Special Carriers

Initial thoughts

Andrea Benatar
Sep 23, 2018 · 17 min read

During our initial discussion about our new project, I was thinking a lot about carriers that are not only clear and functional, but also, as Steve said, “add something to the experience of opening the product.” Our discussion really got me to consider the packages we take for granted, as well as those we sort of let pass. When is the physical appearance more important and when is the functionality more important? What do we want someone to get out of a carrier? These are questions that most people don’t typically ask when opening (or unpacking) a product, but are absolutely crucial in developing an effective, well-designed carrier.

After sketching some of these initial ideas out, I had to begin to think of this project from a more logistical standpoint. How can a cardboard model be assembled without any adhesive? What are different strategies for attaching two pieces to each other and when might one strategy work better than another? In order to answer these questions, we had to first experiment with cardboard and discover which methods work best for us.

Step 1: How to Use Cardboard

As the first step of this project, we had to begin actually utilizing cardboard and trying out different assembly methods.

I began by visually brainstorming different ways to attach two sides to each other.

I then did a test sample out of construction paper- a much less daunting material than cardboard.

After learning that one of my strategies could be put into effect, I moved into the cube corners made out of cardboard. Many tries later, I found two methods of attaching sides that were relatively clean and effective.

I found that the notching method (top) was effective but hard to get totally accurate, while the slit method (below) was much easier to execute but not as clean or precise.

We then had to create a “dummy” for our assigned object (mine being a bouquet of flowers), first by studying the dimensions of the physical item and then replicating the general structure with cardboard.

Step 2: Carrier Sketch Models

After establishing what exactly you can do with cardboard and which methods worked best, I could begin thinking about the actual carrier I had to make.

Notes taken during and after critique. Left shows different cube attachment methods that I found interesting/ worth exploring and right is a general brainstorm for my flower carrier.

Since sketching can only get you so far when it comes to cardboard models, I went back and forth between experimenting with actual cardboard and sketching as I was exploring my first couple of ideas.

Looking at my sketches, I realized most of them kind of stemmed from a sleeve-like form (like the one you put over a coffee cup), so I began with making a couple of very basic sleeves in order to begin to think of what size works and what attaching mechanisms I would want to use.

Moving forward, I attempted taking another sleeve-like carrier and complicating it to add some sort of handle.

However, I found that despite the proportions of this sketch model being very obviously off, it was ultimately an impractical way of carrying flowers to begin with. So instead, I decided to explore some of the other ideas I had initially written down.

Below is the first “official” idea I began to explore.

I felt as if this was a very good spot to start off with because it was a relatively simple but practical design with an easy latching method. My main concern with this model is that it doesn’t have any handle or specific way to carry it, so moving forward, I will probably experiment with that.

Thus, I decided to create another carrier with a more practical handle.

While not as visually interesting as the first model, I felt as if this model was more compact and practical (in terms of carrying it), so it’s another one with potential to rework in more interesting or aesthetically pleasing ways.

I then tried another model that one would carry in a similar way, but that contained the flowers more.

However, I found this model to be too boxy and closed in for such an organic and beautiful item. Moving forward, I may consider reworking this model so that the scale is more proportional to the flowers, as well as potentially making the shape more organic, although I still felt that the first two models were more effective carriers.

Before sticking with just a couple of carriers, I wanted to explore a carrier that had a dual function and could also serve as some sort of stand or display. I made this model (below) as a very rough draft of something that could potentially be used in several different manners and for several purposes.

This one was an interesting experiment, but was not a super practical carrier, nor was it particularly appealing. Thus, while still brainstorming ways to use the carriers in more than one way, I more or less put this idea to bed.

Step 3: Rethinking and revising

Looking back at the variety of ideas I explored, I decided to stick with three to move forward with and revise.

The first revision that I felt was necessary was to my box-like carrier. I felt that it was hard to move forward with that model before first changing the proportions and general shape so that it could be more fitting for a bouquet of flowers.

Although I still do not foresee myself moving further with this model, it is helpful to look at a cleaner and sleeker version that better conveys the idea I was investigating.

I also edited my flat carrier to make it cleaner and began experimenting with a different handle for a more organic shape.

Step 4: Moving Forward

List of things to consider that we collectively derived during class.

Our progress critique/checkpoint made me think a lot about the elements of my models that were working and those that were clearly not. From the list of elements to consider that we came up with, words/ phrases that stuck out were the experience the user gets from opening the carrier, the way it is carried, and how the form of the carrier complements the object. I found it very important to strike a balance between the object being practical but not obvious, and visually appealing without being overly decorative. I considered my flat, hanging carrier to very practical in terms of how it is carried and its dual purpose, but it lacked in any sort of experience while opening and was also kind of aesthetically boring.

