May 19, 2014

Wrap Rage: Know the Signs. Design a Cure.

Wrap Rage: Know the Signs. Design a Cure.

It starts out innocently enough. You’re with a friend or close family member when they purchase some item in a plastic clamshell package. You get back home, and he or she takes the new toy out of its bag, at the same time grabbing a pair of scissors or a utility knife with which to tackle that seemingly impenetrable protective bubble.

  • Everything seems normal, at first. But then, you notice them. The signs.
  • Rapid increase in stress level, heart rate and facial redness
  • Extreme and disproportionate frustration and reactions
  • Injuries, including abrasions, cuts and slices (These may be from the packaging itself, or from the totally inappropriate tools used in the package opening attempt.)
  • Overuse of R-rated (and even X-rated) language
  • Hurling of packaged items (and sometimes miscellaneous, unrelated nearby items) across the room
  • Anger to the point of tears

That’s when you know: You’re in the presence of wrap rage. You’re not alone. Together, with support and education about this terrible, devastating disease, packaging design companies and consumers alike can find the help they need for themselves and their loved ones.

What Is Wrap Rage?

Wrap rage is the health condition that develops in response to really stupidly designed and needlessly frustrating packaging. Symptoms include anger, frustration, crying, physical injury and screaming of profanities. These may occur singly or in any combination.

The symptoms of wrap rage come on very quickly, with little to no warning, and can subside just as fast. Although they dissipate without external treatment, recurrence is common. In fact, there seems to be a direct correlation with the resurgence of symptoms and the proximity of ridiculous packaging.

What Causes Wrap Rage?

  • Although the most extreme form of wrap rage results from clamshell packaging, there are many types of poorly designed packages and products that can trigger the condition:
  • The nearly identical ends on any USB cable, invariably causing users to try the incorrect end first.
  • The jillions of miniature wire twists that hold children’s toys in place. (This one is particularly bad, because most consumers already had to force their way through a clamshell-type package as the first line of defense.)
  • Any packaging surrounding a sharp tool that would actually require a sharp tool to open.
  • The plastic bags that hold chips or live inside cereal boxes that unfailingly tear down the middle instead of across the top.
  • Flimsy plastic lids that are utterly incapable of protecting consumers from scalding hot beverages.
  • Fruit that already has a skin, yet is packaged in additional coverings for no apparent purpose.
  • Absurdly huge boxes and endless volumes of Styrofoam peanuts (themselves a huge irritation) used to ship comparatively small items.
  • Spice jars that are too narrow to fit a measuring spoon inside.

This list is by no means exhaustive.

As you can see, there are a number of high-risk behaviors that could lead the unsuspecting consumer into a position where wrap rage is imminent. Amazon offers a Gallery of Wrap Rage for easier identification of potential trigger situations, while Consumer Reports’ Oyster Awards presents a list of the most terribly designed packages to facilitate avoidance. Remember, the more you know, the better your chances will be of keeping yourself and those you care about safe from harm.

Is There a Cure?

Since there’s no known cure for wrap rage once it’s diagnosed, the best treatment at this time remains prevention. The design community strongly recommends using only frustration-free packaging in order to prevent needless cases of early-onset wrap rage.

At the end of the day, packaging and product design should help solve problems, not create them. Products need to be designed to engage consumers, not alienate them. Next time you’re thinking about package design, don’t forget to weigh user-friendliness as a primary consideration. Together, we can eradicate this illness; through our efforts, future generations may someday live in a wrap-rage-free world.


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.

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