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  • Writer's pictureNicola Reid

The History of Labels and Label Printing Technologies

Updated: Jan 10, 2022

Self-Adhesive Labels – Where it All Began

Self-Adhesive Labels – they are everywhere! From your products in local shops and supermarkets, to safety warnings in building sites, to your children’s school books and folders – but where did they come from?

In the Beginning…

You might think sticky labels are a modern invention, but they actually date back to the early 1800’s. Rumour has it that it goes back even further than this to Egyptian times when they used a form of parchment and glue. But the labels we know today started with European artists in the early 19th century who experimented with the idea of sticking coloured labels onto a product in order to make them more appealing and increase sales – needless to say it worked! The first self-adhesive labels were “lick and stick”(similar to older stamps), and they were hand painted.

The Modern Self-Adhesive Labels

Fast forward to the 1930’s when a clever entrepreneur, R. Stanton Avery, thought up the idea of a machine which produced self-adhesive labels which could stick on any surface – unlike the “lick and stick” labels which could only stick on smooth surfaces. It was through this idea that the modern pressure sensitive labels were invented. After it’s development, however, the main issue was that these were very expensive to produce: buyers would have to pay a premium for this new luxury.

Label Printing Software

Label Printing Software and compatible machines really took a leap forward in the 1970s when detailed graphics and standard barcodes were able to be printed. This changed the way manufacturers used labels, with the ability to scan products for use, initially in supermarkets, and use their labels as a great marketing tool.

How Inkjet and Laser Printing Changed Self-Adhesive Labels

The first inkjet printers were developed around the mid 1950’s and laser printers in the late 196os. Label Printing Software and compatible machines really took a leap forward in the 1970s when detailed graphics and standard barcodes were able to be printed; however, even these didn’t break through to the commercial sector until the early 1980’s. This was a turning point for Self-Adhesive labels. Up until the 1980s only large companies could afford printed labels, but with rapidly evolving technologies, and becoming more affordable as time went on, smaller businesses could now afford labels of their own.

Today’s World

Can you imagine a world today without Self-Adhesive Labels? Going into your local supermarket and none of the foods are branded, no ingredients, no information telling you what it is… That’s why today companies still spend millions of pounds a year on this simple yet effective marketing tool.

Where Can You Obtain Labels Today?

Now that you know the history of labels, where can you get some? Well, that is easy! At Bespoke Labels we specialise in custom labels for all your business needs. Just head here where you can request a sample pack, arrange a call or simply drop us an email for more information.


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