Thus, I decided to move forward with my initial “cocoon-like” model. The form itself was much more interesting than that of the flat model and the ‘unwrapping’, in a sense, of the flowers gives more importance to the opening of the flowers.

Below, is a new version I made with cleaner curves and lines, as well as three slits at the top in order for the carrier to be adjustable for different sizes of bouquets.

Before absolutely committing to this shape, though, I wanted to explore one last idea that I felt combined a couple of different elements from various models I had previously made.

This carrier was relatively in terms of holding/carrying the flowers, especially since it had a handle, and not entirely visually unappealing, but I still ultimately felt as if the physical form was lacking.

So, I finally committed to my cocoon model and continued exploring ways to push it further.

One thing I had been considering for a while with this model was how it should be held. Hence, I made another mock-up that incorporated a handle to see if the handle would be practical and if it would disrupt the form of the carrier.

The handle added a nice way to carry the flowers, but it did seem a bit out of place and if I were to incorporate a handle in the final carrier, I would have to think about how to make one so that it does not disrupt the form.

Step 5: Feedback from Peers

(And finally sticking to one model)

The speed-dating feedback activity was very helpful for me in terms of seeing how a “stranger” interacted with the carrier and the questions they posed that I might not have considered before.

The main issues I noticed while watching some of my peers interact with my carrier were the slits, which were hard to use/insert, the handle, which seemed a bit unnecessary, and the looseness of the bottom when the model is on a wider setting, which made the model feel more unstable than it actually is.

The first issue I decided to tackle was that of the slits, which was a relatively easy fix that just required slightly wider slits so that the tabs could be inserted more smoothly and also making the slits go in between the vertical cuts instead on them (in order to make the slits more easily visible).

Tackling the issue of the looseness, on the other hand, was much harder. Essentially, there was no issue when the carrier was on its tightest mode (for a narrower bouquet), but as soon as the top was loosened, the bottom layers also loosened, making it feel wobbly and uncomfortable to hold. What made this a tricky issue to consider, though, was that the bottom “belt loop” could not be loosened because then the stems would not be well- held, and the top could not be loosened without the bottom also loosening.

After contemplating my conundrum for a bit, Stacie and I had a good conversation that helped me redirect and really consider what was causing the issue at hand. Stacie mentioned that I should pay close attention to the gaps or spaces between the layers when the model is loosened, and consider how I might fill those gaps.

I first tried that by having a part of the width of the cardboard fold in to create a thicker layer that would fill the gaps. However, upon doing this I realized a couple of things: This strategy would only benefit one specific width and would require for the user to completely undo the carrier and re-assemble it if they decide they need a tighter or looser notch, and it also causes the model to appear very messy and unintentional when it is folded down. The messiness is primarily due to the fact that when folded upwards, the vertical cuts on the exterior are now twisted the opposite way, causing them to wrinkle. In theory, this could be fixed by only having the vertical cuts go up to where the layer would fold, but not only would that interrupt the unity of the vertical lines, but it still would not fix the practical concern of having to undo the carrier completely in order to adjust the size.

Top left: folds going against themselves, top right: thickness of the cardboard when folded, bottom left: frontal view with folded layer, bottom right: somewhat messy details towards the bottom

While still thinking about how I could improve this problem, I moved on to the issue of whether or not to include a handle. During our discussion, Stacie and I also talked about having a deductive handle rather than an additive one (like the one I had previously made) which could disrupt the form.

Hence, I cut out a “handle” in the form in which the user can insert their hand and have a better grip on the carrier.

In doing so, I actually discovered that this sort of grip kind of gets rid of the looseness issue because there is a set place to hold and it doesn’t feel like the flowers are going to slip out or that your hand is going slide up and down.

Thus, I found that a deductive handle could, in turn, solve the two most prominent issues that I had derived from conversations with my peers, as well as my feedback from Stacie.

The next issue was indicating to the viewer that the hole was indeed a handle and how it is that their hand should be inserted.

Step 6: Small- Group Critiques with Steve and Stacie

During our small group critiques I learned a couple more things that I had not really thought of. First, Steve mentioned that without seeing me assemble the carrier, he would not necessarily have known which was meant to be the top and which was meant to be the bottom. Additionally, he mentioned the point at the top kind of fighting against the flowers and suggested following the curve all the way through rather than having it awkwardly cut off. In turn, that adjustment could also differentiate the top from the bottom. Another issue mentioned by Steve and Stacie was the same issue of the handle and how to make it clear to the viewer.

Exploring More Iterations Based on Feedback

Change #1: Top

The first change I made was a relatively simple one, which was just changing the top so that there wouldn’t be an additional piece interrupting or damaging the flowers. However, the form did become a bit more rigid and less visually interesting upon doing this change, so this change still required some more consideration.

