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Creating packaging experiences

23.05.2012

A product’s packaging is not merely a protective shell it travels home from the store in. Packaging may be fun and beautiful and does not need to be taken seriously.

“Packaging is a product’s user interface, a brand builder, a communication tool and part of the experience associated with the product,” states Markus Joutsela a researcher at the Aalto University Department of Media as well as developer and head teacher of the PACK-AGE packaging design course.

On 16 May new and even surprising solutions created by course participants were presented to the attendees at PACK-AGE’s final gala. Students in Team Nokia came up with the creative idea of using the mouldable plywood Grada, launched by UPM, as a multifunctional and sustainable packaging material for Nokia mobile phones. Inspired by the Lumia Smartphone name (lumi is Finnish for snow) pretty the students added snowflakes to the design of some packages.

Three different collectable plywood packaging concepts were produced. The first concept is a play on the idea that packaging could offer its owner something fun to do as well as added value. The concept returns to the roots of photography via packaging; a pinhole camera in the package offers something new and interesting alongside mobile phone cameras. The package includes the liquids and papers needed for producing a traditional paper photograph. The mobile phone’s infrared can act as a darkroom light. The idea is to take a step back in time to a time when photography required more understanding than snapping photos with today’s mobiles phones does.

Team Nokia’s second concept was to utilise the plywood material as an aesthetic object. The phone is locked in place between two opposite facing semicircles in a way that ensures it will remain unharmed in all positions, and all mobile related equipment is hidden behind the phone. The package changes into different objects by changing its position. For example, if it is placed diagonally it can function as an alarm clock with the mobile as the screen.

The team’s last and perhaps most practical concept was a plywood charging stand for mobiles. Wireless electricity has been laminated into the plywood, ensuring that the product can be charged without use of a wire. The QR code includes the mobile telephone’s instruction manual, meaning there is no need for a printed manual.

Packaging makes it possible to eat while you are walking

Atria asked course participants for a packaging solution for its Food-on-the-go products. These types of products are suited for busy individuals as well as for those who have no interest in preparing their own meals. The packaging solution should be handy and user-based, so that it is possible to eat the product on the go, for example, while walking. Team Atria came up with several clever packaging containers such as the Lapfood concept, designed to balance easily on one’s lap or in one’s hand, and the Break-it `n´ Shake-it concept, designed so that the user can choose when to mix meat and salad with one another by pressing the top.

However, a concept named Muki (cup) was selected for the prototype phase. It is a cardboard cup made from Billerud’s FiberForm in which the core ingredient of the salad, such as chicken, fish or tofu and its dressing are in a cylinder at the centre of the cup. When the user is ready to eat the salad, they can remove the top and pull the cylinder up. The meaty core and dressing will then spread evenly over the salad. The FiberForm material used in the cups is easier to mould than normal. This makes it possible to press designs into the surface of the material. The texture of the material feels natural and appealing, and the surface pattern improves grip. The salad cup is suited for all standard-sized cup holders in cars, cinemas, airplanes, etc.

Team Kannisto + Anton&Anton designed ecological packaging solutions for bread sold at Anton&Anton, shop located in Kruununhaka, Helsinki. The designed packaging also acts as a media that will bring customers added value in their everyday lives.  The team presented two different bread packaging concepts. In the first concept the paper bag acts as a consumer guide with fun information graphics on the life cycle of fresh bread.

Markus Joutsela, head teacher for the PACK-AGE course, says that companies have reacted very positively to the results of the course. Inter-disciplinary cooperation between teachers has also run smoothly, and the learning results have been substantial. Therefore the course piloted at the Aalto University Media Factory can be deemed a success and will be held again next year.

The PACK-AGE course cooperation partners:

  • Stora enso
  • Billerud
  • UPM
  • Starcke

Packagin solutions and prototypes were made for companies such as Nokia, Atria, Valio, Saarioinen, Verman, Kannisto bakery and Anton&Anton.

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