Design, as a tool, has changed lives. It has improved quality of life, and shaped our cultures and society. Design is and will always be an integral part of life. This practice of design is known as Human Centered Design (HCD). HCD “prioritizes solutions engineered for the specific needs of the end user by actively involving them in design and decision making processes.” HCD specializes design for “diverse target markets and unique work/play environments categories include clothing and accessories for health care, safety/protection, medical conditions, athletic activities, and for those individuals that are physically challenged with emphasis on design innovation, fit, function, ease of mobility, comfort, safety, care, as well as fashion aesthetics.”(Ryerson’s FFD510 Human Centered Design)

/ The Investigation

I conducted a small scale study during my time at Ryerson University that enabled me to investigate the daily challenges one goes through when interacting with different product packaging. Packaging design can non-verbally express the quality of that particular brand.  The packaging is the first interaction the user has with the product and it can even forecast how the user will perceive the products ultimate functionality. Products themselves have adapted to the changes and demands of consumer, while packaging design has been stagnant for years.

As we foray into an era of prioritizing and understanding consumer needs, design should move beyond the physical appeal to improving the human experience. Packaging design is starting to address the changes in the market, especially that of the aging population. Manual dexterity is one of the most noticeable changes – any change in reflex or reduced motor skills are immediately recognized.

/ The Result

If you’re curious about my methodology, contact me for details.

The research yielded insightful information that I incorporated into the design (illustrated below). Here’s the spark notes on results:

  • Freshness was always a worry when food was involved
  • Font point size is a critical aspect of design
  • Tactility is important as the participant would run her hand along the package to identify when there is an indicator of opening
  • When visibility is reduced, touch is the next sense used to identify how the product opens.
Needs Details How doe this effect dexterity
Performance needs The act of opening to retrieve the product must be simple The more simple the act (of opening the package) the less stress that puts on the hand.
Instrumental needs Clear directions or indications on how to open at first glace. Is it intuitive If someone has reduced tactile sensitivity, a clear indication will help with opening the package.
Conscious needs The product inside the package. The ultimate goal is to purchase a product that doesn’t cause stress to the hands when using it.
Unconscious needs Does not require a knife or scissors to open. Adding an additional element in opening the packages causes stresses because the hand has to find, grip and cut open the package.
Material needs Something that provides a strong grip with the least amount of force being exerted. Grip causes the most stress during the opening. If there were a way to help grip via materials, that would lessen the difficulty of opening.

/ The Solution

The design of the packaging allowed for both wet and dry food. Wet food such as milks and dried such as granolas or cereals. The design resolves the “freshness” issue with a click and seal pour spout (no longer twisted caps) and the contrasting textures and colours will assist in understanding the use of the packaging. The packaging is designed to fit into the current food market shelves, and easy to ship and store.



  1. The Tear Top plastic is designed with a contrasting colour. There are two reasons for the design of the Tear Top: first to prevent any tampering with the product; and second to assist on opening the pour spout.
  2. Finger Hook – the user would slip their finger or two into the Finger Hook and remove the plastic (similar to tearing a protector off of any device- it’s durable but not too strenuous to pull off). As the Tear Top is being removed, it will also release the pour spout, this process eliminates any twist caps.
  3. Circular Embossed Carton texture provides the solutions to reduced visibility and grip.
  4. Embossed Plastic Handle allows the user to slip their hand through for additional support. As the plastic is flexible, it’s friendly to lefties and lays relatively flat for store shelves.
  5. Uncoated Milk Carton, inspired by the traditional milk carton, this design requires  it to be uncoated for assisted grip.
  6. Click and Seal Pour Spout is designed to eliminate the twist cap. The pour spout is raised: this design feature allows the user to slide their hands on top to release the spout thus eliminating the singular/specific finger gesture. To reseal, press the pout into the design until it clicks shut.

/ The Next Step

To design a prototype. Also experiment with rounded-corner bottoms to assist with tipping preventions. If anyone has thoughts, please share it in the comment below.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s