It seems that only premium, high quality products afford to be packaged in a unique way to demonstrate its value, but can things that are little and universal be packaged in any meaningful way? Saburo Sakata, a Japanese designer focusing on graphics and product design, did just that with a USB that is titled ‘Blank’.
When we think of a USB or go to a store to purchase one, we see it being sealed in transparent plastic on some cardboard that has some basic information on the product. As the article from Foodmag (http://www.foodmag.com.au/features/packaging-design-what-does-the-future-hold) suggests, packaging served just one purpose, which is to contain and protect the merchandise, and companies try to add more images and words on the cover to convince customers why their product is better than the other.
Saburo Sakata challenged this norm of uninspired, convoluted packaging design with Blank, which is a simple USB packaged in a poetic way that works on multiple levels.
Firstly it acts as a functional metaphor – Sakata has taken the act of plugging in a USB into a port and thought of another object that functions a similar way, and has neatly designed the handle of the USB to be a cork, that plugs in a bottle to store its content. To add more to this metaphor, the cork USB has been plugged into a small glass jar; this further develops the idea of a USB storing data just as a jar has the ability to store things.
Something interesting happens here because data is often connotated with something that is private and confidential, yet the glass jar is transparent where you are able to see the USB. At the same time, the purpose of jars is to keep its content safe, so these contrasting descriptions juxtapose each other to create something intriguing.
On a similar note of challenging norms is a packaging done for butter by Arla (http://www.packworld.com/package-design/structural/artisan-butter-pack-disrupts-category-norms). In the design process, Arla researched the products in its category and their goal was to disrupt that category. Their solution was to design the container with brushed aluminum that people can use as a dish and be glad to present at their dinner tables rather than hide it away. By doing so, they have turned a simple commodity such as butter into something that is elegant and premium, and Sakata has achieved this transformation with his USB.
Finally, the design adds nostalgic value to the USB. This short blog post (http://www.spoon-tamago.com/2012/05/30/blank-usb-memory-storage/) describes a visual metaphor and relates Blank to a message-in-a-bottle. Just as people would write their story, seal it in a bottle, and throw it in an ocean in the hopes of somebody finding it, Blank is a modern take on this classic act in a digital era. This makes it fun and playful and adds more depth to the packaging. While keeping it functional with the USB storing data and the jar acting as a stand or keeping the USB safe, Sakata has been able to lift up the status of a USB into something more valuable with the use of metaphors and contrasting ideas, and has turned something people knock around and easily replace into something people put much more consideration in.