‘Unboxing’ usability improvements

Team Discussion

Multiple authors

Every time a new hi-tech product hits the shelves – be it the new iPhone, Nintendo DS or Nikon J1 camera – I find myself trawling the internet, looking for ‘unboxing’ videos. These videos have little or no production value but offer a glimpse into the thrill of unveiling a new product.

Last week, while watching an iPhone 5 ‘unboxing’, I had a thought. If consumer electronics companies can use packaging and peripherals to create a multi-layered user experience, building a consumer’s excitement to a crescendo as the product is unveiled, how can we use packaging and peripherals in the medical space?

Let’s first examine what is happening in consumer electronics. Back in 2006, a veteran tech blogger Vincent Nguyen unboxed a new Nokia E61 smartphone. He started the ‘unboxing’; now there are more than a million unboxing videos on YouTube, it’s a cultural phenomenon where you can watch anything from trainers to gasmasks being unboxed.

So what’s the science behind this phenomenon? Martin Lindstrom, author of “Buyology: How Everything we Believe About Why We Buy Is Wrong”, claims that the unboxing phenomenon is a result of mirror neurons…

“Mirror neurons mean, in principle, that when I observe other people doing things, I feel that I am doing the same, when I scratch my head, and you watch me doing it, the same regions in your brain will be activated as would be if you were actually scratching you head.”

Lindstrom advises his own clients to make their packaging as exciting as the product itself, leading to dopamine release as the layers of the packaging are removed. Manufactures in the consumer space now understand the importance of the ‘unboxing’ phenomenon as a way of creating product appeal. Smart companies now protect the design of their packaging and peripherals to give themselves a competitive advantage.

So, how can we use packaging and peripheral design to add value in the medical sector?

I think there is a really clear opportunity to use packaging and peripherals to improve usability as well as appeal.

Let’s look at a typical scenario. A regular person with no medical training has been diagnosed with a disease and they need to self-inject their medication. They are prescribed an autoinjector with the typical packaging and peripherals, a carton with an IFU (instructions for use) leaflet inside.

In Human Factor studies we have seen that some people do not even look at the IFU, leading to a myriad of usability and anxiety issues. I can’t imagine how overwhelming and difficult it must be to inject yourself for the first time but I do believe you can begin to overcome these issues once we are familiar the device.

So, how do we introduce a patient to a device to build confidence, reduce anxiety and improve usability?

We could re-imagine the ‘unboxing’ of a medical device as an opportunity to take users on a journey.  My sketch below is a simple embodiment of this concept. Think of a pop-up book. The autoinjector sits behind a thermoformed plastic and can be seen through a cut-out in the instructions.  As each page is turned to access the device, information is presented to users in bite size chunks, firing their “mirror neurons” as they explore the device, intriguing and delighting them, and drawing them further in.


At Team, we believe that it is not just the product that needs to be developed with care, but all packaging and peripherals to create a successful product and experience.

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