Cardboard Carriers

Tay Aras
Tay Aras
Sep 25, 2018 · Unlisted

We recently started a new project in which we are supposed to create carriers out of cardboard for specific items. Here is the prompt:

“The items we purchase often have unique characteristics that warrant specific structures that enable them to be carried, protected, and appreciated. We’re then going to build carriers for such items based on our understanding of the items’ needs. We’re also going to pay close attention to the roles the carriers play that extend beyond mere utility to include rituals, such as dinner party gift giving”

I took some notes when they were explaining the prompt, with some basic ideas and general thoughts about the project.

We were then assigned a mini project before we started the main one, which consisted of the following.

  1. Start a medium post
  2. Make a 6" x 6" x 6" corner that is fastened aesthetically and one that has no external fasteners and is made of one piece of cardboard
  3. Build a dummy product (vinegar bottle)

The Corner Ideation:

I began by sketching out a variety of different ideas as shown here:

I wanted to focus primarily on fastening without using any external fasteners like glue or tape, which is reflected on my different ideas.

My first idea was to try and weave the box. While we were listening to the prompt, I thought it would a be a fun thing to try and experiment with, so I sketched out the basic idea as shown above. I also tried out different ideas, such as the box corner and various methods of slotting cardboard through each other.


Cardboard prototype 1 v1:

I wanted to try out weaving, as I thought it would be a fun way to experiment with cardboard while experimenting heavily with shape and a new concept. I honestly just wanted to try it to see if I could make it as well. I started creating a small model as a proof of concept, shown to the left.

Some major things that I learned from this model was that without something holding the weaving in, the pieces would slide outward, destroying the corner. Also, I wouldn’t be able to do 6 strips of 1" wide pieces, as there were gaps that were created between the pieces of cardboard when they were woven together.

Cardboard Prototype 1 v2:

Here is the second full scale version of the woven prototype.

This version was slightly different then the original in a variety of ways. In the first prototype, I cut the cardboard slightly so that it would be easier to bend around the corner. I didn’t do this for the second one, as it weakened the overall structural integrity. This version was also much harder to put together, with each successive strip taking even more time to weave in.

When I started weaving this version I hadn’t found the best way to keep all the strips from sliding out under the pressure. I had originally planned to take smaller cardboard strips and weave it all the way around, but when I tried it wasn’t very successful. This is when Evy showed me her cardboard corner, in which she had sown two sides together extremely cleanly with smaller cardboard string that she had cut. Taking inspiration from this, I made a much jankier version that went through all the ends, keeping them in place. This ended up working very well. Here is a photo of it:

Cardboard Prototype 2:

This was just one of the ideas I had that others also implemented

When I finished my first prototype, most of my peers had also finished various iterations of their corners. Many of them had had similar ideas of how to do a corner with only one piece of cardboard, so I was able to look around, talk to them, and discuss how effective their solutions were. I was originally going to prototype every idea I had, but I felt that I had gained a lot of knowledge about the other solutions, such as the box corner and the basic slotting corner, that I wouldn’t gain much knowledge making the same thing over again, so I instead spent my time trying to create a new form of corner. This is what I came up with:

Cardboard Prototype 2 v1:

One of the problems I noticed with some of my peers slot prototypes is that they came apart very easily, so I wanted to build something that would lock solidly in place. I thought a good way to do this would be to overlap two faces and lock them together. Here is the first prototype:

This one locked solidly into place as I intended, but there were some gaps in between the overlapping parts, which I wanted to resolve in my larger version.

Cardboard Prototype 2 v2:

This one ended up being more successful then I thought it would be. By rotating the connection zone, I was able to eliminate all of the gap between the overall aping pieces. In addition, I was able to create a more secure connection, and have it sit cleanly onto the table, which my previous iteration didn’t do as well.

Here are the final two iterations side by side:

Dummy Item:

The Dummy Item I did fairly quickly. I started by sketching out the bottle, then creating a diagram of a flat cutout. I made some quick measurements of the actual bottle, then cut and taped the bottle together. I added rocks inside to mimic the weight of the bottle filled with vinegar/water.


Prototype 1 — Iteration 1:

While we were sitting around listening to the prompt for the first time, I started conceptualizing different ideas in my head. Once I found out that my object was the vinegar bottle, I quickly sketched out an idea for a weight based mechanism that I had been thinking about. Once I had drawn out the side view, I went about mocking up a basic two sided version with cardboard.

