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Chapter 6: Designing inclusive packaging
Joy Goodman-Deane, Engineering Design Centre, University of Cambridge
Sam Waller, Engineering Design Centre, University of Cambridge
Mike Bradley, Engineering Design Centre, University of Cambridge
Alaster Yoxall, Sheffield Hallam University
David Wiggins, DRW Packaging Consultants / Engineering Design Centre,
University of Cambridge
P. John Clarkson, Engineering Design Centre, University of Cambridge
For the book: Integrating the packaging and food and drink experience: A route
map to consumer satisfaction
The user experience can be greatly affected by the demands made by packaging on users'
capabilities, such as vision and dexterity. Packaging with features that are hard to see, manipulate or
understand can result in difficulty, frustration or even outright exclusion. This particularly affects
older people and those with disabilities but can also cause problems for more mainstream users.
Inclusive design presents a way to address these issues. This chapter outlines the key principles of
inclusive design and shows how they apply to packaging, presenting a framework for putting it into
practice. Simulators and personas are then described, as examples of tools that are particularly
helpful in inclusive design. These tools can help to develop and explore an understanding of user
needs and of the effects of capability loss on the use of packaging. Real-world examples are provided
to show how these apply to packaging design in practice.
Keywords: Inclusive design, tools, simulation, personas, usability, accessibility
1. Non-inclusive packaging
Ideally, the packaging experience would be satisfying, bringing pleasure and even delight. However,
in practice, this is often not the case. Many items of packaging have features that are hard to see,
manipulate or understand. As a result, many users find it difficult or even impossible to open, read
or otherwise use the packaging (see Figure 1). This particularly affects people with reduced
capabilities, such as older people and those with disabilities. However, it can also impact more
mainstream users, producing feelings of frustration and annoyance, rather than delight. In 2004 the
term 'Wrap rage' was coined to describe this sense of frustration about accessing and using difficult-
to-open packaging on even very simple items.
[Insert Fig 1a and Fig1b in a row horizontally, images should be the same height]
Figure 1: Users struggling to open packaging and read cooking instructions on packaging
Packaging has to fulfil a range of roles. It has to protect and preserve the contents both in storage
and transportation, it has to market and sell the product and identify the contents and provide
cooking and storage instructions, and of course it has to facilitate access to those contents.
Those roles can often be in competition with each other and can create a difficult balancing act for
designers, packer-fillers and distributors. Legal requirements on product information on packaging
can often lead to very small font sizes, and sealing forces can often be relatively high to facilitate
safe transportation or to prevent theft. Pressure to meet environmental legislation and hence to
reduce the amount of packaging can also be seen to compete against the desire for packaging that is
easy to open. For example, removing ring-pulls on food cans reduces packaging but makes the cans
harder to open.
The ability to access packaging is affected by a consumer's strength and dexterity, while their
understanding of the access features and of information on the packaging (such as nutritional
information and use-by dates) is affected by their visual acuity. All of these user capabilities are
known to decline with age with significant reductions in strength for women over 70 (Langley et al.,
2005, Yoxall et al., 2008), dexterity declining by approximately 1.6% a year over the age of 60
(Desrosiers et al, 1993), and age-related long sightedness affecting around 83% of the population
aged over 45 (Holden et al, 2008).
The context of use (i.e. where and when consumers use packaging) can also affect the ability to
access the pack for people with no significant capability loss. For example, wet or slippery hands can
make handling packaging difficult and poor lighting conditions can make reading pack information
difficult even for people with average eyesight.
In particular, allergen advice means that problematic ingredients are labelled in bold. However, poor
use of colour and contrast choice can mean that finding and reading this information can be difficult
(see Figure 2). Figure 3 shows a further two examples where participants in tests run by the authors
failed to identify access or product information correctly.
[Insert Fig 2 here, no larger than 7cm width]
Figure 2: Example of an ingredients list where an attempt has been made to highlight allergens (oats and
barley) by printing them in darker text. However, this has rendered the information difficult to read, due
to poor contrast with the background.
