Packaging Mockups: Your Questions, Answered.

An interview with Alexander Stratakis


Andreas Schambeck, Business Development Director at SGK spoke with Alexander Stratakis, a packaging mockup expert at SGK Vienna, about the benefits of physical prototypes in the digital age.

Hello Alex, I am very happy to talk to you today about an interesting topic and a personal passion of yours. It's about mockups, prototypes and samples in the areas of packaging and POS. Before we get started, what exactly is mockup packaging? 

Packaging mockups are an important aspect in the course of conceptual work. They represent realistic replicas of products or packaging and contain all the relevant design and construction features. In my free time, I am involved in model making. I naturally bring this experience and passion to bear on our clients' creative projects and mockup productions.

What’s the difference between a prototype and a mock-up?

The terms mockup and prototype are often used synonymously. In principle, it can be stated that a mockup focuses more on the design itself, while a prototype focuses more on the functionality. 

You work with our clients' product/brand managers and our creative teams on a daily basis. Who decides on the use of packaging mockups or prototypes?

Often there are concrete requirements on the part of our customers. At an early stage in the product development process, they need the most realistic, near-final samples possible. In some situations, we recommend the creation of mockups. In these cases, customer marketing trusts our expertise and recognizes the added value that mockups can provide. 

If we know and understand our client's intention, we can usually quickly sketch out a suitable idea and solution in a coordination meeting, matching the phase in the process and the necessary requirements.

What advantages do you think mockups offer compared to purely digital visualizations? What are the benefits of mockups?

Our designers always visualize ideas and designs digitally in 3D as well. This helps our team in the internal creative process and our customers for later assessment, consultation and decision-making. However, there are many benefits to mockups; a physical mockup has completely different qualities than a purely digital visualization or even a plane view. By addressing different senses, such as touching, hearing and sometimes even smelling, you get a much more intense feeling for the product. A physical sample can actually be held in the hand. Our clients can grasp it in the truest sense of the word, and thus simply understand and test it better.

When are packaging mockups used?

They can be strategic-conceptual considerations at an early stage, for example, when it comes to the use of materials and functionality. Mockups are often used for photo shoots and video recordings too, and can also serve as fully functional presentation objects in a small edition at trade fairs. Haptics often play a decisive role  – the way a product feels. Thic can really help when mockups are used for market research purposes, store checks or test markets.

You mentioned haptics and their importance. What influence can we have here in mockup production?

No two mockup productions are the same, and their intended use plays a decisive role. Depending on the application, sometimes the substrate changes, sometimes the finishing changes, sometimes the packaging changes. A good example of this is fries packaging. To simulate metallization, we first have to print on a transparent film and then laminate it onto a metallized carrier film. The metallizing effects are almost 100% the same as the original.  As with the original, the sealing is achieved by welding. The decisive factors are often a wealth of ideas, a love of experimentation and, in the end, a dose of perfectionism.  We want a real wow effect for our customers and their purposes. But realistically! 

What does that mean in concrete terms?

Of course, physics, technologies used and materials available set us various limits. Costs and budgets also must be taken into account. Nevertheless, we sound out and exhaust the possibilities. If possible, we always use original substrates. Sometimes we laminate foils, use partial varnishing, emboss, create closures in 3D printing, and much more. There are hardly any limits. 

Certainly there have been projects with special challenges. Or special highlights where our packaging mockups shine. 

There have been. We were commissioned to create 300 beer can mockups for a food trade show in China. The client's goal was to promote a brand specifically for the Asian market. Since the mockups were intended for consumption at the trade show, we had to ensure that our manufacturing processes met food-safe standards.

Another client commissioned us to create mockups for a photo shoot in Zanzibar. These had to withstand all elements such as salt water, heat, strong sunlight and wind.

But the most spectacular was the launch of a new Billa product line (REWE). For this, the client needed high-quality XL mockups to present the new product line in the stores. The brief was to design an XL milk packaging with a new look. Once the prototype was completed and approved by the client, it was time to create the mockups for the individual stores. A total of 30 oversized mockups were developed, which also presented an exciting logistical challenge. The XL mockups caught the attention of consumers and contributed significantly to the successful launch of the new product lines.

It is impressive to hear what we can do and/or have already realized. You and your colleagues in Vienna have built up a lot of know-how here. What is important to consider with regard to and preparation for mockup production? 

Our experience shows that these six points are crucial:

1. Clear objectives: it is important to define exactly what the objective of the mockup is from the very beginning.

2. Accuracy and detail: To achieve the best possible result, mockups should reflect as closely as possible the planned design and construction features.

3. Material selection: The choice of materials is critical to achieving the desired quality and aesthetics of the mockup.

4. Scheduling and resources: mockup production requires time and resources. It is important to allow sufficient time for planning, design, production and any adjustments. 

5. cost control: mockup production can be costly. It is therefore advisable to keep an eye on the budget and plan cost factors such as material costs, labor hours and any external services as best as possible.

6. Communication and feedback: close cooperation with the customer and the teams involved is essential.

At the beginning, we talked about the purposes of mockups. What other services play a role for your customers in Austria?

Mockups are a work step and important tool for many product and marketing decisions. However, perhaps our most spectacular projects are not always related to a packaging decision, but often serve presentation purposes. So, our craft here can also be part of POS and event activities and other brand experience requirements.

About Alexander Stratakis

Alex has over 25 years of professional experience in customer service and project management and is involved in a wide range of creative projects as Graphics Coordinator at SGK Vienna. With his profound expertise, he is the lynchpin for all mockup related questions and the contact person for our clients' marketing and product management teams. 

About Andreas Schambeck

Andreas is experienced in the world of branding, marketing communications and especially the entire supply chain for packaging graphics. As part of the business development team, he brings over 30 years of experience from various industries and target markets. Primarily, he supports brand owners and retail clients to best organize their marketing ecosystem to be even more agile, efficient and consistent.