How 2 students changed the way we think about cardboard boxes

rapid packing container
Video screen capture The Cooper Union

This past winter, two Cooper Union students shared their idea for a better cardboard box. Their video presenting the Rapid Packing Container went viral, and quickly landed on YouTube’s homepage.

At the PSFK Conference last week, Henry Wang and Chris Curro spoke about their design process. The students were part of a summer course called Invention Factory, a six-week intensive focused on building designs under the guidance of professors Eric Lima and Alan Wolf.

“I tried to focus on products that I interacted with everyday,” said Curro. After struggling with a conventional box, he began to wonder, “what if you could make a box that you could open with just your hands?” No scissors, knives or keys (for the desperate) required.

Rapid prototyping was one of the key elements of the course, and the Rapid Packing Container’s success. This allowed the students to design, cut a prototype, fold it, unfold it, find problems, and modify the design.

In the end, the students came up with a design that uses 15 to 20 percent less cardboard, because the design eliminates the overlapping flaps that get folded on the top and bottom of a conventional box. It's a bit unclear how this cardboard savings will translate in a mass-produced model if the box needs to be cut from a larger sheet.

You also won't need tape, because this box is sealed with a small amount of adhesive. The box can be opened with one gesture and is fully reversible, making it easier to re-use. In December, Derek Markham wrote the Rapid Packing container “could make a huge difference in the packing and shipping business, by saving time, money, and resources.”

Wang said he was surprised by how fast the video went viral, and they shortly received several offers from manufacturers interested in producing the design. Wang and Curro are now working towards making that production a reality.

While critics have brought up a few concerns (Will it just pop open during shipping? Is it as strong as a conventional box?), it's encouraging to see designers and builders re-thinking how everyday objects could not only be more eco-friendly but also user-friendly.

Tags: Cardboard | Designers