Redesigning LED Packaging
Thesis Project, 2011
We’ve all been there before: standing at the hardware store inspecting an endless display of light bulbs, trying to discern which one is right for us. To be honest, it’s a bit stressful and a bit difficult to understand the lighting jargon. Lumens, watts, volts—what do they mean?
The packaging should clearly display information that will help us select the bulb that best suits our lighting needs. The label should emphasize lumens (which measure brightness), rather than watts (which measure energy use). Currently, reliance on watt measurements alone has made it difficult for us to compare traditional incandescent bulbs to more efficient bulbs, such as compact fluorescents. Labels should also display yearly energy cost, so consumers can understand that though an LED bulb may be more expensive initially, it can save an estimated $108 on electricity bills over a lifetime of use.
In addition to changing the label, we need to redesign LED packaging itself, which is made of plastics. These are primarily manufactured from oil and natural gas, which are both non-renewable resources. Additionally, nearly all of the molecules that plastic factories have produced for decades are still with us and will remain with us for centuries. These microscopic particles of plastic litter the landscape, oceans, and enter the food chain.
- Featured by GOOD.is, Inhabitat, The Dieline, Packaging of the World, ID magazine, Core77, Packaging Served, Pleat Farm, Packaging Pulse, Design Your Way, I can be Creative
- Published in Issue 152 of Computer Arts Projects, Gestalten Publishing's Boxed and Labelled 2, Chris van Uffelen's Packaging Design
- Winner of Core77's 2011 International Packaging Design Competition
With these design problems in mind, I began crafting my undergraduate senior thesis in 2010. I chose to combine my passion for graphic design and curiosity in paper engineering by creating a more socially-responsible LED packaging system. My goal was to create a packaging solution that was glue-free, constructed from 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper, and was manufactured carbon-neutral. In addition, my design would promote a system where consumers could easily send their used compact fluorescent bulbs (which contain mercury) to a recycling facility upon the end of their life, as the package also serves as a prepaid return-shipping container.
To increase utility, while maintaining structural rigidity, the inside of the box holds a unique paper design. This function of the box could quickly transform to fit any bulb placed back inside of it, while protecting it from being crushed during transport. The springy, protective, interior core is made entirely 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 created a perfectly balanced box.
Aside from the physical packaging, the second aspect to my thesis was redesigning its corresponding graphics. This would help the consumer more easily distinguish between the different bulb specifications and benefits. The different colors on the packaging reflect the color light the bulb emits, for example, a warm white would be a warmer color opposed to a cool white. The packaging would accommodate three different light appearances: warm white, white, and cool white, and then separate those appearances by their brightness: 450-lumens and 800-lumens.
The back of the packaging was also redesigned to resemble nutritional fact labels found on food. With this familiar format, consumers would easily be able to compare the differences between light bulbs upon closer inspection.
The sustainable aspects to this design concept are to be lauded along with the innovative use of materials and thoughtfulness to the overall needs of this category.
Marianne Klimchuk, Chairperson, Packaging Design Department, Fashion Institute of Technology (2011)
For each color and brightness, a single, double and quadruple pack of light bulbs are available.
The only difference between the multi-pack structures is the sleeve holding the 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 fewer dies would be necessary during production.
The distinctive packaging and graphic label contrasts greatly from every light bulb package on the market today and would encourage more innovative packaging from other light bulb companies. In short, the sustainable nature of my design aims to 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.
A beautiful detail was created from a functional aspect on the inside of the package.
Mark Christou, Creative Director at Pearlfisher (2011)
As we move towards a more green future, both through increased awareness and impending resource constraints, designers are playing a larger role in society than ever before. At its core, design is about effecting change. In this constantly evolving world, if we are unhappy with something, we are going to attempt to improve the situation by investing in design. Moreover, designers have the power to influence culture in their decisions as well as their actions through innovative products and services. We have the opportunity to change what design means. We can forge an industry that respects the limits of our planet while promoting and contributing a positive impact on society.
We loved the level of consideration that was evident in this design. It’s an important skill for the designer to know when to break the rules and also how to do it elegantly.
Joshua Handy, VP of Product Experience at Method (2011)
Most importantly, designers have a crucial responsibility in the transformation to sustainable economies. It is important that we change our communication systems to reduce existing and mitigate potential environmental damage. My thesis challenged me to embrace change and use design to help other people. We live in an exciting, creative time of transformation, with very big problems that demand innovative solutions. It’s important that we think about the change we hope to achieve, and create strategies that fulfill our potential. In order to design for good, we must have an open mind to the ever-changing world around us, and the possibilities it offers us to do something special.