Packaging innovation should embrace Green values too

It is a happy accident that Design Week has a technical slant this week, manifested in the coverage of innovations in packaging.

The results of the Starpack Awards, given not for design per se, but for technical innovation, dovetail neatly with our feature on new materials that might eventually make it on to the honours circuit.

In awards like Starpack, the manufacturer takes the prize – and the designers involved are lucky to get a mention – yet technical aspects are integral to design. Creative souls need to keep abreast of what’s new and adapt it for their purposes. It can help a client establish a point of difference – witness Innocent Drinks’ reticence about who is making its cornstarch bottles – can possibly reduce costs and can make packs and products more user-friendly.

The same arguments can sometimes be made in interiors. New materials can cut the ice and schemes such as the National Association of Shopfitters design prize celebrate effective collaboration between creative force and technical expertise.

Even in print, a designer/printer or paper manufacturer partnership can produce the best quality and innovation. Consultancies in the business of buying paper and print should be looking for the meeting of minds and mutual respect that leads to great results.

One cautionary note emanates from the Starpack Awards, though. Judges’ chairman Terry Robins airs his disappointment at the lack of prowess shown by 2006 entrants in addressing environmental issues.

This sentiment applies across all areas of design. It is as if good design and Green concerns are mutually exclusive, yet it is surely time the two were uttered in the same breath. Improving your technical knowledge is part of this, but it will take a major shift in attitude before it is commonplace.

After years of talk, the field is still open for design to take the lead in sustainability issues. So when are we going to grasp the mettle?

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