Why the “Wrap Rage”?

There is an interesting article in April’s edition of Print Magazine by Debbie Millman that talks about product packaging and “wrap rage.”  Why is it so hard to get those darn packages open?!  Then when you finally manage to get it open, your reward (other than finally unveiling your item), a bunch of nicks, scrapes and battle wounds from your skirmish with the piercing plastic and troublesome twisty-ties.

Wrap Rage - Debbie Millman - Print Magazine April 2009

Wrap Rage - Debbie Millman - Print Magazine April 2009

Amazon has launched a new packaging approach that has helped remedy this.  They’ve packaged items like the Fisher-Price toy shown here in recyclable cardboard boxes with out all the plastic and gadgets.  This of course is a much greener approach.

So why on earth does this torturous packaging method continue to prevail?  The answer to this can be found as we take a look at the Aesthetic-Usability Effect.  The Aesthetic-Usability Effect is a theory that asserts the following:

“Aesthetic designs are perceived as easier to use … more effective at fostering positive attitude than unaesthetic designs and make people more tolerant of design problems.”

From Unversal Principles of Design (click to view larger)

From "Universal Principles of Design" (click to view larger)

What this means is that even though the hard-to-open packaging is not the most efficient solution, it is more widely accepted because it maximizes the aesthetic appearance, visibility and presentation of the items therein and thus we “tolerate” the packaging flaws.

The important thing to note here is the impact of design and the role it plays in acceptance.  In its application to product packaging, by increasing aesthetics it allows for more receptiveness and helps build positive relationships that allow us to over look and to be more forgiving.  The key is that we perceive these items as easier to use – even if they are not.

So what does this mean for the future of product packaging?  Will there ever be an end to the “wrap rage”?

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