IDEO rethinks the future of packaging

Flowery pill dispensers and seedy cigarette butts are among the Californian design consultancy's new concepts

IDEO may not think of itself as a pack design agency; the design firm prefers to describe itself as taking "a human-centered, design-based approach to helping organisations in the public and private sectors innovate and grow."

Nevertheless, IDEO has produced its fair share of consumer-goods containers, from salad cartons to baby food jars. Indeed, being a vast and well-resourced innovations consultancy with offices hither and thither, it is well placed to give the thorny issue of packaging some serious thought.



To this end, it has come up with 18 concepts under its Designs On banner - an internal project that sets out to cultivate an open and active design culture. The output of Designs On's efforts is summed up in a bi-annual booklet in the past they've covered all manner of themes, such as time, food and global warming.

This latest issue attempts to show how much packaging could or should have a bigger role in explaining the way a product is used. Among the designs is the Vita Flower, a florally inspired pill dispenser for young people, designed to be good-looking enough to stand on a dining table.

"Vita Flower allows users to arrange all over-the-counter prescription medications in an alluring, floral pattern," explain the Designs On team, "The exposure to friends and family members is designed to help promote adherence to a specified drug regimen. Users are less inclined to skip or forget a day when people are watching. And there's a secondary benefit: it beautifies tables and countertops formerly sullied by amber pill cases or real flowers wilting."



One of our favorites is the rice packaging. These are different-shaped hessian hold-alls, although designed to carry the humble grain, they're as stylish in their utilitarian way as any tote bag. "Though rice remains a vital source of nourishment, its packaging looks bland, utilitarian, even coldly industrial," bemoans the team. "To elevate its role as an everyday hero and push it into modernity, these designs make the grain easier to recognise and carry in urban settings."

We also admire, Cigg Seeds, a prototype cigarette design, which implants a wild flower seed into a specially adapted filter, allowing cast-off butts to break forth into bloom. For the most part, these are not the sort of concepts that are likely to actually be picked up by a real live client. But they should pique their interest, and who knows where that could lead.

For more on this, go here. For further insight into how great ideas become classic designs, take a look at our Design Classics series, which profiles 1000 iconic objects.