Gift Box Re-use


Melissa Rosenbloom and Wilson To

Dana Quiambao and Mark Anthony Santos

Leah Lamden and Kevin Chao

Pamela Mabrey and Drew Vereen

Level: ,
Duration: 6 weeks
Category: ,
Filed Under: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Bookmark Project

Project Brief

Background: According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the amount of general waste production increases 25% during the holiday season each year. This amounts to 1 million tons increase in trash per week, or 5 million extra tons of trash produced between Thanksgiving and New Years.

Brief: Gift Box Reuse project asks students to design a gift package that can take on a secondary function after it serves its job as a gift box. The project is a take on Julia Christensen’s book “Big Box Reuse” which addresses the ways communities reuse big box buildings after they are decommissioned. Here, students are asked to study and explore possible ways to reduce the waste consumers produce during special days. Then, they design a gift package that suggests a secondary use as a form of upcycling in material or symbolic value.

Project focuses on the principles and theories of design: branding, typography, and illustration applied to three-dimensional form with emphasis on concept, structure, functionality and materials.


  • Students work in teams of 2 or 3.
  • Students research and explore various local stores and products (clothing, toy, food, dog treats, etc.)
  • Students pick a product that is not readily sold in a packaging.
  • Students design a form for this product which serves as a gift box, and transforms to suggest a particular secondary use in relation to the product.
  • The innovative gift box solution will be sold in the store with an additional price.
    Customers could purchase this nature friendly solution for their gifts, instead of the conventional gift wrap, ribbon and bag combination.
  • Students are required to present an estimate of production costs and market value.

Rule 1: No part of the packaging goes to waste!
Rule 2: Students are not allowed to use existing/found containers.

Learning Objectives

Student Learning Outcomes:

• Re-envision package design as a less environmentally destructive practice.
• Develop ability to plan and conduct a designing process, including data collection and analysis (predesign); schematic design; design development; testing; and evaluation.
• Experiment with ideation techniques, such as thought mapping, word lists, sketching.
• Employ methodologies and techniques for creating prototypes for innovative and sustainable package design.
• Utilize graphic and typographic systems for optimum communication. This includes using design skills such as choosing a typographic palette, macro/micro organization of type, grid and layout structure, and the use of graphic elements such as shape, form and color for the best realization of the design concept.
• Expand design thinking and processing, implement their concepts to practice.
• Learn the manufacturing techniques and feasibility issues of product packaging.
• Demonstrate interdependence


Project Deliverables:

1. Prototype of the 3D form containing the gift. Students demonstrate the transformation, and the secondary use during final critique.
2. Small booklet showcasing the illustrated steps of transformation.
3. Mini portfolio including research, sketches, and documentation of failed or eliminated attempts.


Book: Designing Sustainable Packaging by Scott Boylston (2009-05-04) 
Book:  Basic Packaging (Structural Package Design) Pepin Press


Project Reflections:

  • Students struggle mostly with working with volume. This problem is largely due to the fact that our graphic design courses are usually print-based. To overcome, I am allowing them to spend more time with their selected objects, and suggesting to explore at least three materials, cardboard, fabric, wood, etc.
  • Now that we have an in-house digital fabrication lab, students feel more comfortable working with non-paper based materials.
  • As they feel more comfortable with designing the branding elements, they usually want to jump to the logo and other visual elements, however I suggest them to wait until they have an initial prototype, and let the form inform the design decisions.

Related projects