Skip to main content
Consumer Research

Mockups, Prototypes, & Samples

« View All Insights


“It’s just a mix-up” can turn into misspent resources and unmet deadlines when it comes to mockup, prototype, and sample requests. It’s actually pretty common to mistake one of these physical test packaging options for another. You’re not alone if you’re a bit confused, but we want to set you up for success by clearing up those clunky definitions.

Better understanding mockups, prototypes, and samples will guide your newest packaging innovations and consumer research. As you align your packaging vision with your requests, you will appropriately manage resources and meet packaging development deadlines.


Mockups are a physical representation of a packaging concept with branded graphics, whether generic or customer branded. Mockups show what something might look like when seen in-person, perhaps on a store shelf. However, while it might look like what a shopper would purchase, the mockup probably will not function like the end-goal of the packaging, and the materials images are printed on will not be production quality. Typical quantities for mockups are fewer than 10 pieces.

Overall, mockups are useful when showing off new branding or a graphic change but not very useful when showing any technological or functional developments in packaging. That’s where prototypes come in.

ProtypePrototypes are a physical representation of a packaging concept with accurate dimensions of the new concept. There may be limited functionality of a prototype, but it’s a “touchy/feely” object to showcase the physical size and dimensions of a concept. Prototypes are typically created on 3D printers, but this is not always the case. For example, flexible film prototypes are often created using a solvent printer, not a 3D printer. Usually, prototypes are not printed with any branding and are white in color. Typical quantities for prototypes are fewer than 10 pieces.

Overall, prototypes are useful when moving to different packaging or when testing out a unique feature on a packaging concept. Prototypes bring form, fit, and possibly function to life.


Samples are both physical and visual representations of a packaging concept. Unlike prototypes, samples are produced on actual packaging manufacturing lines and utilize the materials in a production setting. Therefore, samples have all the technological functionality needed and can even be filled with product. Samples will replicate the printing you would receive in a production sample. They can be printed with either a flood coat or a customer brand utilizing either flexographic or rotogravure printing. Typical quantities for samples are more than 25 samples. Since they are made in a manufacturing plant, you must make a fairly high quantity of samples at a time to justify the cost.

Overall, samples are useful when you’ve moved to a more final packaging concept and want to perform market studies, trial packaging on a certain manufacturing line, or distribute packaging to stakeholders for input.

Feel more confident about these definitions and ready to start accurately requesting mockups, prototypes, or samples? We can help make your next packaging innovation a success!

Counter shot

How Can The HiveSM Help?

Our research, design, and development experts at The Hive℠ are capable of fulfilling prototype, mockup, and sample requests. The Hive℠ Design Services can also design custom research programs to uncover your customers’ brand connection, preferences, pain points and usage behavior, while revealing themes that you can use to build your strategy for enhancing consumer engagement and brand loyalty. Our certified moderators, research and packaging specialists will build the qualitative and quantitative studies you need to test your concepts at scale, from insights to prototyping. For more information on how we can help you convert insights to opportunities, email us at or visit our page