When I discovered DJ QBert's latest album Extraterrestria (opens in new tab) in January, I sat up and took note. What grabbed me wasn't the music (I can't call myself a fan) but the interactive cover.
It wasn't your usual 'scan-here-with-an-app' job. Instead, technology start up Novalia had partnered with the artist to incorporate interactive ink across his vinyl covers.
This means that, using the album's app, fans can mix and loop the tracks by sliding their hands across the inked decks on the cover. It's a revolutionary take on interactivity and engagement that can used across the packaging arena.
Inks are an obvious starting point in driving meaningful differentiation in noisy shelf environments, and can go beyond enabling interactivity into functional and useful brand benefits.
To my mind, they'll be playing an increasingly important role in the evolution of smart packs. Here's my rundown of four options that, if used effectively by brands, could ignite excitement and innovation of ink development to brands and product consumers as well as creating more useful packaging to boot.
01. Educational uses
When I was growing up, a simple puzzle and dodgy mask cut from a cereal carton was the high end of 'interactivity' that packaging offered. Today, augmented reality is now the norm and the new generation of children (aka Generation Z – which sounds awfully, yet aptly, like a zombie thriller) expect a lot more than I did when it comes to being interactive.
DJ QBert's interactive album cover mentioned above is a case in point, and there will be more. The point is that this cover opens the floodgates of imagination when it comes to the possibilities of this technology.
We could soon see packs aimed at children that not only house their favourite chocolates and cereals, but educate them through the use of innovative ink and a unique app.
02. Functional uses
Inks are a constant feature in our everyday lives, from daily papers to the packaging in our shopping baskets, yet they seem to do little more than just inform us through imagery, text and design.
This got me thinking; how else could we use inks in a useful manner to help product packaging enhance consumers' lives? One particularly brilliant way to bring inks into a league of their own is to add a new level of functionality.
Of course, your average book, newspaper and packaging are useful as they are. But with an added level of use, they can help improve the reader's experience and enforce their relationship with the brand. Sri Lankan newspaper Mawbima offers a brilliantly simple example of functional ink.
The national paper printed an entire copy of its morning and evening editions using ink mixed with citronella – a naturally effective repellent against mosquitoes. This allowed readers to enjoy their daily paper without the nuisance of mosquitoes.
Next page: more on how new inks could revolutionise your designs