[Insert Fig 3a and Fig3b in a row horizontally]
Figure 3: Examples of packaging for which users under tests failed to identify product or packaging
Several surveys have listed items that consumers have had significant issues with, in terms of
accessing the packaging. For example, the 'Yours' magazine (McConnell, 2004) listed the following as
difficult items for people to access: jam jars, shrink-wrapped cheese, tins of meat and fish, medicines
and child resistant closures on bleach. A separate survey by the packaging specialist Payne added
plastic moulded clam-shells to the list (Packaging Europe, 2013).
In fact, a 2013 survey found that two thirds of consumers ‘get frustrated trying to get into everyday
packaging’ and ‘four in ten people have hurt themselves while trying to open packaging over the last
two years’ (Which? Magazine, 2013). Access to packaging is often seen as a trivial issue that can be
overcome with scissors or other implements such as knives, hot water or towels, or by asking for
help from relatives (Yoxall et al, 2010). However research has identified individuals living on ready
meals, waiting for visitors to help open packaging and changing purchasing behaviour because of
difficulties with packaging (Yoxall, 2013). Perhaps most seriously, access to packaging was seen to
lead to nutritional problems in hospitals in the NSW region of Australia (Bell et al, 2013).
Issues to do with the use of packaging extend beyond accessing the contents to problems with
purchase, delivery, storage, dispensing, reuse and disposal. For example, frustration and difficulty
can arise when trying to recognise a particular product in a shop, pour from a carton of milk, reclose
a re-sealable packet, check whether packaging is recyclable, or flatten a box to dispose of it.
Some examples of 'easy open' packaging have recently appeared, and recent CEN and ISO standards
help to encourage and enable the development of more accessible packaging (Great Britain, British
Standards Institution, 2011; International Organisation for Standardization, 2015). However, there
are still significant issues with many packaging formats. This problematic packaging can be termed
non-inclusive: packaging that does not include a wide range of people, ages and abilities, and that
results in frustration, difficulty and exclusion. The issues posed by such packaging are becoming an
increasing problem, as the population ages and increasing numbers of people are affected by
capability loss. 23% of the UK population is now aged 60 or over, and over 18% of the population
have at least one moderate or severe capability loss (Waller et al, 2010).
2. Inclusive design
Inclusive design is one way to address these challenges (Keates and Clarkson, 2003; Waller et al,
2015). It can be defined as ‘The design of mainstream products and/or services that are accessible
to, and usable by, as many people as reasonably possible ... without the need for special adaptation
or specialised design.’ (Great Britain, British Standards Institution, 2005).
Thus inclusive design applies to standard packaging. It is not the design of specialised packaging for
older people or specialised markets. It is about making everyday packaging easier to open and use.
Someone with arthritis would be able to open an inclusively designed jar, without having to buy a
special implement to attach to the lid. An older person would be able to read the instructions on the
side of a packet, without having to get out a magnifying glass. As a side-effect, people with average
eyesight would also be able to read the instructions if the lighting in their kitchen was dim.
However, inclusive design also recognises that there are limits to this approach. It may not be
practically possible to make an item of packaging accessible to the entire population. For example, it
may not be possible to make a jar lid easy enough to turn for someone with an extremely weak grip,
while still providing a sufficient seal to keep the food fresh. Similarly, there may not be enough space
on the packaging to print the instructions large enough for someone with severe vision impairments
to be able to read them.
Inclusive design is about making informed decisions, based on an understanding of the target
market. It seeks to extend the number of people who can use the packaging, but it also recognises a
range of other constraints and success criteria, such as cost and technical viability (see Section 3.1).
Inclusive design seeks to maximise the packaging experience, bearing in mind these other
constraints (Waller et al, 2015).
Inclusive design is also related to ‘Universal design’ and ‘Design for all’, which similarly seek to
broaden the range of people who can use mainstream products (Preiser and Ostroff, 2001).
However, inclusive design typically places more emphasis on informing commercial decisions, as
Inclusive design provides a framework within which specific evaluation methods and accessibility
techniques can be used, such as those recommended in the recent CEN and ISO standards (Great
Britain, British Standards Institution, 2011; International Organisation for Standardization, 2015).
3. A framework for inclusive design
For inclusive design to be put into practice effectively, it needs to be part of the design team’s
thinking from the start of the design process, not added as an extra at the end. Last-minute
modifications tend to be both very expensive and not very effective (Mynott et al, 1994). If
inclusivity is considered from the start, then more innovative and effective solutions can be
considered. Thus, while specific tools for inclusive design are valuable (and will be discussed later in
this chapter), they are not enough – incorporating inclusive design principles into the design process
as a whole is important for effective inclusive design.
