Packaging Beyond the Unboxing

To most customers, packaging is a means to an end. A way to transport newly acquired goods home and then a way to fill the garbage bin. With the exception of Apple, who takes care in the aesthetics and method of packaging, packaging generally goes unnoticed and not kept (but I still have my iPhone box). Carnegie Mellon professor Steve Stadelmeier once mentioned a different perspective on this. To paraphrase, Stadelmeier posed the question “When designing a package, how does the product see the world? Is it blocked off or through a window? How is it exposed?”

Image: The Balvenie Forty

This has always resonated with me. How does a product view the world? A watch in the box, is it waiting to be on someone’s wrist, seeing every passerby as a potential owner? And does an onion loose on the shelf see the world differently than the bag of a dozen? Childish and silly thoughts, I admit, but it raises the question of an artifact’s personal life.

When designing a package, how does the product see the world? showcases some remarkable packaging. A combination of student work, limited release products, fashion and household goods some of the most unique samples are those that recreate the product entirely. How does a shirt appear if it’s made to appear as a loaf of bread? Differently than a shirt looking like your daily vegetables or a piece of red meat? It does not change what the product it, but it alters how you approach it.

Bring this into technology and what do we have? Leaps in marketing have seen enticing and engaging displays capturing attention from down the block or across the hall. Can this be translated to the more common, and mundane, desktop experience? How can applications be restyled to be more engaging while still falling to the background when not needed? Can an application’s homescreen be informational and reset expectations for the rest of the experience? A product and technology could be the best in the world, but if a user’s impression is dull or misguided before entering the task, how does that alter success rate or simple appreciation of the technology? How can the detail paid to industrial design translate to a digital realm and what might be done to affect the initial engagement with a system?

Image: Sod T-Shirt Packaging
Top Image: TheDieLine: Cooked in Barcelona, Jeans

David Farkas

David is an interaction(s) designer working in the online and mobile realm. He focuses on the relation between the digital and the physical. Usability, goal oriented design, and consistency are key.

One comment on this article

  1. Everrett on

    UI Experience needs to be strive for higher standards.
    Simply having a clear aesthetic and a well organized/executed function isn’t enough to differentiate within a crowded marketplace.

    Great work has a narrative. Packaging is a prime example of design that sells because story is prioritized over function.