Thinking Outside the Box – Diverse Uses of Labels

Thinking Outside the Box – Diverse Uses of Labels
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    Anyone involved in sales or marketing will be familiar with the expression, “thinking outside the box” as a description of how to come up with creative ideas to use in business.


Whilst there are many such phrases in common use, for instance “picking the low hanging fruit” as a term to describe selecting easy options, or “looking round corners” as shorthand for planning ahead, when it comes to packaging and labeling, there are usually real boxes involved, with real and essential labels attached.

Putting a printed label on a box is far from a straightforward matter. Factors such as the size of the box, the extent to which the boxes will be stacked and the actual contents all influence what happens to the label and where it is positioned to be most visible. Many products require GHS warning labels, with pictograms about hazardous substances; others contain food items that have to be stored at particular temperatures, or medical supplies, possibly even human tissue or organs for transplant, where not only storage temperature but time in transit may be vital to save someone’s life.

The range of businesses and organizations where labels on cartons are necessary, in addition to individual labels on the items inside the box, is immense. That is why so many companies buy their own color label printers from companies such as QuickLabel Systems so that they can satisfy any legal or regulatory requirements on the labels, as well as using them as a marketing tool.

Less common uses of labels

Any parent or teacher who has experienced the difficulties of motivating a reluctant reader will appreciate any assistance that encourages a child to look at words. That’s where a little bit of creativity with labels can come in. If a child has a favorite food, it might be possible to encourage them to try to find that product on the shelves and look in a little more detail at the information on the label. After all, we’ve all seen very young children persuading their parents by fair means (asking nicely) or foul (lying on the floor having a temper tantrum) to buy a particular item. Depending on how much energy the parent has, the child is often successful!

This means that children recognize labels and packaging from a very early age. In addition to the words, they also learn to recognize colors and images and it is this combination of features that could be used to encourage reading. This interesting article in the Telegraph also highlights the importance of motivating children to read.

With younger children, using labels can be incorporated into a number of reading games. Perhaps there could be a treasure hunt, where simple written clues are hidden in strategic places, leading the child to a final reward. Another possibility is to remove the labels of various household goods from empty containers, and place them in different cupboards in the house or classroom. Two or more children could then play “shop” and have to find particular items without the additional visual clue given by the shape of the carton or packet. Perhaps a list of items with just the main name could be written on the blackboard and the children have to find the label with that word on it. Some educationalists dislike too much competition in children’s lives, but an element of friendly competition between two or three teams can add to the fun, whilst disguising the fact that the children have to identify and match words in the process.

Older reluctant readers can progress using instructions for games, food preparation, catching a bus or train or finding their way around a department store to help them see that words have a real value in life. After all, labels are all around us and we can make use of them in many ways if we think outside the box.

About the author
Cynthia Gray was an English teacher for several years, with a particular interest in encouraging children to read for pleasure. Whilst taking some time out to raise her family, she started writing articles on educational topics for magazines and has continued doing this on a free-lance basis. An avid reader herself, she also enjoys gardening and walking with her husband, children and two very active dogs.


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