We therefore propose a model of a concept design process that allows inclusive design thinking and
principles to be integrated throughout. The model is summarised in Figure 4. It includes four main
1. Explore: Determine ‘What are the needs?’
2. Create: Generate ideas to address 'How can the needs be met?'
3. Evaluate: Judge and test the design concepts to determine 'How well are the needs met?'
4. Manage: Review the evidence to decide 'What should we do next?'
[Insert Fig 4 here]
Figure 4: A model for the inclusive design process (Inclusive design toolkit, 2015a)
Figure 4 shows how these phases fit together. Successive cycles of the Explore, Create and Evaluate
phases are used to generate a clearer understanding of the needs, better solutions to meet these
needs and stronger evidence that the needs are met. The Manage phase is used to steer and direct
the design process to optimise resource utilisation and to maximise the quality of output within the
This chapter describes each of these phases briefly. More detailed information can be found on the
Inclusive design toolkit (2015a).
The Explore phase is about gaining a deeper understanding of the criteria that the packaging needs
to fulfil. These criteria are based on the needs of a whole range of stakeholders across the whole
lifecycle of the packaging. These stakeholders include users, but also manufacturers, retailers and
many others. The criteria in general can be summarised in a ‘Performance indicator framework’ as
shown in Figure 5, although the particular criteria and their relative importance will vary depending
on the product and packaging.
Thus the criteria may include user-oriented aspects such as ease of opening, instructions for use,
ability to know what allergens are in the product, and aesthetics. However, they also include aspects
such as branding, recyclability, space-efficient warehouse storage, and cost of manufacture.
Inclusive design recognises that packaging design is done within a context of multiple different
criteria, and that inclusivity is not the only concern. This practicality often results in more workable
solutions in practice.
[Insert Fig 5 here]
Figure 5: A framework for criteria that packaging needs to fulfil (Inclusive design toolkit ,2015a)
During the Explore phase, it is also useful to identify ‘dealbreaker’ issues, i.e. concerns of sufficient
importance to one or more stakeholders that the concept cannot go ahead if they are not addressed
adequately. Examples of these include issues to do with legal compliance, as well as brand issues
which may enforce the use of certain colours or the placement of images or logos in particular
In summary, the Explore phase is about understanding the criteria better. This involves exploring the
needs and desires of the different stakeholders, and understanding how the packaging will be used
throughout the whole user lifecycle, from purchase to disposal.
The Create phase is about creating possible solutions to meet the needs and criteria identified by
Explore. This includes many of the activities commonly thought of as belonging to concept design,
ranging from producing initial ideas, to developing them into prototypes that can be tested.
In this phase, it is important for the design team not to get fixated on one idea or a small subset of
ideas. Effective inclusive design often requires thinking more widely and exploring different and
possibly unusual options. To enable this, it is important to examine a wide range of stimuli, both
obvious and unexpected. It is also necessary to develop a creative culture in which people are
prepared to give things a go and see what happens, even if what happens is not successful.
Impractical ideas often spur realistic ones that are much better than those that could be obtained
through sole consideration of the possible.
The Create phase may also involve challenging the constraints and pushing the boundaries set in the
Explore phase. This can help to refine the understanding of the criteria, and can result in more
innovative and effective solutions, even if the criteria remain unchanged.
The Evaluate phase examines the concepts to determine how well they meet the criteria identified
earlier, both in terms of the performance indicators and the dealbreaker issues. This is vitally
important to ensure that the criteria are actually met. Without this, the team runs the danger of just
choosing concepts that they like the look of and that work for them but not for the wider target
population or key stakeholders. The evaluation process not only checks for such issues, but can
identify ways to refine concepts to solve problems and improve performance.
Evaluation is best done early in the design process, while meaningful change is still possible. To
enable this, it is often necessary to perform quick tests with rough prototypes, rather than waiting
until full prototypes are ready.
