At the beginning of the 2021 fall semester at UW-Stout, the Great Northern Corporation Collaboration Experience kicked off. Six teams of packaging and graphic design students in the course were tasked with creating new, sustainable packaging for Reckitt, a client that makes Air Wick plug-in scented oils and diffusers. When the fall semester wrapped up, the students presented their final projects to not only the class, but also to industry professionals.
Each team was to design a single sustainable package that meets club store and Amazon packaging requirements for in-store display and online retail, while improving customer experience. During their research, the teams found Air Wick’s packaging to be unsustainable, difficult to open, and it didn’t have storage for oil refills once opened.
Attending the presentations were Great Northern structural design manager Kris Johnson and graphic design manager Sarah Murawski, along with eight other Great Northern and Reckitt representatives. “I was impressed with the diversity of packaging concepts developed,” said Johnson. “The efforts the students put into this project was impressive and is ultimately what made this class a success. They are leaving with an experience they can draw from throughout their career.”
Innovative and new designs
A team made up of three packaging design students and one graphic design student created a package for Air Wick’s nine-pack diffuser refill to meet Costco’s requirements. The team created a sub-brand that is meant to soothe a customer’s state of mind with floral designs and fragrances. “I love that the graphics are bright and eye-catching, while being an extension of myself and what my work stands for,” said Vaughn Vande Walle, a graphic design student.
Their final product reduced the use of plastic by 100%, the volume of secondary packaging by 52% and corrugated packaging by 34%. Their design increased the number of units per pallet from 272 to 336. One of the team’s biggest successes was incorporating configurability into their design, which created a big difference from the existing package. “This cycle keeps us designers on our toes to keep innovating and creating new, eye-grabbing products for the consumer,” Vande Walle said.
Designing for a sustainable future
Another team made up of two packaging design students and two graphic design students had the task of redesigning a packaging for one Air Wick diffuser and nine refills. Their final product reduced packaging weight by 60% and the use of plastic by 100%. Not only did this reduce the amount of plastic per pallet by 16.09 pounds, but it also increased the number of units per pallet from 270 to 280.
The team learned to look ahead in the design process, especially with a short timeline. “We didn’t have time to backtrack or address problems,” said Lance Anderson, a packaging design student. “The tight timeline forced us to think ahead and confirm that our ideas would be sufficient for the next steps of our design process.” When asked what the biggest benefit of this class was, Anderson responded with, “Having experienced professors from both majors, along with the personnel from Reckitt and GNC, really made for a massive amount of resources to learn about careers in both fields and to see how they intermingle and depend on each other throughout the design process.”
Real World Branding & Packaging Needs
The students’ final packaging designs were printed at Great Northern. Johnson and Murawski think the course exceeded their expectations, as the students worked together to develop a sustainable solution to a real-world packaging challenge. “I personally learned so much and was really energized by the student’s work,” Murawski said.
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