Feature Design Sustainable Package
Feature Design Sustainable Package

Thinking outside the box

Hata: The finished design prototype resembled a briefcase. The front flap opens wide, revealing the notebook squarely in view—a nice gesture for those who just purchased the notebook. Showing the contents at a glance demonstrates clarity in design. Structurally, it's more accurate to say the notebook is wrapped in corrugated cardboard than encased in a box. After you take the notebook out, you're left with a single ply of cardboard. Just wrap the unneeded protective material in this and fold it up, and it's ready for recycling.

The difficult part was deciding how to store the included accessories. Cables and other parts crammed into narrow spaces would certainly look cluttered. That would make a disappointing first impression. Packing the accessories in a box inside is simple enough, but it does increase the overall volume. After repeated attempts to deal with the accessories, we realized we could organize them in a box that also cushions the notebook. This way, we could minimize the size and volume of material while clearly identifying what parts to recycle and what parts to keep.

When I presented the concept to product planners and packaging engineers in the VAIO Business Division, their response was very positive. This division has always taken a stand for the environment. They sought to use the concept right away.

Working with packaging engineers

Ichimura: To apply Masayuki's prototype in production, we needed to conduct an in-depth study of the design from several practical standpoints: ease of assembly, ease of storage, protection of products, and so on. It was critical to get support from packaging engineers who were experts in production and distribution.

We appreciated how the engineers anticipated every detail in manufacturing and product delivery. Meanwhile, those of us on the design team tried to see things from the consumer perspective. Our different viewpoints emerged when we discussed how the lid fastens, for example. The engineers advised to make the lid fasten securely, because different temperature in transport and storage might warp the cardboard and cause the lid to pop open. We reminded them that people would expect the lid to open easily, with no need to focus on unfastening it. Our engineers knew exactly what we had in mind. Throughout development, we gained insight from each other and took advantage of this opportunity to create optimal packaging, down to the last fastener.

Here you see the final notebook packaging. Open the box, and you'll see a cardboard box (containing the user manual, among other things) sitting on top like a tray. Lift it out, and there's the notebook. This tray-like box organizes documentation you should keep while also reinforcing the packaging and protecting the LCD screen of the VAIO notebook. Supporting the notebook on the side is the accessory box, just as Masayuki envisioned.

This kind of packaging structure and accessory storage is innovative, in the computer industry. Most people will never have seen it before. How do we know that anyone can take out the notebook without becoming confused? Might some people accidentally throw away the accessory box? If even one person in a hundred did, we would regret it. To create packaging we were confident in, we worked with the engineers to sort out any potential problems. In the end, we were delighted that the final packaging nearly matches the original prototype.

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