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Structure is King!
Like many things, design tends to follow cycles. The pendulum swings from intricate and ornate to simple and sleek and back again. Simple and sleek is currently en vogue, thanks at least in part to the success of Apple® products. However, simple and sleek does not translate to strength and rigidity in plastic packaging.
The current design trend has led to many challenges for packaging engineers attempting to commercialize sleek and simple designs. Packages must be strong enough to withstand the rigors of filling, capping, labeling, transportation and stacking in a warehouse. Marketing is often willing to add more material to maintain their design, but additional material doesn’t always solve the problem, and is typically too expensive.
The solution is finding a balance between the aesthetic design intent and improving strength, via functional design features. The first step is to use simulation or physical testing of containers, if available, to identify the failure locations and mechanisms. Then a combination of structural knowledge and artistic flare is needed to address the failure, ideally incorporating design cues from the brand into the structure. It is advantageous to resolve these issues as early in the development process as possible to reduce the development cycle and cut down time wasting re-work later.
Most design improvements can be accomplished utilizing virtual modeling. However, sometimes it is necessary to produce and feel the packages, with and without structure, to really sell the point that structure is king.