How Microsoft Fixed the Worst Thing About Product Packaging

Thanks in large part to Apple, packaging design is an important part of the design process in many companies today. So, when designing the new Xbox Adaptive Controller, a gamepad for people who might not have the use of their limbs at all, Microsoft realized that it also needed to find how to create a box for her that was equally accessible and amazing.

“We were focused on helping players with mobility impairments have a more enjoyable experience, and we wanted to follow that philosophy with the packaging we created. Says Mark Weiser, global packaging, packaging and content designer at Microsoft. “We wanted to make it a very stimulating experience, so that these players could unbox it themselves and start the game with confidence. “

[Image: courtesy Microsoft]

The resulting adaptive controller enclosure is almost as impressive as the controller itself. The outer shipping box looks like your standard brown rectangle. But you can pull a loop at the end and tear off the single line of duct tape right away. Watching Weiser demonstrate the maneuver via video chat, it seems beyond easy. I can’t help but imagine opening the countless Amazon packages that arrive at my door with the same casual knock.

By pushing on the box from virtually any angle, it unfolds completely flat. Inside is the beautiful official Xbox box. It has no adhesive to stay closed. Instead, the paper is intelligently folded to be pushed, pushed, or opened. It is designed with materials that will not punish the teeth of anyone who has to use them to open the package. Overall, the guiding philosophy is that there is not one method to use to open the product, but several options.

With the box open, you get your first glimpse of the controller, propped up on a pedestal. There are more loops to pull it off, or you can just push it. Either way, you don’t have to worry about damaging the controller, or even making a loud noise – a thin piece of paper from the case slides with the controller, catching it when it hits the table.

[Image: courtesy Microsoft]

“You can grab it right away, you can use your hand or your foot to slide it,” Weiser explains. “And there is also a loop on the device. It can work as a soffit or soffit. Or you can tap the whole device to drag it.

To develop the packaging, Microsoft worked with a dozen testers, each living with a disability. Their comments illuminated every detail, right down to the geometries of the handles. “The big design challenge was really to distill the components and the details to create a simplified version of what would actually be accessible,” says Kevin Marshall, Creative Director of Design at Microsoft, who leads the packaging. “You could end up creating a huge loop on the box. . . but getting the consistency and unified look, and figuring out how much width we need for those curls – there comes a point where they get too wide and end up being brittle or too small.

[Image: courtesy Microsoft]

For example, the design team initially used an oversized loop on the shipping box, which simply tore during Microsoft’s own trial messaging tests. The team says the biggest challenge wasn’t the overall approach, but the little details, to make sure an accessible design works and feels co-peaceful with the Xbox brand.

As to whether or not Microsoft plans to take some of the accessible design from this package and apply it to other Xbox packages, the company won’t say. But I suspect that, at least in the case of their easy-open shipping box, it’s the sort of thing that isn’t coming soon for other Microsoft products or Amazon boxes. Accessibility comes with a tradeoff of safety, and a box that’s superbly easy to open is superbly easy to steal in transit. That’s not to say that some of these innovations won’t end up in other forms of packaging. This is the power of inclusive design, whereby designing with what might seem like a borderline in mind produces a product design for everyone.

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