First Mockup

Prototype 1 — Iteration 2:

After a few tweaks, I had proven to myself that this kind of mechanism could work, so I updated I made a new version that folded all four sides up.

Second Mockup

This version of the prototype was extremely successful, with the sides folding up exactly how I wanted it to be. I taped some smashed cardboard handles onto the sides, and finished Prototype 1 — Iteration 1. Here’s a video of it working successfully. I wanted to focus on the interaction between the user and the carrier and try to create a sense of excitement, which is why I think the mechanism is important for this prototype.

Prototype 2 — Iteration 1:

For my second prototype I took a different approach, and tried to make a carrier that was only one solid piece of cardboard and used no glue or tape. The basic idea is that the weight of the bottle would hold the folded piece of cardboard out, providing structure and allowing for a handle to be put. It was also meant to be implemented easily. Below is a sketch of that idea as well as an idea I did not end up prototyping.

Here are some photos of the first iteration prototype:

Some major issues with this prototype were:

  • The bottle angled downwards, causing it to leak
  • The back cardboard part slid towards the center of the bottle when it was held, causing the bottle to almost fall out
  • I made the holes the wrong size, which made the bottle hard to get in and out

Prototype 2 — Iteration 2:

For this iteration I tried to fix all of the problems from the first prototype. I added a third side which caused the triangle to be very strong. The weight of the bottle made the two top sides of the bottle want to slide in, but the third part kept the two apart, making the triangle very strong and not need any intricate locking mechanism.

The bottle no longer slid out and was held completely locked in place when the carrier was assembled. I changed the angle of the bottle so that it was angled slightly upwards.

Here are some photos of the new prototype:

Prototype 3:

For this prototype, I wanted to also create a carrier that was one piece of cardboard that also used no tape or glue. This idea was created very roughly, and conceptualized after a very basic sketch. I wanted this version to hold the bottle upright, in a more normal fashion. My idea was to create a very “standard” holder. Here’s the rough sketch.

Here is what the prototype ended up being:

I accidentally cut through a part that I wasn’t supposed to, which is why there is a piece of tape along the middle. Overall, the concept did not turn out how I had hoped and had a variety of problems. When held, the carrier handle would bend, making it feel very week and unstable which you definitely don’t want when carrying glass. Also, when it wasn’t being held, the back part would just collapse downwards like this:

This was one of those ideas that worked better as a concept then in reality.

Prototype 4:

For this fourth idea I decided to not limit myself to the rules I had set for myself in the previous two prototypes. I wanted to create something that would almost surprise people. I had a chat with Grant in which we thought it would be cool if I could make something that was almost the opposite of my first prototype. This would mean that when I put the bottle down it would present itself. Here’s a sketch of the initial idea that I had to make this:

The idea was that when the bottle was held, it would be completely covered by cardboard and when it was put down, the cardboard would collapse to show the bottle inside. Here’s some photos of the final prototype:

Here’s a video of the prototype being used:

Some problems with this prototype were:

  • Although it worked well, it got stuck often
  • Complex to build, would take a lot of time and effort to build without glue or tape
  • Doesn’t reflect the form of the object that well.


After much deliberation and asking around, I narrowed the prototypes down to two, prototype 1 and prototype 2. I decided not to go through with 3 or 4, as I felt that they had too many fundamental issues and wouldn’t be suitable for the project and requirements. I decided to ask for advice when picking between Prototype 1 and Prototype 2.

Prototype 1 vs Prototype 2

When I asked for feedback, this is the consensus that I got:

Pros of Prototype 1:

  • Carrier is fun to use and very elegant
  • It makes sense to use and each part makes sense

Cons of Prototype 1:

  • It doesn’t feel very strong — The bottle could fall out at any time when it is not being held, and the walls aren’t very tall.
  • The bottle doesn’t fit flush within the carrier
  • The straps aren’t comfortable to hold
  • It isn’t intuitive as to where the user should grab the bottle. The looping straps don’t provide any insight
  • Potentially over complicated

Pros of Prototype 2:

  • Made out of one piece of cardboard
  • Simple in nature
  • Is very sturdy and holds the bottle in place well

Cons of Prototype 2:

  • Triangle doesn’t reflect the shape of the bottle very well
  • Although the triangle is very sturdy, it doesn’t give the illusion of safety
  • The bottle doesn’t feel very protected — exposed glass makes people nervous
  • Bottle is horizontal and can leak — also isn’t the natural position of a bottle
  • Putting the bottle in and out isn’t intuitive
  • Not very comfortable to hold.

