You might find this a bit of a shock, but as a career writer and editor I’ve never actually designed my own package. However, we ran a news story about ProAmpac’s MAKR when it made its debut back in August. This web-based program allows users to create their own tailor-made package from wherever they may be as long as they have a computer and an internet connection. After seeing this, I got in touch with the company and was given the treat of having Sal Pellingra and Nicole Cocuzzi from ProAmpac guide me through the new software for my very first (and hopefully not my only) pouch design.

What first jumped out at me about the experience was how it was done. None of us were in the same room — in fact, I don’t think any of us were in the same state. So, it was an appropriate demonstration of the value this type of program brings if the interested parties are scattered across the globe or, you know, cloistered during a pandemic. Through screensharing and a bit of patience (we had some connectivity issues) we were able to get the job done.

Importantly, nothing designed in MAKR will surprise ProAmpac. “We set up MAKR to do anything commercial that you can produce at any of our sites. You can then request the prototype,” says Pellingra, ProAmpac’s VP global application and innovation development. “If you need something special, then you can add that in the notes and the staff at DASL [ProAmpac’s Design and Sample Lab] can work their magic.”

Of course, getting the software to the stage where users could design anything in the company’s repertoire was a bit of a challenge. ProAmpac had very specific goals in mind for the system from the outset, which required a software maker with very specific talents. While ProAmpac ultimately found what it was looking for in a provider, there were still some obstacles. “We had to pretty much teach them about every single pouch that ProAmpac makes, so it was a pretty good learning curve for them,” says Cocuzzi, manager of ProAmpac’s DASL, about the software company. The resulting program proves that the efforts taken to overcome the learning curve were worth it.

Design Time

Our first step in the design process was to choose the product we wanted. We chose from ProAmpac’s product offerings, which range from flat pouches to shipping mailers to box pouches to paper retail bags and beyond. We ultimately landed on a shaped stand-up pouch.

We then input the dimensions we wanted, the material we wanted and the opening we wanted. Again, the choices were wide open. (If you’ve ever played an open-world video game where you’re allowed to run around and explore a world at your leisure without following a linear structure at the mercy of the game designers, this experience was kind of like that.)

Now, you might be thinking that this enormous wealth of choice would lead a novice like myself to create something that just didn’t work. But ProAmpac’s MAKR was designed to protect users from themselves. While each choice made leads to additional choices, options that would lead to disastrous results were taken away. For example, we explored making a pouch with a child-proof zipper, but that option was taken away when we went to a width of 5 in., since 6 in. is required for that type of zipper. ProAmpac wants to make sure that every product designed in MAKR can be made by its team.

Our pouch was a liquid pouch, so we incorporated a typical twist-off cap among the fitments available and placed it at the top in a corner — all within seconds. Adjusting the overall shape of the package was also done within seconds. I was shown that users are able to adjust the shape of the sides either individually or together. This allows for a whole variety of shapes, giving brands the option of carrying their branding on through the shape of the pouch. We decided to pull the sides in a bit at offset locations for our project.

Having the shape and fitments all settled, it was time to make the pouch look good. Things started out great with the logo for Flexible Packaging in blue — created by our art director Jaime Moy, so it’s fantastic — prominently placed in the middle. That was balanced with a thick, color-coordinated blue band placed at the bottom. I was surprised when the team from ProAmpac then added the next graphic — a photo of yours truly. “It was tough to find many pictures of you online,” Cocuzzi says. Yeah, there’s a reason for that.

Once my mug was placed on the pouch, the only thing left was to send it to the DASL team. Since the DASL manager was already there, that was a simple process. Had the crew not been there, I would have hit the “Finish” button in the interface to send it on and/or I could have hit the “Download” button to get a copy of my design. (Of course, had I run into any difficulty along the way, there’s a handy-dandy “Help Center” option available.)

Passing it along to ProAmpac’s DASL team allows them to develop a prototype of the design, which they’ll send out to users to get the full in-person, tactile experience. The design we worked on arrived at my doorstep in just a couple of days, to my delight, in all its glory.

MAKR 2.0

The version I was treated to that is available now is already being built upon. The second version of the program, MAKR 2.0, is expected next year with even more products that were developed as the first version of the software took shape. MAKR 2.0 will also incorporate the ability to add tear notches to spouts so they can easily be torn off to make a recycle-ready pouch. Had we gone with a zipper option for the opening in our project, for example, we would have been able to add tear notches. Currently, adding tear notches to a pouch with a spout will trigger the system to remove the spout from the design.

For those of you who noted that we did all of this remotely and wondered why we didn’t record it, well that was my initial intent. Sadly, those technical issues mentioned earlier rendered the video unusable. But whether we had encountered technical issues or not, seeing a video of someone else’s experience or reading about someone else’s experience just doesn’t do the process justice. Give it a whirl for yourself at if for no other reason than to try it out. Hopefully you’ll have as much fun as I did.