We’re finishing up our retail packaging for the “Big Ship” and I thought the whole process might be interesting to some of you and potentially useful information for other crowd-funding campaigns.
A couple of weeks ago we received the final physical outer box and inner insert designs from the designer, which I then used to finish all the artwork (printing) for the packaging.
Custom packaging may seem like a luxury, but there’re actually several benefits:
– It’s sized to fit the product, reducing shipping costs and emissions related to shipping “empty air” when a box of exactly the right size isn’t available.
– A custom “insert” generally protects the product better than stuffing materials and actually uses less material, so it is hopefully environmentally less impacting.
– Product information, instructions, etc. can be printed on the box/insert to assist the end-user.
– It creates a better experience for the end-user — nice packaging is analogous to making food taste better by plating it well and we hope that you like it!
We have two separate physical box designs: one for Climate, Sentry, and Leak (new name for Water) that measures 60*60*60mm; one for Grow and Thermo that measures 60*60*120mm. The stock (type of paperboard) we used is called SBS, which is a common material for retail packaging and offers a relatively white surface. Unfortunately, white paperboard will turn yellow-ish when exposed to sunlight, so it’s generally coated with either an aqueous coating (“AQ”) or varnish. We chose an aqueous coating as it’s better environmentally, less prone to issues during manufacturing, and we didn’t feel we needed a “high gloss” finish.
As I mentioned above, an insert can help protect the product inside the box during shipping and generally makes the whole “unboxing” experience better. Creating good, functional inserts is apparently something of an art and there are people who specialize in this, so it wasn’t something we undertook ourselves (although I designed the rest of the packaging). You can see from the photos below that the insert features a cut-out circular ‘handle’ to pull it out of the outer box, it fits snuggly within the outer box, and features a friction fit recess in the front to hold the Wimoto on display. If you look at the artwork PDF near the bottom of this post (“Wimoto Climate box”), you’ll actually be able to see how the outer box and inner insert are cut and also the fold and glue lines — almost like origami! A custom steel die is created by the manufacturer to ‘cut’ the outline of the paperboard, and then special machines fold, glue and tuck the box into its final form.
Another packaging related challenge we faced was, that heeds as a warning to other crowd-funding campaigns, is that most packaging manufacturers will not do small quantity runs. 10,000 units is often the minimum before the cost of setting up the printing plates, dies and running the machinery is cost-effective for everyone involved. In our case, that would be 50,000 boxes plus 50,000 inserts as we have five designs/products. Luckily, we found a local (Toronto) firm that not only specializes in complex packaging but was also prepared to do a “short-run” (in our case, our first printing run is 2,500 of each design) projects.
Another challenge for us was we wanted to let our backers choose and mix’n’match which Wimoto’s they got. There’s therefore no “standard” packing list — there’re 1500 of them. And depending on which products were chosen, the volume of the required shipping carton increases or decreases — which gets back to the earlier point about avoiding shipping “empty air”. How did we solve this? Shipzilla (the name we affectionately call our shipping confirmation system) has a box packing algorithm!
We can’t take credit for the algorithm as it’s provided via an API from the nice folk at Postmaster.io, but we do use it to full effect to both figure out what sized outer shipping carton is required so that all the product boxes fit optimally, and then we use that information to calculate the shipping estimate based on the volume and weight of the entire package.
Our external shipping cartons are much less exotic than the product packaging and are simply a double-walled corrugated “simple slotted” carton that was made by another local supplier that specializes in, you guessed it, custom short-run shipping cartons. They have a fully automated production line that can make virtually any style corrugated shipping carton in various configurations and styles.
Okay, back to finishing-up the Shipzilla code so that you can get your shipping confirmations!
Our suppliers for this stage in the project were:
Trade Secret Packaging (http://www.tradesecretpackagingprinting.com) provided lots of assistance with our product packaging.
Any Box Today (http://www.anyboxtoday.com) are the shipping carton supplier.