Designing for Social Impact        

Designing for Social Impact

August 10, 2019

Design & Social Impact

As we discussed in part one, when design is used as an effective tool it transforms past singular solutions and branches into widespread results. We covered different examples in architecture, transportation, and healthcare and in part two we will explore how designing for packaging and connectivity can have social impacts as well.

Packaging for Change

The consequences of high demand shipping and fast moving consumer goods have changed the landscape of packaging. With the importance of positive unboxing experiences as well as environmentally responsible materials, packaging design has been changing on an individual and global scale at rapid speed.

Reducing Waste, Increasing Efficiency

Good design promotes sustainable packaging and encourages using minimal, smart materials. Many companies have embraced this change and have been designing smarter products with smarter packaging.

A great example is Puma’s Clever Little Bag designed by Fuseproject.  Their team did extensive research resulting in a holistic, impactful solution. Even more impressive was that the redesign required no changes in Puma’s existing global infrastructure.  On the manufacturing level, the dual purpose bag reduces water, diesel, and energy levels that typically go in to producing the product, saving money and creating a much smaller carbon footprint.

Simple Design, Big Results

Smaller footprint, easy to open packaging creates a positive unboxing experience for today’s consumer looking for eco-conscious brands. The Zigpack and Viupax shoe box are perfectly simple design examples of this combination.  Zigpack is 100% recyclable kraft cardboard, and with 3 points of support can hold and carry a wine bottle without locking and without hiding the product. Similar to Puma’s box, Viupax designed a shoe box that changes the way shoes are packed, shipped, warehoused, stored, displayed and sold. By using less material and taking up less space, it shows the shoe style while  still “in” the box. The flexible shape allows the boxes to be stored in many new and interesting ways or to be converted into a stand.

Designing for Reuse

Designing with recyclable materials is one way of creating better packaging, but some companies are taking it beyond that and designing reusable, durable packaging. Loop puts a twist on traditional milkman services and asks users for a small, fully refundable one-time deposit to borrow the packaging and get their items picked up and dropped off.  Products are picked up when empty, and replaced in the same packaging. Loop partners with companies like Tide, Pantene, Häagen Dazs, and Crest.

Amazon’s Frustration Free Packaging: Scale Example

Amazon’s frustration-free packaging was created to reduce the amount of unnecessary packaging used for delivery services. Frustration-free packaging uses single box shipping and is 100% recyclable.  As of 2017, it eliminated over 215,000 tons of packaging materials and avoided more than 360 million shipping boxes.

Individual: For the individual, frustration-free packaging makes the packages easier and more efficient to open.

Community: On a community level, reducing the number of packages necessary makes for more efficient delivery systems.

Global: Reducing the amount of packaging material decreases the global carbon footprint.

Apple: Initiator + Leaders

Apple is known globally for their superb packaging and they pride themselves on their responsible sourcing, efficiency, and low impact/small footprint.  They developed a Three Part strategy to conserve forest resources through packaging:

Use paper more efficiently and use recycled paper where possible

Source virgin paper responsibly

Protect and create sustainable working forests

Consumer’s Demand Smarter Packaging

Packaging designs haven’t been suppressed or road blocked by environmental stipulations though, and high end, innovative packaging designs continue to impress.  Packaging is of course, a form of branding and as mentioned previously, part of the end user’s purchasing experience. Makeup blog turned mega trendy beauty line, Glossier, recently redesigned their packaging solutions after customer backlash.  With their base expressing concern over the use of unnecessary foil, bubble wrap, sticker sets, and pouches the Glossier team made swift changes and started phasing out unnecessary packaging materials much to the delight of their customers. Glossier’s quick decision is a great example how millennial aged consumers are demanding more from their products and the positive results of a company listening to their base and creating a stronger brand loyalty.  Not to mention, creating a better, more eco-friendly product.


Technology driven designs have the potential to be effective on many different scales. Tech products are moving past just the individual (wearables) and being fused into entire buildings and cities.

Wearable Connections

Wearable products promote connectivity for the individual by storing all information and preferences to create a holistic service centered around the user. They give individuals the ability to control and monitor spaces without physically being in them. Additionally, these products are centered around customization and adapt to individual needs. Examples include:

Smart Watches: Designed for connectivity and incorporate health and wellness monitoring with stylish designs and app support.

Roomba: Self-sufficient and self learning, the Roomba is engineered with precision and adapts to the user’s home.

Nest:  Completes the “connected home”, the Nest is also self learning and adapts to what temperatures the household liked and builds schedules and preferences around that, saving money and energy.

Connecting Networks & Businesses

Naturally, theses connection driven designs are being used to connect people to other people, regardless of physical proximity. In turn, this increases productivity and efficiency allowing for quick and easy communication, especially in the workplace.

Smart buildings and offices, such as Toronto’s RBC Waterpark Place (above), connect employees to the building’s appliances as well as to other employees and a 7,500 square meter green roof accessible by employees.

While WeWork creates shared workspaces to encourage face-to-face collaboration within small businesses and enterprises with top notch technology.  Advanced video conferencing and telepresence systems aid in even more connectivity, making distance barriers a nonfactor for productivity.

Why Design for Connectivity

Increases Efficiency: New “smart” technologies make individuals and businesses more efficient by removing the need to physically be in a space.

Facilitates Communication: With faster and more accessible communication, people can connect on a global scale, whether it be social or business related.

Encourages Collaboration: Both physical and digital platforms are now being created to facilitate collaboration.

Creating Social Impact Through Design
While it is hard to predict future impact, it is our responsibility as designers to consider the over arching issues that we would like to tackle through a design.

As the next generation of designers grows, there should always be a thirst for finding and identifying where there is room for change and disruption and how one might start to seek that change on an individual, community, and global level.

Start small, but think big…

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