December 20, 2013

Is Your Packaging Design so Good it Saves Lives

Is Your Packaging Design so Good it Saves Lives

Packaging design firms are not typically thought of as critically important, life-saving institutions – we design packages for the purpose of protecting and cleverly displaying styling gels, chai tea, and energy drinks, for heaven’s sake. Sometimes, packages are designed even for things that don’t need to be packaged, like the our favorite target we like to poke at, the banana.

However, occasionally a package design firm will come up with an idea that makes a huge social difference, and this must be recognized in equal (or greater) measure than the ability to create an airtight and hip vessel for kale chips.

The Importance of Packaging

Enter, Pi Global. The packaging design firm came up with a distribution method for an anti-diarrheal kit to be distributed to Sub-Saharan African villages. In early 2013, the DuPont Corporation gave the design firm a hearty round of applause for its design by awarding it the DuPont Award for Packaging.

The package, called the AidPod, was not just used for transport though – it, in itself, was part of the product by serving as a single-dose medication vial. No waste, used as the product, and cheap – all pretty brilliant, if you ask us. The packaging concept was sponsored by ColaLife, an organization that, via the CocaCola distribution network, transports medicine and supplies to underdeveloped regions. The vial can be transported in pallets between CocaCola bottles. The design was so innovative that, in addition to being given the prestigious DuPont Award, was lauded by the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs.

Another packaging coup was developed not by a packaging design firm, [gasp!] but by a physician and an engineer. We Care Solar is a firm that delivers solar energy briefcases to remote regions whose medical facilities are in need of a stable source of energy. The briefcases are self-contained solar energy units that can power medical equipment and provide a source of light for surgeries and examinations. The briefcases were developed by accident; they were meant to be display cases for a plan for a large solar energy installation. However, the medical directors and doctors in the underfunded village hospitals recognized that the briefcases themselves were highly valuable, since they were fully functional and could be transported and set up easily. Although we’d love to give a packaging design firm the credit for this, it was the brainchild of two people with real jobs. (Ha! Kidding! Our jobs are certainly not imaginary.)

One of the reasons packaging design is so rich and rewarding is because it gives us the opportunity to have fun with product packaging concepts, flex our artistic muscles and occasionally make a substantial difference.

Packaging and Product – an Unequal Marriage

Medication is a product that seems as though it would be a stand-alone type of item, but a package that allows it to be stored, transported and administered quickly and accurately like the AidPod can make it even more beneficial.

Packaging is the night that allows the star to shine. The greatest shampoo, soap, detergent, antifreeze or steel-cut oats can be made to seem positively second-rate if they are sold in poorly developed packaging. If we can’t get something out of the bottle, or if we need extraneous tools to help us use something, we tend to become annoyed, and we sometimes violently throw the product across the room.

There are different categories of product packaging. There is the obvious product protecting function, but certain products simply cannot be used efficiently or effectively without some form of packaging, and it’s the packaging that can either enhance or diminish the product experience. Toothpaste, for example, is a product that would be really difficult to cope with without clever or merely serviceable packaging. Anything in liquid form needs a substantial and well-developed package. Imagine lighter fluid packaged in a jar. There would be oh, so many news stories.

Packaging design is much more than just putting items in a box — packaging can be an integral part of a life-saving medication delivery system. What else can it do that we in the packaging design industry have yet to think of? There’s a world of opportunity, and frankly, our industry has only begun exploring what all is possible. We like to think that’s we’re doing our part in pushing those boundaries with our own designs, helping clients achieve their own revolutionary changes with increased sales. But, we have our eye out for the next AidPod idea. If you have a thought of something that could help mankind, let us know and let’s see what we can achieve together.


by Kevin Smith
SmashBrand helps brands create, optimize, and launch successful products, services, and customer experiences. Our data-driven process is the key to accelerating sales and minimizing risks.

We use a strategic combination of market research, design, and consumer testing to solve complex brand problems more effectively, create differentiation, and forge more meaningful connections with customers.

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