The 2017 Excellence in Flexography Awards Honored 121 Prints

Let’s make a package. Sketch a design on a napkin—all great designs start on a napkin, right? Pick a few colors—What are the L*a*b* values for sky blue?—add some text and graphics—Imagine these stick figures are happy people.

Give it to prepress. Does it need a lot of rework? Of course it does, it’s a drawing on a napkin. Designers build the file, add the actual graphics, implement correct brand colors and appropriate typography, get customer approval and preflight the whole shebang.

The design hits the pressroom floor. Is there an already established workflow that can handle this? There is not. How about one that can almost handle this? No, no, we’re not cutting corners, we’re just… OK, we’re cutting corners.

See the 2017 Excellence in Flexography Awards Winners

Wide Web | Mid Web | Narrow Web

Combined Corrugated | Preprinted Linerboard | Envelope

Self-Promotion & Non-Traditional | College Student | High School Student

Whip out your handy Flexographic Image Reproduction Specifications & Tolerances (FIRST) 5.1 and follow the methodology. Optimize. Fingerprint. Process control. What’s after process control? Right, press characterization! Finish with process improvement.

Run. The. Press. First pull is a match—of course it is, you followed FIRST.

Show it to the client. “Oh, that’s really sky blue, isn’t it? I think we wanted something more like baby blue.” Explain to the client the client doesn’t know what the client wants. The client agrees.

The job is signed off on. Finished rolls are shrink wrapped and shipped off to the converter, filled with whatever product their professionally designed (and not at all napkin sketched) graphics illustrate, sealed, palletized and forklifted into a truck. The truck goes to a plane, the plane goes to a boat, the boat goes to a truck. The truck pulls up at its final destination.

And then what happens?

In the real world, the package gets placed on a shelf somewhere—a supermarket, a convenience store, you get the idea. Consumers walk by. They scan the aisle, see what’s new or different. Maybe they know what they’re looking for, maybe they don’t. Oh, what’s that bright pink pouch? How about that bottle with the giant starburst on it? That box says “NEW” in gigantic letters, so it must be better, right?

2017 Excellence in Flexography Awards
The wrap-up meeting following the end of judging in the 2017 Excellence in Flexography Awards

Of course, it isn’t fair to expect consumers to look at packaging the way flexographers see it—the way we see it. Why would they value a high level of execution over bright colors, or an exceptional degree of difficulty over a substrate that feels cool when you touch it? Sex sells, and we’re not talking about accurate fleshtones.

But imagine another world, where, after that package gets taken off a pallet, it emerges under the bright lights of Ballroom D in the Hyatt Regency Long Island. It gets the careful attention of a half dozen individuals—technically, also consumers—who examine not how flashy it is, but how well it matches a proof, how sharp the image is, how consistent repeats are. Words consumers have never even heard before, like moiré or vignette. A different kind of superficiality, one where appeal is quantifiably measured and judged.

It is this fantasy realm which we will inhabit for the next thousand or so words and the 121 images in the accompanying galleries. The same realm where, for a few hours on April 30, several hundred flexographers got together to celebrate great packaging—objectively great packaging, not that bright pink, starburst laden pouch that screams “BUY ME!” Where cheap tricks are derided as such and the extra sweat spilled by the men and women on the shop floor or in the premedia department does not go unnoticed.

Welcome to the 2017 Excellence in Flexography Awards.