There are many different ways of evaluating concepts, including testing with users, expert appraisal
and exclusion estimation (Goodman-Deane et al, 2014). In particular, the CEN15945 Technical
Specification (Great Britain, British Standards Institution, 2011) encourages the evaluation of a pack
or pack concept against a defined user test panel, the demographic of that panel being determined
by the specification. Doing this can establish a degree of understanding and evaluation of pack
performance. The standard has been successfully used across a range of packaging formats as has
been modified following extensive use and included in ISO17480, Packaging – Accessible design –
Ease of opening (International Organisation for Standardisation, 2015). It can be particularly useful if
used in conjunction with observation and interview techniques.
However, user testing can be expensive and time-consuming and may not always be feasible,
particularly for quick iteration of early concepts. A range of evaluation methods used throughout the
design process can be very effective.
The inclusive design process is dynamic and iterative, with the team moving between different
phases in response to the needs of the project and the outcomes of the steps. For example, the
Evaluate phase may identify some changes that need to be made to the concepts as well as
suggestions for improvements, which trigger a move back to the Create phase. Alternatively, the
Evaluate phase may uncover a lack of understanding of some of the user needs, which necessitates
The Manage phase manages this whole process, keeping the project on course and on budget. It
determines what needs to be done next and when to move on to the next stage. In order to do this
effectively, it is important for the team to take a step back periodically to review their progress and
refine their goals. Maintaining good communication between project partners and keeping an eye
on the business case are also key to ensuring a successful project.
4. Empathy tools
There are many tools and activities which are helpful in supporting inclusive design. However, there
is not enough space in this chapter to describe them all. Instead, we focus on a particular subset of
tools, sometimes called empathy tools. Information about other tools can be found Inclusive design
Empathy tools are intended to help develop empathy with and understanding of the users. This is
important because, as Cooper (1999) points out, designers tend to design for people with similar
capabilities and skills to themselves in the absence of specific prompts to do otherwise. This may
work if there is a restricted target user group that is very similar to the designer, e.g. when software
designers produce a development system for other software designers to use. However, in
packaging design and in inclusive packaging design in particular, the target user group is generally
larger and more diverse.
Empathy tools help to break designers out of the mindset of designing for themselves, making them
think about the needs of a wider range of users. Empathy can be a powerful motivator for designers,
as well as providing useful insight for understanding and improving users' packaging experiences.
These tools are useful throughout the design process (described in Section 3). They can help the
design team to understand the user needs, as well as providing some user perspective in an initial,
quick evaluation of concepts. They can also be a great help in communicating with clients and
convincing them of the value of inclusive design proposals.
Empathy and understanding may be most effectively built through direct, in-depth involvement of
real users in the design process. However, in many cases this is not practical, requiring substantial
cost and training to do properly. In other cases, users may be involved in a project, but only at
particular points. The aim of the empathy tools described in this section is to bridge this gap,
providing quick, easy to use, low cost methods to enable quick insights and feedback when users are
not available. Please note that they are not intended to replace the need to involve real users, and
are most effectively used alongside user involvement as part of a holistic inclusive design process.
In addition, these methods do some things that user involvement cannot do, at least not without
large numbers of users. They can incorporate and summarise the situations of many different users
with different levels of capabilities.
This chapter describes two empathy tools in particular: simulation and personas.
In simulation methods, designers are given a first-hand experience of some of the functional effects
of capability loss (Cardoso and Clarkson, 2006). This can be done by wearing special equipment that
reduces their capabilities or by using software that shows what packaging might look like to
someone with a vision impairment.
Note that, when using simulation, it is important to remember that it only provides a limited
experience of what a disability is like. It does not convey the frustration, difficulties, social
consequences or coping strategies associated with living with an impairment long-term. It also does
not usually include pain and other symptoms associated with the impairment. As a result, it does not
replace user involvement, but supplements it, helping a designer to internalise information obtained
through other methods and providing initial feedback before designs are taken to users.
5.1 Wearable simulators
Wearable simulators directly restrict the wearers’ capabilities, so that they find it more difficult to
see, hear or move. These include full body restrictors like the Third Age Suit (Hitchcock et al, 2001)
and items that limit particular abilities. Full body restrictors are expensive and difficult to get hold of.
