Strategies & Insights

Articulating Structures Address Shipping and Retail Efficiencies

Posted: May 6, 2014

As more and more product and packaging manufacturing and assembly are being outsourced overseas, the cost of shipping and distribution is becoming more and more important. Lengthy journeys from Asia to the U.S. and Europe are yet another reason to reduce package size and weight. However, many manufacturers are finding themselves having to adhere to a strict set of retailer requirements on the size and construction of their packages just to get on shelf.

A preset front panel size is desirable to allow retailers to better organize their displays in categories rife with visually conflicting brands and product lines. The issue of theft also plays a factor, with larger packages being harder to conceal by pilferers. Manufacturers are forced to ship larger packages than they would have liked, cutting into their profits before even getting to market.

The concept shown here suggests one possible way to tackle this issue by considering how a package might change in shape and size between distribution and retail. The design is a simple display box with an articulating outer shell. When shipped, the package is kept small with the outer layer of thermoformed plastic or eco-polymer folded around the inner box. When the package is removed from the shipper, the weight of the product and the action of hanging the package automatically extends the height of the package by allowing the inner box to slide down. As this happens, the side flaps push outwards and create a billboard around the inner case. By forming small locking ramps into the plastic, the package cannot be compressed again.

By mapping packages’ life throughout the entire distribution and sales chain and considering all economic drivers, structural innovation can provide more than just shelf presence and product protection. With clever packaging, profits can be maximized and constraints turned into opportunities.

Author Martin Short is managing partner of Swerve Inc — Designs for brands, a New York based design agency. He may be contacted at 212-742-9560 or by visiting