After much deliberation I decided to go forward with Prototype 1. Many of the issues with Prototype 2 were at the very core of the idea, and I don’t think I could fix them without changing the entire idea. The issues with prototype one felt much easier to fix, and people liked the interaction of it far more then the aesthetic of Prototype 2:

Iterations of the base:

I decided to start by updating the base to have higher walls (to better hold in the bottle) and so that it didn’t use any tape or glue. Before I started building a full prototype, I wanted to make sure I would be able to connect the four sides in the center without tape. I decided to prototype this first. I made several iterations, but sadly I lost some of them before I could take pictures. Here is one of the first ones I made, as well as the last one that I ended up using:

This is where weaving the corners came in handy, as the same principles applied to the weaving the four pieces of cardboard together. They were all held together fairly strongly, so I decided to use this method on my actual prototypes.


I had issues with the first prototypes with craft, due to the flues of the cardboard. As the four side walls go in 2 different directions, There wasn’t any consistency leading to the walls looking like this:

To remedy this, for all future versions I cut the base structure at a diagonal, so that each part would be much stronger and have a more consistent look overall. Here’s a photo of the diagonal cuts:

Base Prototype — Iteration 1:

For this prototype I lengthened the walls to better secure the bottle when it was inside. I also made sure to measure the bottle more accurately so that when I put it in, it would fit flush inside the bottle. I also implemented the woven 4 way connector in this prototype. This is what it looked like:

This one had some major issues that stemmed primarily from me making mistakes on some of the inner folds which affected the folding of the mechanism. Here is a photo of the issue:

I folded too low to the bottom so there wasn’t enough leverage to lift the side walls up. Also, there were large gaps in between the side walls which was something that I needed to fix from the previous iterations.

Base Prototype — Iteration 2:

For this iteration, I made sure to measure everything much more accurately, including all the folds. The only major update I made for this was widening the outer side walls and cutting them at an angle, reducing any gap in the corners.

This iteration worked fairly well, but I had issues with assembly and it wouldn’t always close consistently. I think a lot of this was due to the woven top part paired with the folded sides cause it to be very weak. Eventually the woven part weakened and started to fall out.

Base Prototype — Iteration 3:

I realized that I could invert the layout of the base and put the woven part at the very bottom.

Doing this fixed a variety of issues including issues that I didn’t even consider. It folded up more consistently, it was easier and quicker to put together, and was stronger overall. This is the final prototype base that I ended up using.

Carrying Mechanisms:

One of the major issues from the first prototypes was that the straps weren’t comfortable and got in the way when trying to pull out the bottle. I tried a variety of techniques and straps, which ranged from weaving straps in slots in the sides, to trying to include straps in the base (I forgot to take photos of these). I was struggling to come up with an idea when Grant suggested that I could have something go all the way around both sides. I prototyped it quickly and it worked to a certain extent:

I didn’t make it very cleanly so I made a second version that was measured better and was easier to hold.

During this time, I also added a piece that wrapped around the outside in order to increase the stability and lock the bottle in place. I’ll touch on that later.

This worked pretty well, but one of the main critiques that I got was that the handle felt very weak and it wasn’t comfortable to hold. I had a restriction of keeping the handle narrow, otherwise the part that wrapped around wouldn’t be able to slide off effectively. I decided to make several variations of the handle to try and find one that worked:

Although I made several iterations, none of them felt very comfortable to hold due to the thin nature of the handle. This is when I had a breakthrough. I realized that I could fold parts of the handle in order to have them fit through the strap when it was being pulled up, but have them expand when in use.

This solved the issues I was having by creating a solid strap that felt comfortable to hold while still meeting the requirements of my design. This is what the final strap looked like:

Stability + Strength Attachment:

The final thing that needed improvement was the outer piece of the carrier. The current version was weak, with many people trying to pull out the strap instead of lifting it off the top.

I tried another variation where I put a hidden tab, but it kept falling out and wasn’t effective overall.

I asked around the classroom for suggestions and Yoshi showed me his corner. The connection worked effectively and I ended up using a similar method for my final version.

This is the final piece


I rebuilt the base one last time, fixing all other mistakes. Here is what the final version looks like:


    Tay Aras

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    Tay Aras

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