Therefore, when examining packaging, it is generally more useful to use simulators that limit the
abilities most relevant to packaging use, such as vision and dexterity. Cognitive ability is also very
important to packaging use, but at present effective and practical cognitive loss simulation is not
5.1.1 Vision impairment simulators
Vision impairment is commonly simulated by wearing glasses that obscure one’s vision. The accuracy
of this simulation varies widely. At one end of the spectrum are very rough methods such as
smearing petroleum jelly on glasses to obscure one’s vision (Nicolle and Maguire, 2003). More
accurate methods typically use glasses that have been designed to simulate particular levels and
types of vision loss, such as the VINE Sim Specs (Visual Impairment North East, undated) or the Low
Vision Simulators provided by Fork in the Road (2015). However, many of these are not designed for
use in inclusive design and often do not cover the milder degrees of vision loss of most relevance to
inclusive packaging design.
The Cambridge Simulation Glasses, produced by the University of Cambridge, have been designed
for use in inclusive design (Inclusive design toolkit, 2015b). Each pair of glasses simulates a mild loss
of visual acuity and they can be layered up to simulate higher degrees of vision loss (see Figure 6).
The effect of different numbers of glasses on the wearer’s visual acuity has been measured
(Goodman-Deane et al, 2013). Therefore they can be used both to increase general empathy with
those with mild vision loss, and to simulate specific degrees of visual impairment.
[Insert Fig 6 here]
Figure 6: The Cambridge Simulation Glasses
The glasses can be used to examine the visual accessibility of packaging. A recommended procedure
for doing this is described in Goodman-Deane et al (2014), and summarised in Figure 7. The
assessor’s eyesight is first estimated using a simplified vision chart. Depending on their eyesight,
they are given a particular number of simulator glasses to wear. The assessors then examine the
packaging while wearing the given number of glasses, focusing on features for which visual
accessibility is important, such as the visibility of easy-open tabs or the legibility of ingredients lists.
It is important that assessors keep the product at a normal working distance while doing this, to
avoid skewing the results. They determine whether they can see the features well enough to be able
to use them (e.g. recognise the tabs or read the ingredients list). Depending on the number of
glasses with which they can do this, the features are rated Green, Amber or Red.
[Insert Fig 7 here]
Figure 7: The assessment procedure for assessors with excellent vision (visual ability better than 20/16)
Green indicates that less than 1% of the population would be excluded from using that packaging
feature on grounds of visual acuity. Amber indicates that between 1% and 6% are excluded, and Red
indicates that more than 6% of the population would be excluded. (Details of the calculations can be
found in Goodman-Deane et al, 2014). These figures only relate to exclusion on the grounds of visual
acuity. Of course, there may be other vision problems with the packaging, e.g. associated with
tunnel vision or colour blindness. Ideally, this procedure should be used together with user
involvement as part of an overall inclusive design process. Nevertheless, this procedure can perform
a useful sanity check and can uncover significant issues with the packaging at an early stage of the
5.1.2 Dexterity impairment simulators
Wearable simulators that restrict hand function include rough methods like taping coins to the back
of one’s knuckles and wearing gardening gloves (Nicolle and Maguire, 2003). Gloves produced
specifically for simulation purposes offer a more consistent and reproducible simulation experience,
which is useful when assessing packaging options. Commercially available examples include Georgia
Tech’s Arthritis Simulation Gloves (Georgia Tech, undated) and the Cambridge Simulation Gloves
(Inclusive design toolkit, 2015b), shown in Figure 8. The Arthritis Simulation Gloves have been used
by Arthritis Australia for educational purposes and by various companies to examine the difficulties
that people with arthritis might have in opening and using products (The Engineer, 2010). The
Cambridge Simulation Gloves have been used by Age UK, as well as various companies, illustrated by
the case studies below.
[Insert Fig 8 here]
Figure 8: The Cambridge Simulation Gloves
Unlike the glasses, the particular levels of capability loss simulated by the gloves for a ‘typical’
wearer have not been measured. This is because hand strength and size varies dramatically, even
amongst people considered ‘fully able’. Furthermore, the effect of the gloves is sensitive to fit and
minor adjustments made in putting them on. As a result, the effects of the gloves will be different
for every person who wears them. They are therefore generally not appropriate for use in a pass/fail
evaluation, as was described for the glasses (Figure 7).
