Challenge: Design, Poetry, and Muffins
Just as great poets reinvent and reinvigorate language, designers can do the same for the designed world. There is a sense of wonder and joy that arises from knowing about and holding in your hands the results of creative design reinvention. A toilet paper roll without the tube! A shoebox that doesn’t require so much cardboard! An aspirin bottle without the box! Sustainability is a way to improve your bottom line and enchant your customers. As Chris Hacker said in an interview I did for Print, “We’re not just making sustainable things for the sake of doing sustainable stuff—our real job is to make sure that we’re providing a really great consumer experience for people.”
If you are a designer designing a package, or an executive making a decision about packaging, the same advice applies: Think reinvention. Those who do—among them Chris Hacker and Yves Béhar—are designing in an elegant way while building buzz and generating consumer delight. They’re proving that you can add value and sales through a rethink based on a devotion to design innovation.
Nothing should be taken for granted. Do you need packaging at all? If you’re a soap manufacturer, you might say, “Yes, certainly.” But then look at Sappo Hill, which doesn’t use packaging for each individual bar of soap. The bars are delivered to the store a dozen to a single recycled paper tray, saving our friends at Sappo quite a lot of money and reducing packaging in the process. That to me is design poetry. Was that really that difficult? (Memo to Procter & Gamble: Why aren’t you doing this?)
Since these examples of creative thinking are so inspiring, we’ve decided to start a series of posts focusing on reinvention. We will present “assignments” to reinvent a category, and we’d love to hear your ideas for new design approaches that might be implemented. It’s a chance to put aside the dead lexicon of designs past: We want you to reinvent the vocabulary.
Our first sustainability challenge focuses on something every bit as quotidian and mundane as toilet paper: English muffins. Why? Because lately I’ve been eating a lot of them. I think it has something to do with reverting to the comforts of childhood, when I ate Thomas’ English muffins every now and then. As I’ve returned to eating versions of this product, I’ve been irked that it comes in packaging with a paper tray, so as I’m eating my breakfast, I have to consider the footprinted baggage of the plastic wrapper and the dead trees that come along with it.
Can you figure out how to design the packaging so that this simple breakfast snack comes without the added footprint of dead trees? Is it just as simple as getting rid of the tray and packaging the muffins in the same way as supermarket bagels? Can you even take the petroleum products out of the equation, and rethink muffin packaging to the point that you can get rid of the plastic bag, too?
I realize that there’s an aspect of branding that goes along with the muffin tray, but this design is one of those “we’ve been doing it a certain way for so long that we are incapable of realizing that there’s a better way to do it.” Time for some new ideas. Go to it, and share your thoughts about better solutions in the comments!