MediaBeacon Blog

Mastering the Complexities of Artwork Versioning Control



Artwork version control is a specific area of interest for brand teams that are managing their digital assets. This includes: 

  • How to track versions in a “constant change” environment. 
  • How to ensure localized versions are kept in sync with the master version. 
  • How to manage overlapping regulatory requirements. 
  • How to manage versions within versions. 

So, why is version control on the mind of design and artwork managers? It may have something to do with the fact that, according to an AIB report, 43% of recalls are caused by incorrect labeling. Each product recall can cost an organization more than eight million dollars on average, so it’s important to have systems in place to get labeling right the first time. A crucial part of this is artwork version control, or managing the different versions of labels for products.

But managing versions without label and artwork mistakes can be a challenge.

The Complicated Art of Labeling

While a shopper might be able to quickly scan the artwork on a product, there is a lot that goes into making that specific label an eye-catcher. There might be several versions of that artwork that each have unique differences for the specific regional market they are in, the type of store they are being sold in, or the size variation of the product. This means that one product could have tens to hundreds of label variations. And that doesn’t even take into consideration the iterations of inserts, marketing materials, and other content that needs to be created in order to sell that product globally.

No matter the number, each version of the label must match up with the master label content map. This includes: 

  • Marketing content (i.e., brand name) 
  • Legal content (i.e., Manufactured and Distributed by…”) 
  • Regulatory content (i.e., “Store at room temperature...”)
  • Operations content (i.e., 50mg…”)
  • Printing content (i.e., “Batch number…”) 

The sheer volume of artwork versions makes managing digital assets a complicated process. In addition to the number of labels, there are many stakeholders that need access to the artwork at any given time. Whether they are providing valuable input, approving content and design, or are responsible for creating the label, there are many people and departments involved in producing artwork.

There is also a tremendous amount of information beyond what you see on the actual label that needs to be tracked. For example, some label content, such as safety information, may originate from a core datasheet. When a claim is made on the label: “Lasts for up to eight hours!” the label approver will need to reference supporting documentation to substantiate the claim.

A very complex part of version control is managing multiple changes to the same piece of artwork. The reality is, the label production process from design to distribution rarely follows a linear path.

The more common scenario is that at some point during the label production process, the number of label versions changes because:

  • Your company decides to launch the product in another market.
  • A manufacturing site is changed or added.
  • A regulatory change is required.


How to Manage Artwork Versioning

Here some tactics and solutions to help manage artwork version: 

Single Source of Truth

When versions of labels need to be managed, an important tool is a global repository or digital asset management system (DAM) that houses all label assets, and is easy to access at any time from anywhere. 

This repository is a “single source of truth,” allowing all the stakeholders involved in the labeling process to access digital assets that they need and track versions as they create them. 

DAM and Workflow

When artwork managers link their asset repository directly to their process workflows, they can save their teams lots of time spent looking for assets and variations of labels. There are many capabilities of having a DAM connected to workflow, including:

  • Create a systematic way to select an artwork from the repository to start the change process.
  • Eliminate the need for manual downloads//uploads.
  • Utilize automation to track which step a project is currently at.
  • Utilize automation link, which allows for version control and auto status changes of assets within the repository.
  • Have the ability to start the change process from other integrated systems to remove duplicate data entry. 

Automated Version Compare

When proofing label assets, it’s essential to be able to easily compare different versions of the label—not just within a revision workflow, but also with the original artwork. With automated version compare functionality, changes will be highlighted to make reviewing that much easier, improving quality control.  

Auto Update in DAM

If you have a DAM solution that offers automated linking, make sure to utilize it. An automated link can be created at the start of the process from the DAM to the workflow. It will then be automatically versioned when the new artwork is approved and put back into the repository. This creates a closed-loop, eliminating the possibility of the wrong version ending up in the DAM. 

Managing the Versions Within Versions Through Databases

Typically, label content is housed in a Word document or similar application. A production artist will then cut and paste from the text from the document into the label artwork, and the word document is used in the approval process to ensure the text on the label artwork is correct. 

Text information can also be stored in a database. Because it’s in a database, each individual copy element can be tracked and versioned both as part of the whole document and as a discrete element. Examples include storage instructions, manufacturing locations, size, and brand information. 

The benefits of this database include:

  • The ability to see where an element is used, so you can easily conduct an impact analysis. You can ask yourself the question, “How many label assets will be affected by changing this one element?”
  • The ability to change an element once and automatically update multiple artwork assets, all while managing version control of the discrete elements and the finished artwork.

By following some of the tips we went through, artwork managers can learn to master their artwork versioning control.