How it’s actually printed is as least as important to the final look of the product, and a keen understanding of printing techniques is vital. (For a refresher, check out this article on printing terms every designer needs to know.)

But aside from knowing the basics, it’s good every now and again to catch up with the latest developments in printing, a field that’s ever-changing and constantly evolving. In this post, then, we bring you the trends every designer needs to know about.

01. Digital printing and personalisation

Digital printing is being used to incorporate personalisation into print campaigns

Digital printing is nothing new: it’s been around since the 1990s. But it is becoming an increasingly big deal. A recent study predicted that it will reach 17.4 percent of the value and 3.4 percent of the volume of all the world’s print and printed packaging by 2020.

While traditional litho printing uses wet ink and printing plates, digital printing uses toners in a similar way to an office printer. This means it’s generally faster and more economical for smaller print runs. And this has led in turn to a new trend in personalised printing.

The most famous example of the personalised printing trend is Coca-Cola’s ‘Share a Coke With…’ campaign, in which the soft drinks company printed millions of bottle labels bearing hundreds of people’s names. The brand then followed up this success by launching two million unique bottle labels in Israel, using an algorithm to generate a different design for each label.

Other brands have introduced even more interactive ways for consumers to personalise their products. For example, a campaign for Nutella gave UK consumers the option to feature a name of a loved one on a pack of the chocolate spread. Nestle Purina did a similar campaign in the US, where consumers were able to enjoy pictures of their own dogs on the packaging for Just Right dog food.

02. Print shops getting crafty

Alan Smith of With-Print sees print shops becoming more like “print consultants”

“Right now we are getting requests for thermography (raised print that is baked), which is something I was involved in a few times 20 years ago,” says Alan Smith of With-Print, digital print specialists based in Bristol, UK.

“I really promote the hand skills we have and as a company we are always looking for old machines that can help us die cut, foil, de-boss/emboss, stitch, sew and drill. This gives us the chance to control as much as we can in-house. And I find that a successful mix of traditional skills, old technology and new digital printing often produces the best results.

“I find these days that agencies are looking at us more as print consultants,” he adds. “They often have quite complex ideas that can only be achieved with a mixture of the technologies and skills mentioned above. A lot of my time is spent trying to understand what the client wants to achieve and then proposing possible solutions; my design background really helps here.”