Before and after

Change #2: Tabs

The next one was a very minor change in the tabs. By cutting the corners off of the tabs to create a trapezoid rather than a parallelogram, the tabs are more easily inserted into the slits.

Change #3: Handle

This change, on the other hand, was harder. In starting to think about the issue of the deductive handle for my carrier, I came up with a couple of options to explore.

The first option basically went off of the same idea I had explored earlier, which was having a deductive handle through which you could put your hand into to grip the carrier kind of like a mitt. The only difference in this iteration was the shape being curved to give the viewer more of a cue indicating a handle.

The second option appeared to be a clearer handle but would likely be carried a bit differently.

Last Group Critique

This critique brought up a lot of questions for me. After presenting the adjustments I had made to the model, Steve and Stacie brought up some (at least at first) alarming issues that had come up with the form upon making some of these changes. The first was the same issue I thought of with the top being cut off. Steve mentioned that both the new top and the handle made the form very harsh and it lost some of the simplicity and elegance of the first model. This was alarming to me because I wanted to be moving forwards, not backwards. It seemed as if every time I added or subtracted anything away from the initial form, I was sacrificing some of the visual qualities the first model had.

So I had to think. A lot. I had to take many steps back and think about the criteria I wanted to focus on with this carrier and then I had to determine what problems I should prioritize for my final model.

Going Back to the Drawing Board

Before deciding what changes I wanted to make going into my final model, I chose to look back at my initial notes of different criteria we should consider for this project. Since no carrier is perfect and meets every single criteria, which ones did I want to emphasize through my carrier and how might that list be expanded upon?

Form: With this model, I definitely valued the form of the model being simple, but also complimenting the flowers through an organic curve and a shape that may be found in nature. What I had to now consider was how I could keep what I found successful in the form, while still making sure it was practical.

Ease of use: Ease of use was a big criteria I wanted to emphasize because one wants to be able to assemble the carrier in a relatively straightforward manner with the least possible number of steps. This model did so in the sense that it was only one piece that had to be latched at the bottom, wrapped around and then latched at the top. However, I could still push the ease of use further in terms of how the viewer might understand how it is assembled without instructions. I also had to continue thinking of the ease of carrying since it was showing uncomfortable to hold in certain positioning.

Enjoyable to use: When making my initial model, I also considered how enjoyable it was to use the carrier because of the “unwrapping” of the flowers that happens when the top latch is taken out. This motion sort of served as the revealing of the object, which I wanted to keep moving forward.

Protection: This was another criteria I considered because of the mere fragile nature of an object like flowers. Protection was my main reason for including the top edge of my model, so that it would serve kind of like a headrest for the blooms without having to completely cover them. As mentioned in our group critiques, flowers are also almost always given with a plastic and there is little protection that can be necessarily added through the cardboard itself.

Hence, I really had to think about what I could do to make my carrier easy to carry and hold, while keeping a simple form that complements the flowers.

Final Brainstorming

In order to solve (or at least try to solve) some of the issues mentioned during critique- the most prominent being the issue of holding the carrier comfortably- I first continued exploring having a handle as the solution.

I agreed with Steve that the circular handle with the bar in the center (see above) was much too harsh and definitely interrupted the form of the model. However, I was struggling to come up with a shape that would indicate a place for the holder to place their hand, be comfortable to hold, and fit well with the form of the carrier.

Below are a couple of different deductive and additive shapes I looked at, none of which I found very successful.

Since I was finding it very hard to make a “handle” work for this model, I considered something Steve has said, which is to think of other gripping strategies rather than a handle, per say.

Thus, I began think of ways to stabilize the bottom of the model so that you could have a nice grip on it without any wobbliness or instability.

I realized that only the top part of the model had to move in order to adjust the size so if there was a way for the bottom to remain taught while the top moves, one could hold it more comfortably.

The solution I came up with was to have some sort of tab in the middle layer of the wrap that could keep the bottom in place.

Through trial and error (three trials, to be precise) I found that the tab in the middle actually worked by putting pressure on the bottom layers and stabilizing them.

I also found out (the hard way) that the tab would only stay in the horizontal slit if cut at a diagonal.

Therefore, three tries later, I finally got to a model with a comfortable method of holding that I was happy with. Of course, there are always things that can be improved upon, but as I said earlier, I had to prioritize certain fixes over others, and this last edit helped the model get to the place I wanted in terms of solving a practical issue without disrupting the form.

Final model!

Left would be the model at the tightest setting, while right shows the loosest setting with the tab stabilizing it at the bottom.
The five iterations I explored along the way (not counting the drafts of a same iteration). Left to right= oldest to newest
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