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January 13, 2010

Learn to Love Math

When I was 8 years old, I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up – a package designer.

From the moment I entered the action figure isle at Toys ‘R’ Us, I knew. I saw all of the cool illustrations and photos plastered all over the packaging. I said to my mom “When I grow up, I want to draw the comics on the front of the boxes.” So, all through school I kinda ignored all of my classes besides art. I slept though Math, English and sketched during Science. Well, I got a rude awakening when I started my professional career.

The first few months were pretty easy. I was using existing templets and products, updating artwork and redesigning outdated materials. Then, my overly ambitious thoughts started to kick in. I wanted to create something from scratch. Not just a resized box, but something that I hadn’t seen before. So, I decided to create the Snoopy Dog House out of a single piece of card-stock that folded up easily.

The first attempt didn’t turn out so well. Neither did the second or third. I sat there wondering why my folds and tabs didn’t line up. Or how I was going to get the roof to have an awning without gaps. It took WAY too long to find the solution. The final die-line turned out great, but it took entirely way too long.

My problem was math. Yes, basic everyday problems that a 12 year old can do. I sure as hell wasn’t smarter than a 5th grader and it was kind of embarrassing. I always hated math, never even took the time to give two shits. “Why do I need math? I’m an artist.” That was my second favorite line, behind “I go to art school.” Now look who’s the idiot. After that, I took the time to buff up on my math skills. And it has paid off in a big way. I feel very confident when I start to tackle a complex die-line.

I use math problems every day to create complex die-lines, converting units for the content weights, and things as simple as adding and subtracting. I use math so much that I didn’t even realize how much I used it until I started writing this.

One digit can cost you or your company thousands of dollars. All it takes is “NET WT .15 OZ (4.5g)”, when it should be .14 OZ. That right there means that 30,000 new packages need to be re-printed. Or, a new screen charge to fix your mistake. However, not all mistakes cost you at the printer, some waist time – and time is always money.

So here’s a tip for anyone interested in getting into package design – take extra math classes and LOVE IT! Well, maybe not love it, but at least pay attention. The more you can do in your head the better.

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