As the time of gift-giving approaches and people trade presents encased in wrapping paper and packing peanuts, some Vancouver Island University graphic design students are rethinking the way goods are packaged.
From now until Dec. 1, VIU’s third-year package design studio class is presenting Unwrapped: A Package Design Exhibit where Less is More. The students were challenged to find products with excessive packaging and recreate them to produce less waste.
Graphic design professor Nancy Pagé said it’s an issue that’s top of mind for designers, and at the exhibit the pieces are accompanied by displays recounting the challenges the students encountered.
“You get an insight into what it’s like as graphic designer…” she said. “The dichotomy of producing something for packaging but also [being] aware that they don’t want to just produce more wasteful garbage.”
Along with minimizing waste, the students aimed for a minimalist design as well.
“You want to simplify the packaging, but then also the design itself because you don’t need a lot of words, you don’t need a lot of pizzazz on your package,” said student Chantelle Calitz.
Calitz chose to redesign a gift set of bottled coffee syrups placed in plastic moulds. She considered replacing the plastic bottles with biodegradable seaweed pouches before settling on cardboard cartons. She said it was the more “graceful” option.
“You don’t have to tear into a packet, you don’t have to stab a pouch or anything to get to this syrup, and then it’s going to get everywhere,” she said.
Calitz said it’s exciting to get to exhibit her work in a gallery setting, adding that it’s important that the displays explain the designers’ working process.
“I think when you tell people you’re a graphic designer, they don’t always understand,” she said.
Fellow student Rebecca Hanelt is also showcasing her work at the View Gallery for the first time. She said it’s a “cool experience.”
“I always figured that one day I’ll have something going on that’s gallery worthy,” she said.
Hanelt described herself as an environmentally conscious consumer and said her approach to the project was to create a package made of reusable or recyclable parts.
“I notice that a lot of products that are meant as gifts are sometimes not packaged very environmentally consciously, so it’s like the more extravagant, the more packaging, the better. And we tend to be drawn to that for some reason,” she said. “But it’s time for us to start rewiring our brain.”
Hanelt turned a heavily packaged set of perfumes into a single tin cylinder. She said her intent was to make it “pretty enough that you wouldn’t want to throw it out.”
“It had a clear plastic cover with a velvet pink box, magnets, gold wrapping on the inside, plastic over top of the whole thing to hold it together. It was just extreme,” she said of the packaging. “So I thought, ‘There has to be a better way of redesigning these kind of things but still maintaining that branding.”
Pagé said her students are motivated by the desire to make a difference and prove their is a better way to approach packaging.
“If we point it out that we don’t want to accept things the way they are, maybe that will make a change,” she said.
WHAT’S ON … The VIU graphic design program presents Unwrapped at the View Gallery, VIU Bldg. 330, until Dec. 1.