November 22, 2012

Packaging History

We Consume, Therefore We Are

Author: Capsule

Topic: Packaging

Packaging was a delivery device that was intended to get the product safely to its destination. Merchants offered the final hand delivery to the consumer seeking to make a purchase. Then Sears, Roebuck and Company, Marks & Spencer, and other national retailers brought us into the modern age of consumption-driven retail.

When we moved from a production-driven society to a consumption-driven society, packaging design became an essential part of the evolution. As new technologies and materials became available, the possibilities in design expanded drastically. Now that we live in this consumption-driven society, the package has become an essential identifier of our ability to consume. Just visit your local antique dealer before a trip to a modern retail store to see a mere hundred years' of change.

Digging deeper into the details, packaging existed to transport and protect a product while en route to its destination. In some categories of household products, the bulk packages we know today were more common as consumers were expected to store in quantity and use portions. This efficient distribution method was common when general stores or village shops were the primary retail options. Compare this to bulk stores today and the similarities are interesting.

Further exploration of the influences of packaging design takes us to the surrounding media, materials, manufacturing, processes, and other innovations. Historically, packaging was the only medium available to build a product brand. Other than a couple magazines, national advertising media was sparse until radio and television reached full-market saturation. New materials brought lighter-weight packages, better protection from theft and spoilage, and advancements that would amaze the average person from the prior century. Manufacturing processes evolved from individual laborers packing each product to completely automated plants that produce and package as many items in a day as laborers would produce in a year.

As in every other aspect of national economies, change is constant while the speed and type of change can be influenced. Taking you back to an age-old grade school lesson, it's what we learn from history that gives us the proper perspective. We can influence the change we make and learn from what has happened to create the right change for our economies, planet, and people.

Source: Design Matters Packaging