Holography: What Every Packaging Expert Needs in their Design Toolbox

Holography: What Every Packaging Expert Needs in their Design Toolbox

By Kim Guarnaccia

In 1984, National Geographic made news when it became the first national magazine to feature holography on its cover (a label of an eagle). The following year, they applied a holographic label of a skull to a printed cover. Then in 1988, they published the first-ever ink-free, entirely holographic cover.

Holography cover National Geo
The 1988 National Geographic cover was the first entirely ink-free magazine cover design.

Each of these issues have since gone on to become collector’s items. But holography, which was once desirable for its cutting-edge appeal has, in the following decades, lost its glamour. Consumers have become used to seeing the tiny holographic stickers on their credit cards and checks. And the public’s fondness for innovative technology has shifted to QR codes and augmented reality (AR).

Even so, holography remains a useful tool for package designers, helping to solve tricky design challenges as they arise.

Keep it Fresh

Growing up on TikTok, YouTube, and other bits of digital wizardry, Millennials and Gen Z’ers have a shorter attention span than their less tech-savvy forebearers. In fact, according to one report, Millennials have a 12-second attention span but Zoomers just 8. As such, marketers must now identify new ways to attract their attention while being innovative, relevant, and fun.

When Lit Co. challenged Jamison Perkins of Jamison’s Design to design the packaging for ceramic shot glasses for 20-somethings, he was up for the task.

To complement the glass’ pastel colors, he chose to laminate rainbow holographic paper to corrugate. The corrugate protected the breakable glass from damage during transit while the eye-catching holographic litho-lam appealed to younger buyers.

holography litho-lam packaging

Designs for Upscale Elegance

Although younger audiences respond well to bright colors and bold patterns, holography can also be the ideal surface for luxury brand packaging.

In 2016-18, social norms and fashions shifted to a more casual, athletic vibe. As such, Victoria’s Secret, which had remained steadfast in its branding since the 1990s, began losing market share. In an effort to stay relevant, VS shifted their strategy from the glitz, glitter, and glamour they had previously embraced to a more elevated, upscale aesthetic.

Although holography is often considered to be most relevant to a younger demographic, when given the right design treatment, it can also be the ideal surface for luxury branding.

In the case of Dream Angel’s perfume packaging, the original carton design featured pastel clouds on holographic foil. Unfortunately, this no longer fit VS’ rebranding initiative. Moreover, the team needed to reflect the refractive fragrance bottle and the “rainbow glow” scent in the packaging.

holography fragrance box
rainbow holography fragrance box

The solution? Packaging team Design Director Stephen Moss made the actual rainbow holographic board the hero of the redesigned fragrance box.

This was a wise choice. The pop of color appealed to younger generations while mature consumers appreciated its more formal composition and understated elegance.

Reflect the Product Within

Sometimes the best designs are developed when designers seek to mirror the actual product. In such cases, holography may be the perfect solution.

Holography cosmetic carton

Don Romine of Impress Communications found this to be the case when Jeffree Star Cosmetics asked him to collaborate on a design for their Liquid Frost Highlighter.

Romine wanted to represent the highlighters’ oil-on-water appearance on the actual packaging. After much experimentation, he achieved the effect by printing the carton onto holographic board that featured a swirl pattern. Since the pattern is random, each carton became a unique, one-of-a-kind statement piece, the perfect reflection of the product within.

Revitalize Tired Packaging

Since holographic effects are unlimited, the technique can also revitalize a tired packaging design. Holography also adds dimensionality to cartons that are restricted to a certain size, such as with DVD case jackets or game boxes.

Holography DVD carton

Tasked by a film studio to design a DVD case that stood out from the hundreds of others with the same dimensions, Debbie Bishop of DB Design went out on a limb. She decided to overprint holographic board with designs that allowed the holographic pattern to show through. The holography enhanced the DVD’s shelf presence AND ultimately transformed the DVD into a collector’s item!

Today, holography is no longer just used to make a statement about cutting-edge technology; rather, it can solve tricky design challenges, elevate a brand, reach younger audiences, and even to gain an advantage over their competitors.

With Mainline Holographics new white holographic technique—and recyclable holographic board on the horizon—the art of holography has become an indispensable tool for designers the world over.

Revolutionary White Holographic Technique Takes Luxury Brands by Storm

Mainline Holographics now offers a revolutionary new product that may transform the way brand owners, packaging engineers, and designers use holographic board, paper, or labels for packaging or print collateral.

Up until now, holographic paper, board, or label stock has been created by embossing an image or pattern into metalized poly film. But over the last year, Mainline has developed an exclusive technique for applying a high-refractive index (HRI) coating to the poly film. This new coating provides a white, rather than gray metal appearance to embossed holographic patterns.

“By using this new surface, luxury brand owners, such as those in the confectionery, cosmetics, fragrance, and even the fine liquor markets, will be able to elevate their packaging and print collateral in ways they’ve never before imagined.” says Mainline Holographics’ National Sales Director John Tillinghast.

Like their standard metalized holographic offering, Mainline’s 60+ stock patterns are now also available in the new white background in 16-24pt 28 x 40” sheets or in 80# litho up to 40pt.

And if a customer wishes to alter an existing pattern—or create their own unique design—that can be accomplished as well, on either the standard metalized poly film or the new white HRI coated poly.

“Mainline’s new white holographic option is subtle yet vibrant,” says Mainline Holographics’ COO John Parker Jr. “Since it mimics the look of white board or paper, designers will be able to develop an entirely new canon of special effects by applying varying levels of inks or coatings to its surface.” 

Cannabis Industry: New Holographic Pattern Paves Way to Increased Sales and Greater Brand Awareness

In March 2020, Mainline Holographics launched a new holographic pattern specially designed for the ever-expanding Cannabis and CBD oil industries. Composed of a repeating series of varying sizes of marijuana leaves, the pattern is shim-line free so is well suited for use in packaging, print collateral, and labels/security seals. As such, the pattern may be of most use for Cannabis dispensaries, CBD oil companies, growers, or even artists and musicians.

“It’s an honor to be the first company in the US to provide the Cannabis industry with a distinctively unique option for packaging, print, and labels,” says Mainline Holographics’ COO John Parker Jr.

Although the new holographic design is currently stocked as 28 x 40” sheets of 16, 18, and 24pt board, it can be cut to size or applied to label stock, security seal wafers for packaging, and even to paper for printed collateral, such as promo flyers or direct mail campaigns. And if a customer wishes to alter the Cannabis pattern, Mainline’s team of holographic experts can adjust the existing design—or can create an entirely new one—to meet one’s branding needs.

Unlike most other holographic companies, Mainline has no minimum order requirements, and can warehouse jobs for customers currently experiencing supply-chain bottlenecks, reduced hours of operation, or temporary closure.

 “Our Cannabis pattern is so eye-catchingly beautiful,” explains National Sales Director John Tillinghast, “that consumers won’t be able to resist picking up the package or product for a second (or third) look. This sort of enhanced experience will undoubtedly increase sales and grow brand awareness.”