Adaptive packaging is a strategy companies use to ensure everyone can access and use products with ease. This type of design recognises that peoples’ needs are diverse, whether that is due to a disability, age or cultural background.

Today, there’s a growing demand for products everyone can use due to the increasing awareness that all consumers deserve consideration. Consumers of varied disabilities and cultural backgrounds are increasingly influencing the market, urging companies to consider their products’ accessibility.

Adaptive packaging is the answer, providing a way for products to reach a broader audience. By understanding and responding to consumer challenges, companies can use it to become truly customer-centric.

The Importance of Adaptive Packaging

In a world where individual needs are as varied as the individuals themselves, making products more inclusive is highly important. Inclusivity in product design reflects a society that values every member.

As of 2021, England alone reported that 9.8 million people were living with disabilities. With adaptive packaging design, companies can ensure people with disabilities and beyond have access to their products. When businesses design products with everyone in mind, they can ensure people live more independently and enjoy the same conveniences afforded to the broader population.

Adaptive packaging design is also a moral imperative to addressing the needs of those underrepresented in society. It aligns with the global movements toward diversity and equality, recognising the need for differentiation in varied target markets. When companies explore cultural and linguistic differences, it reinforces their brand’s position as a considerate and inclusive player among the competition.

Lastly, there are regulations for design through ISO 17480:2015. Adaptive packaging adheres to its principles, which outline a framework for accessibility and usability in packaging. By following these guidelines, you can ensure a universal design approach that benefits all customers.

How Adaptive Packaging Design Makes Products More Inclusive

Adaptive packaging design welcomes everyone through inclusivity in numerous ways.

1. Improved Ergonomics

Among the foremost strategies for making packaging more inclusive is ergonomics. Ergonomic packaging is a tactic used to make products easy for everyone to handle, regardless of their physical capabilities. It considers the physical interaction between the product and its user, considering how a consumer holds and opens the products and uses them daily.

Ergonomic design can also extend to the equipment used in adaptive packaging and processing. For example, one company’s case erector incorporates a tip-up design that manages small and irregular cases, optimising the machine’s handling capability. This approach ensures the final packaged product is handled gently, improving the end user’s experience with packaging that is easier to manage and open.

2. Easy-to-Open Features

Adaptive packaging ensures everyone can access products without unnecessary struggle or assistance. These features are crucial for individuals with limited dexterity, such as those with arthritis.

Procter & Gamble’s initiative with Olay moisturisers introduced easy-open lids by providing winged caps and raised grips. These products accommodate users’ needs with limited hand strength, creating a seamless and inclusive experience for all.

3. Visual Accessibility

Visual accessibility in adaptive packaging design considers individuals with visual impairments. This includes using high-contrast colours for text and background, large and legible font sizes and clear, simplified imagery. Additionally, it incorporates tactile elements like Braille to enhance further usability for those who rely on touch to read information.

Some pharmaceutical companies have started implementing distinct colour coding to help users identify different medications without confusion. In pharmaceutical packaging, clarity and legibility can be a matter of safety, so visual accessibility is key to providing a better user experience.

4. Use of Technology

Integrating technology into packaging design can be a huge step toward inclusivity. Leveraging innovative technologies enables product users to access information and functionality equally.

One approach to this development is packaging labels that interact with smartphone apps. These labels incorporate QR codes and NFC (near field communication) tags. When scanned or tapped with a smartphone, the app provides auditory information about the product. This technology is especially useful for visually impaired users who need product descriptions, usage instructions and ingredient lists.

5. Cultural Sensitivity

Cultural sensitivity involves understanding and respecting different consumer groups’ cultural norms and values. While this approach ensures inclusivity in adaptive packaging, it also forges a stronger relationship between the brand and its customers.

Incorporating cultural sensitivity into packaging means considering language options, colour significance and imagery to avoid misinterpretation. For example, colours one culture considers lucky might not be as favourable in another. Similarly, brands that use symbols and imagery in packaging should choose them with an awareness of their cultural meanings.

Multinational companies often apply this in their packaging design for different food markets. This could include altering graphics to better reflect local tastes and traditions or including multiple language options. For instance, a brand selling in a market with a high percentage of Muslim consumers would ensure their packaging carries halal certification prominently. They would also ensure it adheres to cultural norms around food consumption.

Incorporating Inclusivity Through Adaptive Packaging

Consider adaptive packaging as more than a design philosophy. Instead, think of it as a commitment to inclusivity, recognizing and addressing diverse consumer needs. By adding elements that cater to all consumers, companies can create products that speak to everyone.

Source: Emily Newton, editor-in-chief, REVOLUTIONIZED