Exhibition display at the University of Michigan's School of Art & Design senior thesis show. Over 100 fully-functional boxes were constructed.
My concentration lies in the intricacies of the packaging. As seen in current packaging design, the graphical aspects overpower the technical construction of the box, and this is a flaw. A thoroughly researched and frequently revised foundation is essential when perfecting something as delicate and complex, as a glue-free, sustainable box. While designing the package for the LED bulb required a deep knowledge and investigation of paper, folds, and graphical language, the prospect of developing a package capable of recycling dead bulbs, and still retaining its beautiful object-like qualities was exhilarating. As a result, I was able to develop a springy, protective, interior core made only of folded paper. This interior piece cushions the new or old bulb so that it remains in place and can handle disturbances during transport. The resulting combination of a durable outer shell and a flexible inner body creates a perfectly balanced box.
The graphics on the package have also been redesigned to help the consumer more easily understand the bulb’s specifications and benefits. To drive consistency, the point-of-purchase display, which is separated in to six different drums, follows the design cues of the individual bulb packaging. Each drum is color-coded based on the brightness and mood of each bulb where, for example, a warm white would be a warmer color compared to a cool white. The display accommodates for three different moods: warm white, white, and cool white, and then separates those moods by their brightness: 450-lumens and 800-lumens. Within each drum are modular packaging units as each bulb is available in a single, double and quadruple pack. Consequently, the only difference between the multi-packs is the sleeve holding the modular boxes together. For this purpose, the consumer would not have to mail back a quadruple-sized box if they only wished to send one bulb back. This modular container would also save money in manufacturing costs since only one die would be necessary for all of this packaging, even though the bulbs can be bundled in various quantities.
Since this package is manufactured carbon neutral, from 100% post consumer recycled paper and without the use of any glue, it’s an extremely sustainable solution for packaging items. The design is meant to ultimately create a movement towards glue-free, plastic-less, globally sustainable packaging. With the appropriate graphic labels, focusing on lumens as opposed to watts and emphasizing annual economic savings for the consumer, the bulbs should be steadily purchased. With the bulb purchase and subsequent removal of its package for use, consumer interest in the unique packaging will be stimulated. The consumer will be encouraged to recycle their old bulbs using the highly flexible paper interior. The distinctive packaging and graphic label contrasts greatly from every light bulb package on the market today, and therefore would promote using glue-free packaging for all companies. In short, the sustainable nature of my packaging should ultimately create competition in the packaging world, pressing a green movement in other major companies who continue to use wasteful products in the production of their packaging.
The use of plastic in packaging is no longer advantageous to the manufacturer and is most often disposed of improperly. As more people become knowledgeable about sustainability it was also important to investigate the mindset of consumers and how their behavior and attitudes influence their aspirations in terms of footprint on global sustainability. By producing the re-usable, recyclable packages, the future consumer will be more likely to recycle or consider the implications of recycling their bulbs and packages simultaneously, creating minimal amounts of waste.
The Creative Process
For several months, I explored the potential of various papers. I experimented and tested for durability, flexibility, and memory. I compared and organized several papers until I had retained enough knowledge to match the appropriate papers with my vision for the packaging graphics. From here, I studied historical packaging techniques and paper engineering. My main historical reference is Josef Albers, and the design movement he was a part of at Bauhaus. During my private research, I studied under Matt Shlian, a current University of Michigan professor and internationally known paper engineer. From here, I began production and created countless iterations of my design with curiosity as my driving force. I had a desire to test every possibility and from that curiosity, grew a specific set of challenges. How few tabs are required to bind the paper together? How much force can one type of paper sustain over another? Which direction of forces would be most threatening to the bulb and how can it account for those forces? Often by answering my own questions, my curiosity only expanded. Not only does it drive me as I produce iterations, but it compels me to do further research.
The Michigan Difference
Modern technology has been a huge advantage for me in my design process. For this project, I used Adobe Illustrator to construct paper-cutting patterns that I could easily send to my university’s precision laser cutter. With this advanced technology at my disposal, I could easily design all the paper-folding patterns I imagined and perform a wide variety of paper studies. The advancement in software has allowed me to rapidly prototype every idea that comes to mind.