Case Study: HP Chromebook 11

Client
HP
Project Title
HP Chromebook 11
Duration
November 2012–September 2013
Description

Ed. note: This case study is a selection from the 2014 “Justified” competition, for which an esteemed jury identified 19 submissions that demonstrate the value of design in a clear, compelling and accessible way. To learn more about the jury’s perspective on this selection, see the juror comments below.

The process involved an analysis of the competitive landscape and an evaluation of alternative packaging solutions in a variety of industries. Ultimately we found that our client's most respected competitor offers an outstanding packaging solution and out-of-the-box packaging experience, and trying to outdo them was futile and unnecessary. Instead, we took a completely different approach. Instead of trying to outdo the competitor's beautiful, yet, very expensive packaging, we explored alternative materials to produce a packaging solution that focused on the idea that less packaging is better.

Project brief

The client was interested in designing a packaging solution that supported the values of the brand, including concepts such as minimalism, efficiency, social and environmental responsibility, innovation and approachability. The audience is people at the lower end of the income spectrum, as well as people in Third World economies. The role of the packaging is to provide maximum protection for the product on its path from factory to the consumer—while at the same time to minimize the environmental impact and the cost impact on the product itself.

Background

The HP Chromebook is a consumer product priced at an extremely low price point to enable lower income audiences worldwide to access computing and the internet.

Budget

Development budget: More than $50,000
This project is: An in-house on-going relationship
Production/execution budget: More than $100,000
Source of funding: Client

Strategy

The inspiration for the final package came from a humble take-out box that is both functional and compostable. Working closely with the a team of structural packaging designers from Uneka, we determined that paper pulp could be used to make a material that was remarkably biodegradable yet sturdy enough to protect the laptop. This hypothesis led to a series of experiments that ultimately led to an innovative solution using a tree-free compostable pulp made from rapidly renewable plant fibers. These fibers consist of bamboo and bagasse (a by-product of sugar cane) interwoven together to create a strong pulp material that costs about the same as plastics or paper, yet is much better for the environment.

Research

We researched a wide variety of packaging approaches—conducting an exhaustive investigation of packaging solutions in a variety of diverse industries evaluating different materials as well as different strategic approaches and methodologies—all in an effort to create an alternative, environmentally-friendly solution. Ultimately, the inspiration for the final package came from a humble take-out box that is perfectly functional and also compostable.

Design solution

The design solution exceeded the client’s expectations and objectives. It was not only on-brand, cost effective and minimalist, but also set new standards for environmentally responsible packaging.

Challenges

We needed to come up with a way to protect and showcase the Chromebook: with the simplicity of the Google brand and using eco-friendly techniques and practices. The deceptively simple-looking box had to meet high standards for shipping at various temperatures and required multiple rounds of testing for structural integrity. The process even required making new machines that could create the box’s unique shape and density. It was not easy to meet all the packaging requirements, but our client was committed to doing something extraordinary. By working as a team—we created a box that is minimalist in terms of not only aesthetics but also environmental impact.

Effectiveness

The final packaging has an unboxing experience that perfectly aligns with the simplicity and minimalism of the product: the belly band peels off and the lid lifts up to present a clean view of the Chromebook, with simple instructions to help somebody get started as quickly as possible. It also utilizes one of the highest environmental impact standards in its category. Our structural design team created an innovative tree-free compostable pulp made from rapidly renewable plant fibers. These fibers consist of Bamboo and Bagasse blended together to create a strong pulp material. The cost of developing this material is equivalent to solutions that include plastics and/or paper and is substantially more responsible from an ecological perspective.

The project was exceptionally well received by the client as well as customers and reviewers. After the release of the product, several online publications praised the packaging solution and customers created and posted videos praising the design and out-of-box experience.

Additional information

We're proud to have created a brand experience that is a reflection of Google's commitment to sustainability and innovation while making products that are affordable and accessible to people of every income level.

"Hands On with HP's Chromebook 11 And Thinkpad's Chromebook for Education," Forbes

Comments from the Jury

“This is pure packaging effectiveness, from the simple and direct graphic system to the out-of-box experience. The sparing and sustainable use of materials is also commendable given the challenges of effectively packaging hardware. In all, this project was beautiful, bold and inspiring.” —Dana Arnett

“This is an awesome display of modern packaging design. From its deceptively simple appearance to the sustainable use of materials, this project succeeds on every dimension and sets the standard for responsible design.” —Kate Aronowitz

“The minimal design aesthetic with packaging made from recyclable content is done with the environment clearly in mind. Substantial effort was invested to create a packaging experience that works in enhancing the Google Chrome brand. l think of it as technology with peace of mind.” —Cameron Campbell

“There was little debate: This was a beautiful package, done with consideration of the environment.” —Joe Gebbia

“It's great to see environmentally friendly packaging that isn't brown. Prizing efficiency and a low price-point the HP Chromebook box synced with its product and delivered a great unwrapping experience. (And anything based on take-out food is a winner in my book.)” —Jennifer Kinon

“The Chromebook packaging demonstrates that recyclable materials can deliver the nuanced experience we have come to expect in high-quality product packaging. Beyond the materials, the form of the packaging goes a long way to communicate the accessible, aware and contemporary nature of the brand.” —Jeremy Mende

“Perhaps no other entry better represents the spirit of ‘Justified’ than this packaging for HP’s Chromebook. The design solution blurs the lines between form and function. The box seems to be driven by the Chromebook ethos of minimalism. Unprinted except for a cheerfully colored belly band, its soft lines, subtle curves and minimalist footprint exquisitely express the Google brand. But these choices aren’t merely aesthetic. The dimensions and curves are designed to provide durability during shipping, for example, and the box is manufactured from compostable plant fiber—drastically reducing its ecological footprint. It’s an elegant, uncompromising solution that sets new visual and environmental standards for packaging design.” —Christopher Simmons