Nevertheless, the gloves are useful in providing empathy and insight into the effects of dexterity loss
on product use. The harder a product is to use while wearing the gloves, the more demand it places
on dexterity and the more inaccessible it is. In particular, the Cambridge Simulation Gloves limit the
strength and range of motion of the fingers and thumb - they affect the ability to bend one’s fingers.
Bending fingers is extremely painful for people with arthritis of the knuckle joints, and tasks that do
not require the hand to make intricate shapes are therefore more inclusive.
5.2 Software simulators
Another route for simulation is provided by software. Image or sound files can be manipulated by a
computer to give the user an impression of what they might look or sound like to someone with a
vision or hearing impairment. The former is usually the most relevant in the context of packaging.
There are several vision simulators available. Some specialise in particular impairments, such as
colour blindness (e.g. Vischeck, undated). Others simulate a range of impairments, such as macular
degeneration, glaucoma and cataract. Examples include VIS (University of Illinois, 2005) and the
VisionSim app produced by the Braille Institute (2013). These are usually intended for either general
education purposes or for use by software designers, e.g. web designers.
The Impairment Simulation Software produced by the University of Cambridge (Goodman-Deane et
al, 2007) is particularly intended for use in product and graphic design. The screenshot in Figure 9
shows a simulation of a mild level of macular degeneration applied to the packaging example in
Figure 2. Designers can upload images of existing packaging or proposed concepts, and see the
effects of various vision conditions including macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma
and cataracts. These conditions are simulated at a range of degrees of severity. Red/green colour
blindness is also simulated. Alternatively, the user can explore the effects of the loss of various visual
functions, such as visual field, contrast sensitivity and visual acuity.
[Insert Fig 9 here]
Figure 9: The Impairment Simulation Software (University of Cambridge)
Software simulations have some advantages over wearable simulators. They allow a designer to
explore the effects of a wider range of impairments and to adjust the degree of severity of the
impairments more easily. They are also useful for examining digital artwork before it exists in reality.
A particularly effective use of them is to create images to embed within a presentation or report, to
illustrate an inclusivity issue or to show that such an issue has been addressed effectively. However,
they do have disadvantages. In particular, there can be issues to do with the clarity of image
reproduction and with apparent size and lighting that can reduce the accuracy of the simulation and
its realism for real-world outcomes.
In addition, wearable simulators have some advantages. In particular, they provide the designer with
a much more direct experience, which can be more effective in building empathy and insight. In
addition, wearable simulators allow simulation to be applied while directly manipulating the
packaging in context. This allows the designer to experience how vision impairment would affect the
whole packaging experience, and allows vision and dexterity simulation to be combined.
5.3 Case study 1: Biscuit packaging
The Cambridge Simulation Gloves and Glasses were used by the authors to compare the inclusivity
of current and proposed packaging for Family Circle boxes for United Biscuits. The assessors first
performed a task analysis of the packaging, from purchase to disposal. They then worked through
each of these tasks examining the demands the packaging placed on the users’ capabilities.
Simulation gloves were used to help assess the level of demand placed on dexterity, and glasses to
assess the demand placed on vision.
For example, in order to open one version of the packaging, the user first had to remove a cardboard
sleeve (see Figure 10). The intention was that the user would slide the sleeve off the box. However,
attempting to do this while wearing the simulation gloves was difficult. It required fairly high force
and a good grip, excluding many users. Some users may have to resort to tearing the sleeve in order
to remove it (as shown in Figure 10) because this required lower levels of dexterity. Doing so
successfully completed the task of removing the sleeve, but had the side-effect of damaging the
sleeve, which contained the ingredients list and information on the different types of biscuit in the
[Insert Fig 10 here]
Figure 10: Assessment of proposed biscuit packaging
In a similar manner, the simulation glasses were used to examine visual tasks associated with the
packaging, such as checking the best before date, checking tamper evidence, determining how to
open the box (including finding the opening tab) and checking for allergens.
