font size unreadable without a magnifier are also a common cause of end-user confusion and dissatisfaction. Companies often include too much info because of fear that a label won’t be FDA compliant, or due to a poorly defined project scope of a label production process. These kinds of labels have also been the cause of a product being entirely rejected by consumers. This inevitably affects the brand and even the pharma company as a whole. Again, the result being label recalls, money losses and demand for workflow changes. This is also where automation comes in. A well-designed packaging quality control platform and printer proofing system should include guidelines and tips for creating and approving a well-designed package label.
Other common labeling mistakes
The following are also common causes of label errors and confusion for the end-user:
- Packaging for similar products of a brand doesn’t emphasize the differences clearly.
- Same brand names for different products without a clear product name extension.
- Lack of emphasis on warnings and product ingredients.
A clearly defined label design workflow
A great starting point for changing and introducing automation into the packaging and labeling workflow is the FDA Safety Considerations guidelines document. The document contains the suggestions for safety precautions on label design and guidance on what information is regulatory and what is advised. By defining a clear project scope for a label production workflow and creating a checklist approved by all stakeholders, a label production process can run much smoother and stay on track with the milestones and deadlines. It’s important to always keep in mind that manual artwork proofing and inspection takes much more time and is prone to human error. Pharma and Medical Device companies need to stay up to date with the latest automation novelties.
It’s also crucial that a clear strategy is defined for introducing the change and automating the packaging and label production workflow in order to speed up the process and reduce label errors. Finally, whether printing is being done in-house or outsourced, the label production stakeholders and the printing stakeholders need to carry out the printing inspection on both ends. They must double check and verify the approved artwork PDF against the Printer Proof, in order to eliminate all label printing errors. Leaders from the Medical Device Packaging and Labeling Industries are gathering at Q1 Production’s 6th Semi-Annual Medical Device Packaging And Labeling Summit to discuss industry challenges and best practices. GlobalVision is the world leader in the design of innovative proofreading technologies. Their solutions have been integrated into the packaging workflows of leading consumer packaged goods companies, printing firms and over 70% of the top pharmaceutical companies worldwide.