Hidden elements that make a difference to packaging quality – Part 1

It is often said that the most intricate and beautiful parts of a luxury watch are in the components which most people never get to see. The care and attention taken in these hidden items is an important lesson that packaging developers would do well to keep in mind.

When premium brands are developing new packaging, they will often focus on the physical, external materials and accessories. This is an easier way to assess the quality of the pack as a whole, based on its look and feel. However, for a pack to really be high-quality, there is frequently more than meets the eye. 

Often, tiny elements and hidden materials can be used to improve the quality and durability of a pack. These may be internal materials or well-thought-out components which elevate a pack from ordinary to exceptional. While most consumers probably won’t even notice these, like the proud watchmakers and their internal parts, it is these hidden elements that reinforce a brand’s luxury identity through its packaging.

‘Hidden’ elements that improve packaging quality

The following components and materials are some which play an important part in giving a pack a quality feel.

Hidden elements that make a difference to packaging quality - Part 1

Hinges – Premium and luxury packaging for larger products will often use solid wood or an MDF which is veneered or painted in some way. These packs will, more often than not, use metal hardware components and hinges somewhere within. There are a number of different hinge types including piano, quadrant, rail, stop and knife hinges. The list can go on but what is true, overall, is that one generally gets what one pays for.

It really is important to not diminish the quality of a pack by having substandard hinges. Vitally also, where suppliers produce a beautiful box, they may look to increase their own margin by trying to pass the box with lesser quality, so it is important to have good and agreed quality parameters in this area.

Hidden elements that make a difference to packaging quality - Part 1

Metal components  Aside from hinges, latches, screws and locks are important metal components. They all will always have some type of finishing; be it a lacquer, paint or electroplating. Stainless steel components are themselves just usually highly polished. There are many grades of stainless steel, as there are base steels used to make components. 

To really see what is being used, one should run a variety of quality tests on them. A salt spray test is a good way to check resistance to corrosion. Seeing how the materials degrade is a good sign as to their quality or not. The more impurities in the metal, the quicker one will observe spotting on the substrate or bubbling on the painted or electroplated layer.

Hidden elements that make a difference to packaging quality - Part 1

Electroplating and painting – When it comes to plating and painting on hardware components, pricing again can play a role. In order to paint or electroplate any hardware component, the surface needs to be thoroughly cleaned first. When plating, this is commonly done using a pickling process which removes the oils and other impurities on the component’s surface. 

Interestingly, in this type of heated acid bath, if the base metal is sub-quality, problems may show themselves at this stage with heavily-pitted surfaces on the component. As electroplating is done in large volumes often all surfaces are simply plated without quality control first removing these sub-par items. It is therefore important at this point to ensure strict quality so that substandard materials do not sneak into the mix. Unfortunately, issues such as flaking of the painted top layer from rusting of the substrate may only start to show after a number of months. Again, this is where accelerated oxidization testing is important.

Of course, there are many quality checks one needs to look for in hardware components. Many check for overall functionality and adherence to visible technical specifications. However, testing for the hidden aspects is just as important. Consumers of luxury products often will hold the packaging as a keepsake or collectible. It can be damaging to a luxury brand if the package does not stand a reasonable test of time. NPD teams will often have the dilemma of achieving cost targets versus long-term quality targets but like the famous Swiss watch, perhaps erring on the side of quality is a better bet.

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IPL Packaging is a global luxury packaging supplier with offices in the USA, Europe, Mexico, Asia and Africa. Approved manufacturing is available in several Asian countries, as well as sites in Eastern Europe. We create bespoke, tailored and exclusive packaging for any premium or luxury brand and manage the entire process, from conceptualisation and design to production and delivery.

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