While the glasses were used to identify general issues with the packaging, the procedure described
in Section 5.1.1 had not yet been developed at the time of the study. However, it was applied to the
packaging at a later date as a proof of concept, as described in Goodman-Deane et al (2014). The
procedure was used to examine the ingredients list to check for allergens. The assessor had excellent
vision and started with four pairs of simulator glasses, as shown in Figure 7. She could not complete
the task with four pairs of glasses, but could do so with three pairs, resulting in the ingredients list
being rated Amber, corresponding to between 1% and 6% of users being excluded from this task on
visual acuity grounds alone. In practice, the thinking demands associated with locating and reading
the information would probably increase exclusion to above 6%.
The glasses could also be useful in determining how to improve the legibility of the ingredients
information. Different options could be tried, such as using a bolder font, or increasing contrast, and
their effectiveness examined using the glasses.
As a result of the evaluation, the biscuit packaging was reviewed and changes were made to the
proposed packaging. Learnings will be built into future design briefs.
5.4 Case study 2: Resealable labels
Snack food such as cocktail sausages and sausage rolls and fruit items such as strawberries are
typically packed in clear plastic punnets (using recycled PET) with thin film lidding (Mylar). A desire
to increase product shelf life and storage of the contents has led to the use of resealable peelable
labels on some of these products. This presented an opportunity for McFarlane labels to assess
whether this type of accessibility feature could improve the 'openability' experience for consumers
along with the other advantages listed. Hence, a two stage study was commissioned and undertaken
by Sheffield Hallam University.
The first stage was a consumer packaging test as specified in CEN1594 (Great Britain, British
Standards Institution, 2011). This test takes a minimum of twenty older participants (the makeup of
which is defined by the CEN standard). Participants are asked to familiarize themselves with the
packaging. They subsequently open the packaging and rank their experience on a Likert scale
represented by a series of smiley faces (as shown in Figure 11).
Six different pack formats were tested, two without any resealable labels and four with labels from
different brand owners and retailers. A pack was considered a fail if any of the twenty participants
were unable to open it.
[Insert Fig 11a and Fig11b in a row horizontally, images should be the same height]
Figure 11: Assessment of ‘easy-open’ sausage packaging
The second stage of the study used the Cambridge Simulation Gloves with a younger cohort. The
group opened the packaging while wearing the gloves and also ranked the packaging using a Likert
This study facilitated several observations both in terms of the pack accessibility and the use of
simulation gloves versus 'real' older people. Firstly, resealable packaging was seen to score more
highly on the Likert scale for both cohorts indicating a higher desirability and usefulness. More
importantly whilst both examples of non-resealable packaging failed the CEN15945 test, only one
example of the resealable pack created any problems and this was due to users being unable to
identify the location of the tab as it had been incorporated into the branding. This highlighted the
consistent tension between the demands placed on packaging outlined earlier (to create a shelf
presence and a consistent brand) and the desire to facilitate easy opening. Indeed the pack with the
most obvious label and instructions performed best in the test.
In comparing the cohorts it was clear that the gloves enabled the younger cohort to experience
similar problems to the older cohort including needing to use their teeth to successfully access the
pack (see Figure 11) and developing a sense of frustration at being unable to open packs.
Personas are another tool which can help to build designers’ empathy with, and encourage them to
consider the needs of a wider range of users. Personas are descriptions of fictional users that
represent the target users, encapsulating data on their abilities, lifestyles, needs and wants. They
were first proposed by Cooper (1999) as a practical design tool. Ideally they should be developed
specifically for each project to summarise and bring to life the user research for that project.
However, in the context of inclusive design, even a generic set of inclusive design personas can be
effective in encouraging designers to think more widely about their target user group.
An example set of inclusive design personas is provided in Inclusive design toolkit (2015b), and is
shown in Figure 12. This set was constructed as a training tool. The personas cover a range of ages,
situations and capabilities. They include Rose who, at the age of 83, struggles with everyday tasks
and has difficulties with vision and hearing. Rose represents a key demographic of people who might
be given a box of chocolates or biscuits as a present. However, the persona set also highlights
inclusive design issues associated with less obvious cases, such as the difficulties experienced by
Jenny, a young mother with her arms full of shopping bags and distracted by children. It also
highlights issues experienced by people like David, aged 64, who is generally fit and healthy but
experiencing some of the problems with vision that naturally come at that age. He struggles to
accept these difficulties and would greatly resist any implication that he is ‘disabled’ or needs
[Insert Fig 12 here]
Figure 12: An example set of personas which covers a range of ages, life situations and capabilities
Personas can be used in various ways. Even simply presenting them to the design team can be useful
in stimulating interest and discussion in inclusive design issues. They can also be used in examining
packaging concepts. The designers can be encouraged to consider how different personas would
respond to or cope with the different concepts. This does not give a rigorous assessment of
accessibility, but can usefully broaden the discussion. It can help to break the fixation on one’s own
experience that often arises, where designers refuse to accept that a concept is non-inclusive on the
basis that they themselves or people they know would be able to use it without difficulty.
