Application of Design Thinking and Innovation Principles in Packaging

Design Thinking

One of the most crucial aspects of a packed product is it’s packaging. Whether primary, secondary or tertiary, packaging plays a dominant role in product functionality and aesthetics. Packaging not only protects what is packed inside but also has a huge impact on consumer psyche. The modern consumer may decide to buy the product based on how the package looks especially where it is discretionary spending, of course in addition to what is the price point of the packed product. That said, when products such as medicines are being brought, the consumer’s is looking for a genuine product.

While the fundamental aspects of design thinking have been around for many years, it is only recently that companies around the world have embraced so to say the design thinking philosophy.

Simply put, design thinking drives the design keeping in mind what the end consumer of the product wants. Bringing in one of the emotions that humans typically portray which is empathy creates the base for design of any product or package when using design thinking principles.

For example, it is not only the intent of the packaging solution to protect the product from detrimental effects of many environmental factors such as oxygen, moisture and dust but also to give easy access to the consumer where it is needed and deter the consumer from accessing the product where it is not. In the first case, senior citizens who have challenges around opening a package due to pain in their hand need to be provided with a packaging solution that is not only easy to open but also intuitive. In the latter case, children certainly need to be deterred from accessing certain medicines and hence child proof packaging needs to be designed.

It is very important to know what the customer’s actual need is and what his/her latent need would be. As an example let us look at the case where yogurt is packed in a thermoformed cup and is then sealed with an Aluminum lid or the case where dry ready to cook noodles are packed in the thermoformed container and is then sealed with the multi layer laminate. It is clear that the actual need of the consumer is for the packed product to stay fresh and also the pack is not tampered with. The latent needs may be different.

The consumer in Europe or the Americas would want to lid to come off very easily when trying to get peeled. The consumer in India on the other hand would like the lid to be tough to pull off. The reason why this is so is because of the way the consumer in India thinks that a seal that is tough to pull off is more robust and the one easy to pull off does not have the same seal integrity, which is not necessarily true. It is the packaging solution designer’s responsibility to understand these subtle differences and employ the techniques of design thinking.
Let us look at another example where a doctor or a nurse needs access to the hermetically sealed syringe or a medical instrument. The real need is hermetically sealed instrument. The latent need is easy access as the doctor does not really want to struggle while performing a life saving surgery.

A consumer who is roaming the aisles of a grocery store is now being aided with artificial intelligence and augmented reality. These virtues of packaging are really borne out of understanding the consumer would like to make his buying decision based on price, nutrition, cooking recopies, comparative products. And he wants to make these decisions right there and then.

Design thinking focuses on mainly on deeply understanding the end consumers real and latent need, assessing this need for technical and commercial feasibility in terms of the solutions being provided and while doing so constantly using the iterative process of design namely, defining the needs, exploring the solutions using prototypes and implementing the same. Design thinking also teaches us to make mistakes early in the design process, looking inward and outward for solutions and using techniques such as substituting (one material for the other), combining different solutions, adapting, modifying, putting to other use, eliminating (a layer) or rearranging layers of a typical packaging solution.  Various packaging solutions are possible for a given product but not all would really serve the need of the customer and be technically and commercially viable. To test the solutions, prototyping fast and with minimum resources become very important.

Mr. Anand Khare having over 24 years of techno-commercial experience in the field of packaging development and innovation, currently serves as one of the directors at Effinext LLP, a management consulting firm. Effinext delivers technology solutions encompassing plastics packaging & innovation, corporate up-skilling, end to end sales for pre-owned injection molding machines, oil purification peripherals and manufacturing execution systems. Mr. Anand has to his credit numerous awards including the world star award for packaging, awarded by the world packaging organization and has a masters degree in Plastics Engineering from University of Massachusetts Lowell, is a certified project management professional (PMP).

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