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Make it Tangible to Make it Come Alive

CHICAGO, February 6, 2014 () – At some point, when we all have our personal, portable full color holographic projectors, the need for tangible samples will decrease, but I’m not ready to predict the ultimate demise of physical samples of packages or their constituent materials. My mostly annual purging of my archives of packages I’ve collected from all kinds of sources is an interesting exercise in trying to figure out what I can’t do without and why.

I’m always on the lookout for the unique concept or execution that represents an attempt to solve a problem in a compelling fashion. In my travels, especially when I get overseas, I find myself strolling retail stores, picking up one of this, one of that when my interest or curiosity is piqued. I’m looking forward to Interpack this May, and know I’d better make some room on my shelves for the things I’ll find.

Sometimes it's the Wow! factor that motivates me to stop, look, touch and get a sample. Sometimes it’s something seemingly mundane, but done in a slightly different way. Consumer convenience features that really work every time and are highly intuitive and reassuring to the user remain at least somewhat elusive targets of package designers and developers. But I remain ready to be pleasantly surprised by new opening, reclose, dispensing systems that make using them easy for me, the consumer.

Due to a prior commitment, I was unable to participate in the IoPP Chicago Chapter program on February 4th. The program was all about the hot topic of 3D printing and its use in the packaging industry. I’ve been following the evolution of 3D printing technology, and I am intrigued by this use of digital technology to facilitate putting something tangible in the hands of a potential user.

We’ve relied for a long time on 2D drawings and renderings to communicate concepts, and for cartons or flexible structures, we could mock up hand samples that helped create a somewhat realistic feel for the structure. Wooden molds for simple thermoformed items required a special craftsman to produce. Other three dimensional package forms were real challenges.

Now, if it can be designed using CAD software, in most cases a few hours later it is possible to hold complex shaped parts that provide a 360 look at the design. Storefront shops with 3D printers are popping up in metropolitan areas, further democratizing design of everything from one-off jewelry and accessories to inexpensive sculpture. And maybe creative packages and components.

As I sit in my office, my eyes wander to the constantly changing array of packages that prominently populate several shelves. Random juxtaposition of seemingly unrelated products and packages often helps me break free from the bonds of the tried and true and ordinary. Or at least challenges me to try to figure out how to combine disparate approaches in a new way. I’ll find myself wandering over to pick one or more up, rearrange them and wonder what else could be.

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a sample, one you can manipulate, handle, and play with - that’s where much greater richness resides.

Timothy Bohrer is the owner of Pac Advantage Consulting:

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