The use of personas can be combined with simulators, by simulating the capabilities of some of the
personas using gloves or glasses. This can provide a less subjective examination of whether a
particular persona would be able to open a piece of packaging or not.
6.1 Case study 3: Black Magic
The personas in Figure 12 and the Cambridge Simulation Gloves and Glasses were used together
with user trials and interviews to assess and redesign packaging for boxes of Black Magic chocolates
The design team then used the scales in Figure 13 to consider how each of the personas might find
the packaging in terms of usability, aesthetics and user experience. For example, they rated the
usability of the packaging for each persona, on a scale from ‘Easy’ to ‘Impossible’.
[Insert Fig 13 here]
Figure 13: The personas were placed on scales to indicate how the designers thought they would judge the
usability, aesthetics and experience associated with the range of tasks for opening, consuming and
disposing of a box of chocolates. The scales were also used to compare Black Magic against the
The design team used the simulators to help them determine these ratings. In particular, two of the
personas (David and Rose) had limitations in their vision. The design team simulated this using the
simulation glasses. Rose’s eyesight was simulated with 4 pairs of glasses, and David’s with 2 pairs. To
determine how David and Rose would experience the packaging, the designers put on the
appropriate pairs of simulation glasses and viewed and tried to open the packaging themselves.
As a result of this evaluation, the design team reframed their perceptions of the target market for
product, and identified that significant improvements to the packaging were readily achievable.
Several months later, the improved product made it to market with better contrast, a clearer font
and a shallower tray.
This chapter has argued for the importance of considering a wide range of users in packaging design,
including those who are older or have capability limitations. Including such users often leads to
improvements for more mainstream users as well, reducing frustration and difficulty and improving
the packaging experience.
Inclusive design is a key way to address these issues. For inclusive design to be put into practice
effectively, it needs to be considered throughout the design process. This chapter has proposed an
inclusive design methodology, where different phases of the iterative process explore the needs,
create possible solutions, evaluate the concepts, and manage the process.
There are many tools and methods that can be used to support inclusive design. This chapter has
focused on empathy tools, which are intended to help develop designers’ empathy with and
understanding of the users. Two such tools have been presented in more detail: capability loss
simulators and personas. Simulators enable designers to experience some of the functional effects
of capability loss for themselves, while personas encapsulate some of the characteristics and
experiences of a range of users, bringing them to the forefront of the designers’ awareness
throughout the design process.
Putting these principles into practice and using tools like this can result in packaging that is
attractive, easy to use and that provides a positive and engaging packaging experience for a wide
variety of users.
Inclusive packaging is likely to become more of an issue in the future, as the population ages and
there is an increasing drive towards enabling independent living and reducing the cost of social care.
Whilst the sustainability agenda is likely to dominate packaging design, true sustainability involves
the interlinking of environmental, economic and social sustainability of which inclusive design is part.
8. Future Work and Trends
As the case studies in this Chapter indicate along with the development of guidelines and technical
specifications there is some movement towards developing more inclusively designed packaging
which is likely to increase. A shopping trip to any major retailer will identify examples of packaging
labelled 'easy open' including household items such as toothbrushes and razors and foodstuff such
as jam jars, pasta, cereals and cheese (see example in Figure 14).
[Insert Fig 14 here]
Figure 14: An example of 'easy-open' pasta packaging
Research work in assessing packaging is ongoing with recent studies looking at dexterity, affordances
and legibility (e.g. Rowson et al., 2014; de la Fuente et al.,2015). In a survey for Packaging News
magazine, whilst cost reduction and shelf impact took top spots for key drivers in 2014, quality
enhancement, and openability/convenience were also trends noted in the survey (Chadwick, 2014).
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