A human-centered approach to packaging design

A human-centered approach to packaging design

Gepubliceerd op 6 augustus 2018
door Tamarind Houghton

In the beginning of 2018, I was honoured to be part of the jury panel for the Dutch Packaging Awards. The panel included a mix of industry experts, ranging from packaging and brand specialists to sustainability managers and designers. Packaging concepts and designs were examined from the varying disciplines and interesting discussions took place around structural integrity, design, branding and sustainability. It was a valuable day, but there was one theme that didn’t seem to get the attention that I thought, it deserved.

Were these designs actually valuable for the customer? Did they enhance their experiences, solve any problems or make their lives easier? And, while the few that did went on to win the awards, it was pretty clear to me that there were not enough ‘human-centered packaging designs’ out there.

Well-designed packaging

A common misconception of design is that it is about making something look good. While, of course it’s important that your packaging design is visually appealing, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is well designed. Well-designed packaging goes further than just aesthetics. Well-designed packaging takes inspiration from real people. It looks at the needs, wants and problems of both customers and those within the rest of the supply chain. When the knowledge of these things is combined with the brand’s unique message, and then executed with both an understanding of aesthetics and how visual information is interpreted, then a well-designed packaging is produced.

Adding a human-centered approach to the packaging design process

While in its most basic form a packaging could be considered as a container to protect and transport products, the goal of many a packaging design is to make the product desirable to customers. It is a platform to differentiate from your competitors and to stimulate sales. Earlier in my career, it was common place to create as many design options as possible, or to simply visualise a client’s wishes. Many hours were spent, rationalising and refining these options. Adding a human-centered approach takes the guess-work out of design and helps you arrive at possible solutions a lot quicker.

Pioneered and described by IDEO as “a creative approach to problem solving that starts with the people you’re designing for and ends with new solutions that are tailor made to suit their needs”, human-centered design fuels idea generation and results in innovative and relevant solutions. It is an approach that is a critical part of the Everbetter’s mindset and one that adds value to the brands we work with.

A role beyond the check-out aisle

By adopting a human-centered approach, your packaging could possibly play a role beyond the check-out aisle.

As proof of this, one need look no further than Target’s Clear Rx prescription medicine bottles. The idea for these medicine bottles was inspired by a simple human error. An error many could make and where the outcome could unfortunately be fatal. One day, the grandmother of a young designer took her husband’s medicine by mistake. You see, the grandmother’s name was Helen and her husband’s name was Herman. The prescription medicine bottles lined up in the bathroom cabinet not only looked alike, the initial and surname were also identical. Thankfully, the incident’s effect on Grandma Helen was minimal. But, it profoundly impacted the young designer, and she went on to design a system of prescription bottles with colour coded rings and easy-to-read labels that really worked for people and possibly saved lives.

You could say the beginnings of this design were born out of a serendipitous event; however, you cannot argue with the fact that the design is human-centered. It is a design deeply inspired by human behaviour, which is why, it is not surprising that it became thebeloved pill bottle of Target’s customers. A pill bottle which drove brand loyalty and created enormous value. So much so in fact, that when the bottles were removed from the shelf in 2016, the result was a flood of “bring our bottles back” messages on social media, press attention and a drop in in-store pharmacy visits.

What is the role of your packaging?

Imagine a food packaging concept which could help us with portion control or to make healthier choices. What would an easy-to-open bottle mean to someone with compromised strength? How could you engage and delight a customer who receives your packaging through the post?

There is a lot of value to be added by adopting a human-centered approach to design. If you are interested in designing a package with purpose, then get in touch. Let’s chat about the possibilities.

T: +31 (0)13 523 40 35
E: info@everbetter.nl

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