Unexpectedly Intriguing!
August 17, 2011
Source: Wikipedia Wrap Rage Demonstration

Move over, CD Jewel Case! The new worst piece of design ever done is, drum roll please... Plastic Clamshell Packaging!

Anita Schillhorn writes:

Design should help solve problems. This packaging attempts to solve the problem of theft, but creates new problems that are far worse, principally irritating your own customers.

It's been the cause of thousands of emergency room visits, and there's even a Wikipedia-approved term to describe the frustration you feel when confronted with an unrelenting piece of plastic between you and your product:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wrap_rage

Wrap rage. We know it well, but what can be done about it?

The answer might be found among the winners selected as part of the 23rd DuPont Packaging Awards (HT: Core77), where Proctor and Gamble was named a "Diamond Winner" for excellence in innovation, cost/waste reduction and sustainability for it's "Be Green" packaging:

In its new design, packaging for Gillette Fusion ProGlide moved away from a clamshell approach and opted instead for a formable pulp tray made of renewable bamboo and bulrush fiber-based material. This new package pushed the boundaries of pulp trays, reducing both cost and material weight. Additionally it is much easier to open, making it popular with consumers. The graphics strongly reinforce the product’s brand identity and support great shelf appeal.

This is a good example of why big business is good - in order to become a big business and to stay a big business, the people behind big businesses need to devote their great resources to work to make consumers happy. Otherwise, in a genuinely competitive market, some other business will. And as it happens, there are compelling economic reasons for big businesses to move away from plastic clamshell packaging:

The Pyranna, the Jokari Deluxe, the Insta Slit, the ZipIt and the OpenIt apply blades and batteries to what should be a simple task: opening a retail package.

But the maddening — and nearly impenetrable — plastic packaging known as clamshells could become a welcome casualty of the difficult economy. High oil prices have manufacturers and big retailers reconsidering the use of so much plastic, and some are looking for cheaper substitutes.

"With the instability in petroleum-based materials, people said we need an alternative to the clamshell," said Jeff Kellogg, vice president for consumer electronics and security packaging at the packaging company MeadWestvaco.

Companies are scuttling plastic of all kinds wherever they can.

And they're saving money in the process, adding to their bottom lines:

"We’ve seen a lot of small, high-value products moving away from what would have been two to three years ago a clamshell, to today what is a blister pack or blister board," said Lorcan Sheehan, the senior vice president for marketing and strategy at ModusLink, which advises companies like Toshiba and HP on their supply chains.

The cost savings are big, Sheehan said. With a blister pack, the cost of material and labor is 20 percent to 30 percent cheaper than with clamshells. Also, he said, "from package density — the amount that you can fit on a shelf, or through logistics and supply chain, there is frequently 30 to 40 percent more density in these products."

The packages also meet other requirements of retailers. Graphics and text can be printed on it.

Because most people cannot tear the product out of the blister pack with their hands, it helps prevent theft.

Which is the problem that plastic clamshell packaging was originally intended to solve. Thus, everybody wins....

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