The first known label appeared around the year 1700, and was used to label small medical containers. During the 18th century every respectable winery had printed wine labels. All labels were printed on handmade paper by a wooden press, and glued to the product. This was extremely time consuming, but in 1798 two inventions made label production more efficient – the paper machine and the principle of lithography.
From the 1830s labels of many materials were used on a variation of products. From 1850 to 1860 color printing was improved considerably. Up to that time colored labels were painted by hand only for exclusive products, but now the manufacturers understood that colors play an important role in selling ones’ product. Creativity was significant – as it is today, with the goal of catching consumers interest, and giving the impression of being attractive and reliable.
Up until now the concept of paper labels has not changed, except one important variable. In 1935, the self-adhesive label, becoming the basis of a billion-dollar industry all over the world, was introduced in the USA. However, it was not until the 1960s, because of developments in new kinds of adhesives, that self-adhesive labels began to be applied on a mass scale. The application of these labels on all kinds of surfaces (such as plastics, wood, cartons, glass and metals) made them very popular. They were also easy to remove if needed, unlike labels with moisture activated adhesives.
In the 70s the first ‘intelligent’ labels appeared. The developments of new manufacturing technologies and the progress in electronic reading made it possible for labels to contain large amounts of information. The most famous one is of course the bar code, used in almost every shop and industry, and it plays an important role in logistics and storage.