8 Startups That Have Mastered the Unboxing Experience
1. Fuzz Therapy2. Sir Lancelot’s Armor Holy Grail3. Janie’s Cakes4. Henri’s Reserve5. Pad & Quill6. Grovemade7. 4Moms RockaRoo8. Penclic Numpad
The package arrives at the office in a plain brown box. Then, the fun starts. These products from small companies provide an unusual box-opening experience with well-designed packaging. The goal is to use the box itself to improve the product and make you happy, even if you don't have the resources of Apple or HP. Here's how these companies did it.--John Brandon
If you purchase one of these teddy bears as a gift for someone, know that there's a story behind the gift box -- and the company. Julee Shepard started Fuzz Therapy about 18 months ago after sending a gift to her sister-in-law, who had metastatic breast cancer and died in 2012. Shepard realized how even the unboxing experience can become a cherished moment. The original box design, made in China, cost $11,000 for a 1,000 sample run and consisted of a slide-out drawer, but gift recipients sometimes struggled to rip off the front cover. The new box, designed by Yes Packaging in Chicago, folds open easily to reveal the gifts inside.
Jazzing up the packaging for a screen protector is a tall order. Essentially a thin plastic sheet you place over your smartphone, the product itself is not that exciting. Sir Lancelot's Armor uses a metal box packed with thick foam for its Holy Grail protector. When you open the package, you can almost hear the Monty Python angelic choir. The metal box also serves a double purpose: it's essentially immune to any shipping mishaps and easy to open. The case, company logo, and product name all work in tandem to encourage product identification.
Packaging design fits into three categories: the product itself, the box that contains the product and how that is presented to the customer, and then the shipping box you use to send the product across the country. Janie's Cakes, based in Texas, uses a yellow, blue, and white theme for their product box and shipping box. And, even the pound cake inside is the same yellow as the box coloring. The consistent look -- which even carries over to the company's website -- helps build anticipation when the box arrives at a customer's door step.
The packaging design for this small business, which sells champagne to connoisseurs, is a testament to how a tiny company can differentiate. Henri's Reserve started in 2011 and explored a few stock packaging options like wooden boxes, but decided to work with Margaret Hurst, a professor at Parsons The New School for Design in New York. The illustrations have a unique whimsical look that draws your attention. Most importantly, instead of using the standard wine box design, they created inexpensive printed tubes in runs of 500-1000 units.
A small company has a distinct advantage over larger product companies. With fewer "cooks in the kitchen" you can entertain a few different packaging ideas from your core design team. With the Pad & Quill leather cases for phones and tablets, the founder's wife came up with the elegant wrapping concept, their college-aged daughter suggested using a Roman seal, and the package designers (Minneapolis-based Linnehan and Foy) thought up the idea of including unique sayings inside the package that encourage thinking outside of the box.
This bamboo case feels light in your hand, extra durable (due to some reinforced plastic materials), and highly unique due to the small factory wood-working. But the Grovemade box opening process is what you remember most. The case is situated inside a recycled cardboard enclosure (e.g., a case within a case). The package design process became a team effort -- they pulled in a member of the shipping team, the assemblers, and a designer.
Not all unboxing experiences involve ribbons and flashy metal cases. With this 4moms robotic swing, the idea is to make the set-up time easier. (Parents might have one baby on their arm and not a lot of patience to use screwdrivers and wrenches.) The entire box lifts open to reveal all of the components in a tray. You lift each item out and snap into place. One of the most important factors in this package design process has to do with disassembly as well. The components are just as easy to place back into the box if you move or travel with one.
This clever keypad, which you use for fast numeric typing next to your computer, uses two important package design principles. One is that the Penclic box itself looks like an animated character, so it draws your attention. The second is that there's a clever saying ("You can count on me") that makes you wonder what is inside and how the product works. Both were important because the product itself is more of an accounting aid and not that eye-catching on its own.