How this Forsberg's School Grad Developed Packaging for the Visually Impaired
by Theresa Christine Johnson on 08/14/2017 | 4 Minute Read
Pretty packaging means nothing for consumers who have blindness, so how can designers create something that is functional for the estimated 285 million people worldwide who are visually impaired? Alexandra Burling developed a concept for food packaging called Color Me Blind that looks great on the shelf but is also just as easy to differentiate for blind consumers. We spoke with Alexandra to learn more about making an aesthetically appealing packaging design for the visually impaired, giving sightless people the same experience in the store, and more.
Walk us through the design process that you went through for this project.
Alexandra: As always, I focus a lot of my design based on my research. If you just design something based on it "looking good,” there is nothing to fall back on. The designs on the packages are mostly based on what I learned directly through my interviews with the visually impaired. So, the designs on the packagings are created to be aesthetically pleasing, but with the sense of touch instead of sight. The designs feature dynamic patterns, information written in Braille; including ingredients, country of origin, and best-before dates. Symbols indicating the openings on the packages were made.
What sort of research did you conduct to help inform your design?
Alexandra: I visited the Invisible Exhibition in Stockholm, where you go through different surroundings in pitch black, with a visually impaired guide. The exhibition's purpose is to let people experience how it's like to be blind. I also interviewed blind people, from the Invisible Exhibition and from the Federation for the Visually Impaired in Sweden. As I answered in the previous question, the design on the packaging is based primarily on what I discovered from these interviews. Besides this, I also read a lot about the Braille alphabet and learning systems for blind people.
What was one of the biggest goals you set out to achieve with Color Me Blind packaging and how did you accomplish it?
Alexandra: The absolute biggest goal with this project was to create a discussion about the relationship between blind people and packaging design. With my packages, I wanted to create an "eye opener" for people with sight. For people without any connection to blindness, it is not something you really think about—what it's like to be blind. The purpose of this project is about independence: for blind people to be able to go to the store and buy their own food without the need of assistance. My project has been noticed by several blogs and magazines around the world, which is more than I could have hoped for.
What was the most challenging part of this project?
Alexandra: The most challenging part of this project was the design process. Having to twist your brain into a whole new way of thinking when designing; stimulating the consumer using a totally different sense rather than sight.
Based on what you discovered and experienced through working on this project, what considerations could other existing brands make for their packaging to become more suited for those with vision problems or blindness?
Alexandra: Simply writing what the product is in Braille on all packaging would be a huge step forward. There are new cost worthy techniques that emboss packaging more efficient, so there are no excuses.
If you could pick one aspect of the finished design that you like the most or feel especially proud of, what would it be and why?
Alexandra: Something that makes me really proud is the fact that people have realized the existing problem for blind people with packaging design. People have approached me and expressed admiration for the project and have said that it has changed their view on packaging design. This was my graduation project, and so I am extremely glad that it has been so appreciated, and that I was able to change people's perspective. Hopefully, this means that companies will start to include all their consumers.
Share one lesson that you learned while developing the finished product.
Alexandra: To always push yourself, never settle. Every design you create should have some kind of purpose. Of course, the end result should aim to be aesthetically pleasing, but every design should have a story behind it.