Viewing Package As Product

May 1, 2006
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Viewing Package As Product
by Rob Croft
In some categories, the primary package must perform as a “delivery system” over an extended period of time. The longevity of such packaging and the level of engineering it requires often results in consumer perceptions that the package is more akin to a “product”, even though the offering is ultimately disposable.
That’s the case with air fresheners. Though aesthetics and form are typically dialed down—the emphasis is on being utilitarian rather than a hedonistic focal point—the primary package must address issues of control, convection, actuation, and, also, usage occasions.
We observed other categories where progressive package designs have introduced a level of intelligence and we were inspired to do the same for the air freshener segment.
The air freshener depicted in the illustration is automatically actuated when weight is applied to a toilet seat; the action compresses a raw polyethylene bulb, blowing puffs of air through a wick to produce a fragrant mist. As weight is removed from the seat, air is drawn in the opposite direction and the process is repeated.
This design keys in on the fundamental fact that convection is the most essential factor in air freshener design. It releases fragrance at elevated levels, but only when it is needed. The package can function without being seen and, best of all, it is automatically actuated —a simple mechanism provides the magic of a battery-powered product, but is in fact nothing more than three molded parts.
The design shows how a low tech, mechanical solution can compete with a software-driven device at a fraction of the cost. It also demonstrates how a manufacturer that addresses packaging as an industrial design project, and a “process-driven” one at that, will reap the benefits of lateral thought. BP
The author, Robert Croft, is Managing Partner of Swerve Inc., specialists in 3-D brand design. Contact him at 212.742.9560 or, or visit

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