Sunday, June 13, 2010

Reprise: A Paean For Packaging

Noticing this morning how easy it was to peel off a single slice of cheese, I was reminded of a post I did two years ago on packaging. I thought it was worth repeating.


Sometimes what seem like small things in life are actually of larger significance. Think for a moment about what has happened to packaging over the past 50 years.

The variety alone is stunning. Simple stereo boxes filled with specially shaped foam and bubble wrap keep delicate equipment secure across continents. Soup cans pop open with the lightweight pull of a small metal ring. Frozen orange juice containers open with an easy tug on a plastic strip.

Think of the advances in food safety, weight reduction, and more. A simple plastic mayonnaise jar closes with the twist of a perfectly fitting lid. At the same time, eliminating glass has made them lighter to ship and much less likely to break.

The examples and benefits could be multiplied a hundredfold. All this thanks, in large part, due to the ingenuity of a type of engineer who rarely receives any public notice or praise. Not regarded as glamorous, or even notorious, like structural engineers, they nonetheless make our lives immensely better in a thousand ways.

I've found myself in restaurants wanting to shake the hand of and to pay the bill for a returning soldier. If I could so easily identify a package engineer, I'd want to do the same.

There are some devils among them, to be sure. Whoever designed those seals on the tops of some CDs deserves jail time. But that was as much a marketing decision by someone with a lack of imagination about theft reduction as anything. You shouldn't blame bullet manufacturers for the scum who use a weapon on the wrong person.

On the whole, though, they deserve all the paeans they almost never receive, except perhaps from their colleagues. (And, knowing corporations as intimately as I regrettably do, not often from them, I'd bet.) It's altogether fitting that the word "paean" was coined to describe a hymn of praise to Apollo, the god of reason.

Package designers, I lift my goblet to your divinity.

1 comment:

Kipling said...

You literally read my mind.