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Guest Feature: Jennifer Mitkal of Barilla

Jennifer Mitkal Headshot

Meet Jennifer Mitkal, packaging manager at Barilla and one of PPA’s guest judges for the 2016 Student Design Challenge. Jennifer has more than 15 years of experience working with paperboard packaging and is an alumna of Michigan State University! We sat down with Jennifer to get her take on her industry experience and what she’s looking for in the 2016 Student Design Challenge entries.

PPA: What attracted you to the paperboard packaging industry?

JM: A great opportunity with an international food company came my way.

PPA: What does your typical work-day look like?

JM: My typical work day starts at 8 a.m. I start the day with checking emails to see if there is anything critical that needs to be addressed. I’ll have a project meeting at either 9 and/or 10 a.m. lasting either a half hour or an hour. After lunch, I respond to more e-mails, request samples, create test plans, review project timelines or get some thinking done. Update meetings with my employees or my managers are bi-weekly, team meetings are weekly and cost-savings meetings are monthly. Vendors come in or set up phone calls frequently to present their current business status, new ideas, or updates on existing projects. These are generally a half hour to an hour and happen several times during a week. Work-life balance is important to me so I try to finish up between four and five p.m.

PPA: Why do you prefer to work with paperboard?

JM: Paperboard is very accommodating to different designs! It is flexible when it comes to printing surfaces and I love its strong structure.

PPA: What stands out to you when you look at packaging?

JM: Graphic designs can really make such a big difference when drawing attention to a package.

PPA: What is your favorite package you designed for a product and why?

JM: I worked on the Barilla Italian Entrées paperboard sleeve. Just by playing with the length of the package, I was able to determine the angle of how it would stand on shelf and display. A few fractions of an inch made a big difference!

Jennifer Mitkal picture for Blog
PPA: What do you hope to see from this year’s Student Design Challenge entries?

JM: Detailed or interesting scores and cuts that create an unexpected design for visual stimulation or improved containment.

PPA: What do you hope to see in the future of paperboard packaging? And what are the most essential skills new designers need to bring into the industry?

JM: More frequent use of paperboard with lower basis weight to offset the environmental impact of packaging. Designers need to have a good understanding of how paperboard machine direction and cross direction can impact the strength of paperboard along with the product inside. This will help determine what can be designed into a package to contain and display.


Stay tuned for the next guest judge feature from John Rebhorn, senior packaging engineer with General Mills!