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#99 The gift of design
Unboxing, nutcrackers and more 🎄
Design Lobster #99 is a special holiday edition. We’ll be asking just what makes unboxing presents so enticing and taking a look at the cracking history of a classic Christmas gift.
Design Lobster will be taking a little festive break over the Christmas and New Year period. I’ll see you all again for issue #100 on January 10th 2022. Happy Holidays! 🎊🎄🎁
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Question: Why is unboxing things so satisfying?
It’s the time of year when thoughts turn to gift-giving and I’ve been thinking about the thin layers of cardboard and wrapping paper that surround each present – somehow the most important part of the whole shebang. I’ve always been fascinated by the stories of the packaging department at Apple, where some designers would reportedly spend day after day opening boxes in search of the ideal unboxing experience. Steve Jobs is alleged to have been fanatical about not just the quality of the materials and the framing of the device in iPhone packaging, but also the quality of the resistance as the cover slides off. Providing as it does, one last theatrical moment of denial before the coveted object is in your hands.
“Packaging can be theatre, it can create a story.”
For me, the potency of the Unboxing moment reveals the way that consumer desire is as much about the anticipation of the thing, as the actual thing itself. Perhaps this festive period we could send each other gorgeously wrapped but entirely empty boxes and deliver all the excitement with a fraction of the planetary cost. Sadly though I don’t think my nephews and nieces will agree!
Design takeaway: Could you bring more drama to the reveal of your design?
🎁 Well it had to be an unboxing video didn’t it? This is allegedly the very first one, from 2006.
Object: Erzegebirge nutcracker
Nutcrackers of one kind or another have been around since prehistoric humans first began to fashion tools. In Early Modern Europe designs tended to come in the form of a screw press or lever, but no one design became dominant until the late 17th century when woodworkers from the Erzegebirge region of central Germany began to carve distinctive nutcracking dolls in soldierly apparel. These became common across the continent (aided in part by the popularity of Tchaikovsky’s 1892 ballet The Nutcracker Suite ) but really hit it off in America after WW2, when American G.I’s stationed in West Germany began sending them home as gifts.
A typical Erzegebirge nutcracker is a surprisingly complex contraption made from wooden parts that are painted in bright colours. The normally depict authority figures such as soldiers, police or monarchs, always shown with their teeth bared. A lever in the back opens the mouth, allowing a nut to be placed within it and then crushed with a little pressure.
The original folk story of their origin says that they were the brainchild of a puppeteer, invented when a rich nobleman issued a challenge to invent a more efficient way to crack nuts. I myself am not sure if the brief of efficiency was really met here, but these nutcrackers certainly have the gaudy, clowning quality of puppets and are fun tools (if a little sinister too!).
Design takeaway: How could you bring some personality to your design?
🥜I give you the website of the Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum. As nutty as it sounds!
Quote: “When I design something, I think of it as a gift to somebody else.”
– Eva Zeisel
Eva Zeisel was a Hungarian-American industrial designer, most famous for her sinous and elegant ceramics. This seemed the right quote for the time of year – a reminder to see all our designing as an act of generosity.
Happy holidays! 🎄
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