The Definitive Guide To Digipaks
About 20 times a month, we get a very specific question about a fairly common disc packaging item. We kind of touched on this in a previous post, but we thought we’d elaborate a bit further and specifically.
“What’s a digipak and how is it different than a regular jewel case?”.
We’ll answer this…but first, we thought we’d share a little history on what has arguably become the most popular option for packaging an audio CD. Some of the best records in the last 20 years have been packaged with the good ‘ole “digi” as it’s affectionately referred to, but it was one in particular that kicked the whole appreciation for this packaging option into a bit of overdrive. The Fragile by Nine Inch Nails was released in 1999 and the band put together a 3 panel digi double CD that was unlike anything else on store shelves at the time. It was packed with music (2 CDs), and included a really cool design treatment by designer David Carson. I was working in a music store back then, and I can tell you with all seriousness – when this record showed up on the counter, it beat everything in a plastic case.
The digipak was invented by a guy named Donald Kosterka. He invented a few packaging options for CDS, DVDs, and vinyl records. It was meant as an alternative and departure from a traditional jewel case, and brought printed card stock back into the fold, acting as kind of a compromise between plastic jewel cases and old style record sleeves. The thickness and feel to packaging were and continue to be big factors in how musicians want to release CDs and the digipak presented an option that allowed for the thickness of a jewel case, but the premium feel and look of a book in a lot of ways.
The digipak is printed card stock case that employs a plastic CD tray – comparable to the interior tray in a jewel case. You can get the trays in a variety of colours, but most digipaks these days use a clear one, where you can have design work show through it. They’ve got more surface area to incorporate a design than a jewel case, and they use less plastic. The main differences between a jewel case and a digi are look, feel, and function. Jewel cases have a tendency to smash and shatter. Digipaks – while they use a plastic interior tray – are primarily card stock. As such, they have a tendency to hold up better in most cases – especially if you happen to be mailing CDs out.
There are two general kinds of digipaks. Audio digipaks and DVD digipaks. Audio digipaks are generally 5 inches by 5 inches in dimension. DVD digipaks are taller and are generally the same height as plastic DVD cases. Out of these two main variations, there are a variety of sub variations. 3 panel audio digipaks employ 3 base surfaces and can use multiple trays. There are 4 panel digis, 6 panel digis, as well as an assortment of custom versions of the original design.
They continue to be a popular choice for packaging CDs and DVDs not just because they feel and look better. Most people associate a digipak as a more premium product when they buy discs. Since cost has become less prohibitive over the years, they’ve continued to increase in popularity, especially since their environmental friendliness is kind of a given. Most printers will use at least an element of recycled board when manufacturing them. We use 25% virgin fibre card stock – meaning – that 75% of any of our digipaks come from FSC certified recycled paper and cardboard.