the importance of making mock-ups in design
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By its very nature, graphic design exists in a 2D space on the screen of a PC. As a designer, it is vital to be able to visualise what the finished item will look like. I have learned to consider how the item serves its purpose from a practical point of view; whether it can be read easily, and whether it will communicate its message successfully after it has been finished and delivered.
For example, the label for a drinks bottle looks flat on screen which makes it easy to read. But the design approach must take account of the ‘field of vision’ when the item is on the shelf in a retail environment. The dimensions of the bottle dictate how much of the label can be seen when it is facing out on a shelf, surrounded by identical bottles. Adding a centre line to a mock-up enables me to stand back and take a customer’s eye view.
Building mockups and prototypes has become second-nature to me and is part of the standard operating procedure in the studio at agencypds. This way of working helps us to circumnavigate preventable mistakes and bring creative ideas to life that are right first time.
In designing a branded carton, the first thing I do is to print out the cutter guide on paper, fold it into the finished shape, and mark up the top, the sides and the lid. This 3D model is then used as a guide to build continuity into the artwork, with colours following through at the points where they will meet in the finished product, rather than on screen.
With an unglued box design, the cutter guide shows where the flaps will be that hold the structure together. I need to think carefully about how the artwork will be rendered on these small pieces, even if they are tucked away as a virtually invisible part of the structure. Models can also be handy for the client to help them to understand how to sign-off and approve artwork, making sure that the text is always the right way up. At agencypds we also use software called Boxshot which creates digital mock-ups for packaging design on screen that can be turned through 360 degrees to help visualise the final product.
Using a physical mock-up influences the positioning of the message hierarchy, enabling us to see where the brand and product name should be placed, and where to position the barcode or other subsidiary information. The base of a box could fold in several different ways and understanding its construction helps to ensure that the creative works effectively. Creating a mock-up in the finished material ensures that the way it is built does not introduce sharp corners or flaps that fold too loosely instead of bending flexibly.
Mock-ups are also useful in the design of printed items such as leaflets and mailers. It can be a challenge to accommodate all the fields into a single address block without measuring the physical space available. Understanding the space available is important for personalisation in order to leave room for variable data.
Page layouts can be affected by foldout covers, and it is vital to know where right and left-hand pages appear, and whether images are intended for a double-page spread. Leaflet layouts can be complex. On a Maltese cross design, for example, the imagery needs to align with the way the item unfolds and refolds in order to make sense when it is read.
My passion for mock-ups also helps me to assess size and scale. While everything looks about the size of an A4 sheet on screen, the artwork for a folded item could extend to a metre or more. Being able to appreciate the size and scale of an item helps me to get the imagery right. Alternatively, I frequently build a scale model just to check the mechanics on something less unwieldy.
There is no doubt that creating mock-ups saves time, and enables us to anticipate mistakes, helping to avoid expensive re-prints. Armed with a mock-up, we are in a better position to advise clients on what will work most effectively.
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