Next week the future of packaging design will come under the spotlight at the Packaging Innovation Show. Glenn Tutssel looks at the creative challenges of designing structural packaging today
Structure has always played a crucial role in packaging, shelf stand-out and creating a distinctive style. We instantly recognise Ross Lovegrove’s Ty Nant bottle, Raymond Loewy’s streamlined Coke bottle and Ora Ïto’s Heineken aluminium can. Meanwhile, perfume packaging, because of its generous financial margin, has pushed structural innovation with classics by Issey Miyake, Jean Paul Gaultier and Vivienne Westwood, to name but a few.
However, product design has given us a masterclass in how it should be done. The Blackberry, Smartcar and, of course, the iPod (in fact, anything from Apple Computer), all push both design and technology to the forefront of our minds.
Packaging has sadly lagged behind, largely due to a lack of investment. Graphically speaking, it is gaining new ground, with the use of new substrates and printing techniques, but most of the creative input comes from stunning graphic wit and the ‘big idea’.
In the words of Oscar Wilde, ‘consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative’ and this sadly applies to the majority of businesses that are avoiding investing in structural development. It’s about squeezing margins from existing packaging, rather than having the vision to invest in unique structures, and stealing the market from under the feet of those who are standing still. Or, according to cowboy humorist Will Rogers, ‘Even if you are on the right track, you will get run over if you just sit there.’
The Get Smart 2020 Design Challenge, at the Packaging Innovation Show, offers designers across a broad spectrum the opportunity to show how imaginative and creative they are, and let structural ideas come alive, unhindered by graphics. The Washaway Boutique Bag and Dishwasher Bag (designed by Alloy) are practical and as stylish as the given graphics allow. They are fun and commercially viable, transforming one usage into another with zero waste. The ‘out-and-about interactive condom packaging’ is certainly up for it with its bravado, while the cool, crisp styling of Pharmassist is practical and it constitutes a refreshing movefor dispensing. Both are designed by Siebert Head. Meanwhile Essence.com, by Pearlfisher, is a vision for the future. The on-line supermarket reduces graphic clutter and makes use of reusable packaging, through a refined set of essential products, which are enhanced by regular changes to meal menus.
All the submissions to the show have merit and present a new angle on solving the problem, but none really break new ground. British design is supposed to be the most creative and challenging in the world, so either we are not pushing hard enough to move our industry on, or we are not seizing these creative opportunities with a vision for the future.
Packaging needs to move forward, not stick to the same old structures, relying on graphic solutions to support them. Clients that take calculated risks, working in partnership with their design consultancies, will create the brands for the future that cement themselves in the minds of the consumer.
‘The big idea’ will always win through and it will always be the most tangible asset, but the consumer’s interaction with the brand as a total experience will be the future – and the packaging will be a small but crucial part of it. •
Glenn Tutssel is executive creative director of Enterprise IG. The Packaging Innovation Show 2005 will be at the NEC, Birmingham, from 27 to 29 September