You have a great design for a new style and you are ready to bring it to life. You know you need a tech pack. You’ve heard that big brands use fancy PLM software to create their tech packs. You’ve seen tech pack templates for Excel or Illustrator. You’ve also run across some independent web apps and platforms for creating tech packs. The question is: which one do you use? The best format for an apparel tech pack all comes down to what the purpose of a tech pack is.
The main purpose of a tech pack is clear communication. Each section in a tech pack spells out in pictures and words every little detail of how to make your garment and what you need to make it. The tech pack communicates technical instructions, quality control expectations, and a scope of work to your factory, seamstresses, patternmaker, or grader. If the main goal of a tech pack is communication, then the best tech pack format is the one that communicates all this in the easiest way.
There isn’t one format that is the ultimate “best” tech pack format, but some might be better than others for your brand, factory, or situation. When considering what tech pack format to use, there are a few things that I look for to make sure that the format will be the best for communication.
It is hard to communicate in a format that others can’t open or read. The most important thing about tech pack formats to consider is whether that format is easy for your factory or other vendors to use. You are generally safe with widely used formats and software like Microsoft Excel or PDF files. Almost anyone can open these types of files. If you are using a more obscure file format, make sure you have the ability to export as a PDF before you share the tech pack. If the format you are considering requires everyone to have a login to view the tech packs, this can work as well. However, having to create a new account can be somewhat of a barrier to seamless communication.
Your tech packs will always be evolving documents that will be changed and updated as the style goes through development or even gets revised for future seasons. A format that is easy to edit down the road is super important. I talked earlier how PDF files are a nice format to send because pretty much everyone can open and read them. However, you can’t edit a PDF file so make sure that isn’t the only format of your tech pack you have. You’ll want to have control over the editable file version so you are able to make changes or even switch platforms if needed. A tech pack only works well as a communication tool if it is communicating correct and up-to-date information.
Ability to track development
Product development is a process and you will most likely go through several samples before approving the style. Ideally, you track all the information about each fit sample, its measurements, and any decisions made all within the tech pack’s sample comments page. A good tech pack format will have an easy way to add additional sample comment pages, include photos from the fitting, and take notes throughout development.
Consistency across tech packs
Tech packs contain a lot of information and it can get overwhelming or confusing to read through. The best tech pack format will be laid out in a way that is easy to follow and find the information you’re looking for. Once you’ve found a good layout, keeping it consistent from one tech pack to another makes it even easier to communicate the information so no detail gets missed. Most software allows you to create a template or, in the case of tech pack-specific platforms, will often have the tech pack information already organized into the sections.
A tech pack’s most important job is to clearly communicate the details of your design to all involved. The tech pack format should make communication smooth and easy. When it comes to choosing a format, there are a few factors to consider, but ultimately the best format is the one that you, your team, and your factory are most comfortable with.