A new look: more than boxes

Welcome to part two of a four-part series about our recent packaging revamp. Before I get into the details of how we’ve created our new packaging or what we’ve produced, it is important to talk about why we redesigned our packaging, or why we have packaging at all.

For the first part of the series, take a look here and make sure to follow along for upcoming posts.

Our products are our company manifested into a physical form. The products we make, the materials we choose, the words we use all say something important about us. We’ve argued over single words, the colour of an image and the way a box opens because what we make represents everyone here.

In the next three parts of this story, I’m going to do a close reading of our packaging to dig out insights into Bare Conductive and the people here that might not be immediately apparent.

We founded Bare Conductive around Electric Paint, an electrically conductive paint, but have since expanded our range to include hardware and kits. Our product pipeline includes products which are even more finished, and packaging will become more important (and more impactful) as we move forward.

14 months ago we decided to redesign our packaging, but maybe not for the reasons you think. Bibi, our COO, did a careful analysis of the way in which we designed, produced and sold our products. She came to a surprising conclusion. Our packaging was the biggest bottleneck to our company’s growth, but a redesign was going to be the largest project we’ve ever undertaken.

Our production process and systems were burdened by too many SKUs and products within products. For example, we were selling our 10ml Electric Paint product alone and within kits, but the individual product included outer packaging that was not required when placed in another product.

Nested products were problematic because our production manager had to handle multiple versions of the same product in his system (10ml with packaging and without).

Our packaging bottleneck hurt our stock management. In 2016, we were not immediately able to fulfill large orders because our stock was tied up inside of other stock. Someone might order 1000 of our 10ml product, but we didn’t have sufficient stock of that product alone to fulfill the order.

When you included the 10ml product already present in other kits, we might have enough stock. We were in a position where we might want to disassemble finished stock and reallocate the products fulfill an order, an expensive and complicated choice.

Third and most importantly, our packaging bottleneck was impacting product development. When Bibi looked closely at our product development cycle, we could see that the ideation and prototyping portions of a project were significantly shorter than creating packaging and marketing content. If we could make the packaging design part of the project quicker, we could release new products faster.

When we looked deeper, we had a critical insight. Without a comprehensive packaging system, we had to start from scratch every time. The cost of redesign packaging (and establishing new standards) on each project meant that we couldn’t easily trial new products, which likely made us even less willing to consider them. We needed to redesign our packaging with the broadest possible view, but spotting the problem was the first step. Now we had to figure out where to start creating solutions.

The logistics of making and shipping products are complicated and subject to costly compounding errors. A seemingly trivial choice can quickly affect other parts of your system and cost you severely in the long run. We had been looking at our products from the bottom up, rather than the top down. For example, our Touch Board Starter Kit weighs 1.1kg, but the actual components only weigh 700g. The packaging is heavy, but it feels nice.

We had designed the packing from a product experience perspective, prioritising look, feel and materials, while disregarding the costly constraints of our supply chain and fulfillment. Those choices would impact sales too. As the Touch Board Starter Kit weighed just over 1kg, it cost £20 to get the product to the US, versus £8 if it was under 1kg. That’s a 250% price increase on shipping and customers were rightly complaining. The product was difficult and time-intensive to assemble too, straining relationships with subcontractors.

We realised that we didn’t just have to design for our customers, we had to plan for the freight tables of FedEx, UPS and DHL too. We had spotted a problem, figured out where to solve it and now it was time to start creating a solution. Bibi began putting together a comprehensive design guide to take our logistics and supply chain requirements into account.

As we began the process, we were also aware that radical changes to our packaging and supply chain might make it hard to judge whether the project had been successful. It wouldn’t be as simple as saying “we spend less money on packaging.” The material costs might be similar, but we might experience labour savings during manufacture because the new packaging was easier to assemble.

We couldn’t compare with our existing data because we were creating something so different to what we already had. We would have to look carefully to track the financial impact of a packaging change as we wouldn’t find savings in any one place. We knew that we would have to be ready to compare costs across our entire supply chain.

We want to hear what you do and don’t like about our new packaging. We also want to see your favourite packaging. Whether it’s the concept, the materials or the details, let’s geek out a bit. Get in touch @bareconductive and let us know what you think using the hashtag #barebranding. In the next article, I’ll talk about the design process behind our packaging change. Where do you start when you’ve got a massive, multidimensional problem and limited resources? Our answer was to rely on our design skills and figure it out as we went along.

You can read the first article about our packaging redesign here.

Author: Matt Johnson