Product and Packaging Design with Sustainability in Mind

Not only is this design customer-centric on a number of levels it also demonstrates DESIGN THINKING that has led to a more than incremental improvement

Last week, as I was making my packaging research rounds and doing some shopping for eco products in DM, I came across this display.

Display of eco products in DM, notice the slightly undigital font used on the left.

I am always on the lookout for packaging designs with true aesthetic and functional style in the Czech Republic, and though some interesting packaging designs are beginning to appear here and there, they are still, when compared to more western capitals, few and far between.

Therefore I was excited when I found, almost hidden at the bottom on of this display, a new line of products with a design that not only fits in with global 2016 trends - most notably the primary colors and the pure essentialism of the clear clean design - but also displayed some deep Design Thinking.

But before we get to the deeper Design Thinking elements, let's look at the many customer-centric elements which have led to so many happy customers, and demonstrates that the company was approaching product design with empathy.

Customer-Centric element 1: The design is simple, straight-forward and only the essential information is visible from the front to cut down on cognitive overload. And the pictograms of the house, rubber duck, chef’s hat and window, remove even the need for reading the basic English on the bottle, to know which type of cleaner it is.

Customer-Centric element 2: It is efficient. Customers do not want to spend anymore time or money cleaning than possible. Having a product that works quickly and well the first time is important for busy people.

Customer-Centric element 3: They are certified as all natural products with 100% plant-based active ingredients and biodegradable formulas by Ecocert (an inspection and certification body for sustainable development) that is safe for children and pets.

Customer-Centric element 4: It is refillable. Of course this is not at all a new idea, however, the way it is excecuted shows the designers were practicing Design Thinking.

The refill container is much smaller than the original package, and has a very special feature.

People were observed, questions were asked, and answers were listened to with empathy. And not just people in the middle of the bell curve. They listened to the people at the extreme ends, where the interesting thinking and behaviors occur.

Design thinking pays special attention to the people at the extreme ends of the bell curve. It is the people in the middle - the typical members of focus groups - that Henry Ford was refering to when he said, "If I’d have asked what people anted, they would have said a faster horse." (Picture from Daylight’s video: What Is Design Thinking.)

Here are two points of interest from the deeper Design Thinking:

1. Customers very much like the idea of buying a refill and therefore reusing a plastic bottle, however they find the refill packages often contain almost as much plastic as the original package. The YOU desgners addressed by making the refill a concentrate that is added to water from the customer’s own tap, thus cutting down on packaging material. This also adds the benefit of it being lighter and taking up less space in a shopping bag.

Many refill packages contain nearly as much plastic as the original bottle.

2. Refilling a bottle is often difficult and messy. The contents spill and are wasted, and get on surfaces and hands. This was addressed by the YOU designers by designing a new system for refilling that is mess free and waste free. The refill container attaches directly to the original bottle as shown in the diagram below, so there is no contact with skin and no wasted product.

Below is a video demonstrating the easy mess-free refilling process with water from the customer's tap.

Like most products that are considered sustainable, this product is far from 100% sustainable, however, it is a large step in the right direction, and the design thinking that went into the design of a new refilling mechanisms will bring more consumers onboard with the idea of buying refillables, and this is opening the door to further sustainable innovation and improved profits.

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