Pack-Age is collaboration between students, teachers and companies

An interdisciplinary packaging design project course solves companies’ packaging challenges.

The third Pack-Age course unites packaging expertise in Aalto University. The course is based on an interdisciplinary approach combining design, business and engineering thinking to design project work. Students learn packaging design in interdisciplinary teams by doing real projects for the packaging industry.

If this course is interdisciplinary for students, the same certainly applies for the teachers. Package design is approached in a comprehensive manner and six teachers from four different schools join forces to teach Pack-Age for three months. The teacher in charge is Packaging Design Teacher and Packaging Researcher Markus Joutsela from the Department of Media, who also coordinates corporate collaboration.

Six teachers teach packaging design from various perspectives in the Pack-Age course. Illustration: Markus Joutsela.

As a topic, packages and packaging design are related to many Aalto degree programmes. By collaborating with different schools and teachers we are able to offer a more holistic and innovative packaging design teaching including various perspectives of industrial production, retail and user needs. Teaching is provided by Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture, Aalto University School of Economics, Aalto University School of Chemical Engineering University, and Lahti University of Applied Sciences Institute of Design and Fine Arts. Visiting experts from the industry are involved as well.

Aiming for better packaging

The students work in groups with real cases using investigative learning and project-based learning. A 6-person project team is formed for each project during the application phase. This process takes into account the different competencies and interests of the students from various backgrounds in order to build strong and functional teams with the potential to work with the case. Project-based learning is supported by a number theme lectures and workshops. The project work results in well-founded new packaging concepts and prototypes.

The design briefs for spring 2015 are provided by Fazer, Hovi Ruoka, Metsä Board & Epic, SAPY and Verman. The assignments vary from considering new distribution solutions and structures to brand building, visualisation and conceptualisation of new product ranges. The tasks even extend to considering new user groups, motives and user contexts. This year's assignments are also utilising packaging research networks more than before, as the design briefs have been prepared in collaboration with the Valuepack Tekes project.

The course prepares students for working life with multi-disciplinary projects and teamwork. Here, Team Pyroll is benchmarking sushi packaging in 2013. Photo: Markus Joutsela.

The packaging design assignments can vary, for example, from designing with new materials to designing usability, but the students' designs are always expected to work from a number of different perspectives. Photo collage: Markus Joutsela

Companies' continued interest in cooperation

In earlier years, the Pack-Age has produced innovative packaging concepts for more than ten significant domestic companies, and corporate interest in co-operation seems to be continuing. There are already companies signed up for next year's projects starting in
2016. However, Joutsela points out that not all packaging design assignments are appropriate for the course. Assignments need to sufficiently challenging and diverse, in order to be suitable and make the cooperation meaningful from the University’s point of view.
 
The course culminates with the Pack-Age Gala held on 28 May 2015 at Aalto Design Factory, where the teams will present their packaging concepts and prototypes to the clients and the public.

 

Pack-Age is a minor organised by the Department of Media's Master's Degree Programme in Graphic Design. It is offered in a shape of one intensive course and
students from all different Aalto schools can apply for it.

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