The Material is the Message


Lemon Zhai

Charlotte Petertil

Samantha Bonadies

Scott Lorenz

Alyssa Sparacino

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

Project Brief

Create a right-sized package and a new brand message for over-packaged technology of your choosing. The only material you will use for this project will be recycled paperboard. In creating your package and brand message you will need to focus on:

  • minimizing materials
  • minimizing ink coverage to maximize recyclability
  • protecting the product
  • designing for effective store display
    and shipping
  • communicating the brand and showcasing the product

Explore through building. Follow the Re-nourish Sustainable Packaging best practices. Final deliverable will be the built-out packaging and digital photographs of both the original and finished design (projected on screen).

You must bring the technology, paperboard, X-acto knife(s), cutting matte, and bone folder to every class for the duration of this project. Style, cost, and size of the technology chosen is up to you. Focus on choosing technology that do not need an entire logo redesign, instead locate ones from a major brand that you can sub-brand.

“Dabbler” Market

Learning Objectives

  • Understand more about sustainable design
  • Learn about packaging and it's ecological impacts
  • Experience working with your hands (not just on the keyboard)
  • Improve branding design
  • Explore enhance iteration and research practices


The student will deliver:

  • Final packaging that meets the brief criteria
  • Photographs of the packaging for their portfolio


Online resources:



All projects have varying levels of successes and failures. All of our students improved in their knowledge of sustainability from beginning to end of the project. On average the 30 students who completed the survey felt that their existing knowledge on the topic prior to the project was around 2 on a scale of 1 to 5, while afterwards they ranked their expertise at 3.75. This is an increase of 87.5%. Even more impressive, their gain in packaging design knowledge was 100%. 

In addition to this feedback, we learned that all the students felt sustainability was an important discussion within their education. 56% of the students felt the topic needed to be an elective class for all design majors, and 38% suggested it be a required studio. We agree with the remarks of one student who commented that sustainability should be a “foundational element” within their design education. We advocate for sustainable methodology to be introduced at a foundational level, and we believe that designing sustainably will become part of the typical design process, rather than an after-thought or a niche design practice.

In the survey, the students were also asked to recommend ways to improve the project so they would better understand the concept of sustainability. They suggested:

  • More time than 6 weeks to complete
  • A warm-up project about sustainability prior to the assignment
  • A field trip to a studio/company that practices this methodology
  • A film about the topic
  • More information on materials in general and why they are or are not viewed as sustainable options

These suggestions were very useful and will definitely impact future iterations of this project.
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