Oliver Van Lent

The Art of Unboxing

Bachelor of Design Craft Packaging Print Speculative Prototype


Within the realm of design, my work situates itself among packaging design and craftsmanship. I take satisfaction in physically holding a finished project that I have created, one that I can be proud to show friends and family. In ‘The Art of Unboxing’, I was able to explore and experiment within my chosen discipline. Working with physical materials, I gain real satisfaction in using my practical skills to create packaging that engages the user in a tangible and interactive way.

At the beginning of this project, my aim was to explore the experience and ceremony of unboxing through packaging design. Drawing on our five senses as a framework for design investigation, I have explored this with a series of five different packages, each drawing on one of the senses: sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. The Art of Unboxing is a project that raises the question: ‘what is our experience with packaging?’

The outcome is a set of five boxes, each representing a different sense, which takes you on a journey as you explore the layers of the boxes. The journey the viewer experiences is partly intuitive and partly informative. It suggests aspects of the packaging are an unboxing experience, focusing on the way the revealing process is experienced as opposed to just getting to the item inside. I used a limited range of materials and text to align each sense to the message I wanted to convey. The text is poetic, it gives the reader clues to the reactions it is trying to evoke, and a sense of what they should respond to.

The project is about notions of expectation, mystery, anticipation, excitement, and engagement. The cubes inside each box do not represent anything of value, they simply represent an object within. Each package is purposely black and uniform in shape to bring cohesiveness to the project by allowing emphasis to go on the packaging itself, rather than the items inside.

Helpful in articulating this idea was a book named The Senses: Design Beyond Vision by Ellen Lupton and Andrea Lipps (2018). The book together with the interactive exhibition held at the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum explores the deeper meaning of multi-sensory design and aspects associated with each of the senses as they relate to experience. In this project, I explored the deeper meaning behind how a multi-sensory outcome can embed a lasting and engaging experience through the ceremony of unboxing. With an increase in online shopping and less appreciation of the value of throw-away items, this is an intervention to enhance the value of the object, to appreciate it more. A slowing down of expectation, and elevate the art of appreciation.

What is packaging? It is a destructive process of one that adds value through memory and experience. A means of protection or a valuable container—equal of value to the object within.