Big news for packaging design enthusiasts and all people (well, everyone who has ever bought a product in the last 10 to 15 years), ubiquitous online retailer Amazon.com has launched the Frustration-Free Packaging service.
I was trying to understand the reasons for the lack of interesting packaging among most major manufacturers (again, there is plenty of innovative packaging out there, and www.thedieline.com will prove that to you in three seconds), and said the following: “It’s not easy to spend money on a beautifully done piece of clear plastic today, when your customers are just going to cut into the thing with a pair of scissors anyway.” I was referring to those endless little packages with the clear plastic and wire ties. The ones you literally have to attack with a kitchen utensil, the ones that make every consumer long for simple boxes that open when you try and open them.
Every one’s worst experience is probably trying to get one of those famous clear-plastic-clamshells open without any strong scissors nearby, or maybe using a butter-knife because that was the only thing you had around (or a set of keys). A nightmare at best, a grievous hand injury at worst.
So Frustration-Free Packaging is a welcome, welcome relief. The two best reasons for why this is good: the packaging is recyclable, and it can be shipped in its own box. There’s a certain modern ridiculousness to re-packaging something that is already packaged just to send it in the mail, especially when these products are simply not designed to sit on a shelf (speaking of which, if you want a digital shelf of amazon stuff, try this site).
So that’s the environmental angle. Then there’s the sheer frustration angle, which Amazon calls “Wrap Rage”. They’ve put up a gallery of images featuring disgusting cuts to people’s fingers from serrated plastic edges, useless packaging of posters in large boxes, and frustrating wire ties making small babies cry.
Since this is Amazon, the internet’s biggest online retailer, they’re going big with the whole project, envisioning this as a multi-year endeavour that will eventually encompass their entire line of products. And they aren’t just receiving the products in their original boxes, and then trashing them and repackaging. They’re working with the manufacturers to get these things pre-packaged, straight from the factory.
There’s something appealing about this: imagine every manufacturer that sells anything on Amazon eventually packaging all its stuff in plain, recyclable cardboard boxes. A store like Toys R Us might suddenly change, and the idea of selling the products through endless glossy packaging will give way to a kind of playroom, where one or two instances of the toy or product will lead us to a counter and an easy, non-descript box containing the product. It already works this way at IKEA, for the most part–why not elsewhere? This could be the start of something big…