Designsake Introduces Matter, An Antimicrobial Coating For Germ-Gathering Surfaces Like Packaging

by Bill McCool on 10/06/2020 | 6 Minute Read

You know that saying about being born with a silver spoon in your mouth? Well, it’s not just about inherited wealth and never having to work a day in your life.

In the middle ages, the children of well-to-do parents would get silver spoons to suck on to ward off the plague. And why? Silver is known for its anti-bacterial qualities and gets used in everything from wound dressings and topical antibiotics to catheters.

You can also use it in packaging.

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Matter is a brand new coating with antimicrobial properties that can protect product packaging and reduce the presence of harmful microbes and bacteria by 99.9%. Developed by San Francisco creative agency Designsake Studio, the protective barrier utilizes silver ion technology that minimizes the possibility of microbes and viruses infiltrating the surface of a piece of packaging. Once you eliminate the opportunity for bacteria to metabolize on that surface, it can no longer propagate its survival because it can't convert nutrients into energy.

Best of all, this could be a real game-changer in the fight against COVID-19.

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When the pandemic first hit the US and misinformation and confusion about the virus consumed the country (as well as our nation’s reserves in toilet paper and Lysol), a viral YouTube video made waves showing a Michigan family doctor, presumably just off his shift, instructing people on how to properly sanitize and wipe down their groceries when they’ve just returned from the store. So, if you had some Clorox disinfectant wipes handy (presumably from the black market), you’d spend a good deal of time thoroughly wiping down everything you brought home. At one point, the physician even says to imagine that everything you just brought home is covered in glitter, and your mission is to remove every speck of it. 

As the father of two young children, I can promise you there is no amount of elbow grease that will remove every infinitesimal piece of glitter. Hence, why it’s critical that new technology and coatings of this kind are now coming to the marketplace. 

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Editorial photograph

Coatings of this kind aren’t an unknown in the world of packaging, but they also haven’t been applied in a widespread manner. Now, with a full-blown pandemic on our hands, these coatings take on a new life.

“This provides safety and security for people that are now part of this new generation of germaphobes,” says Designsake founder and CCO Danielle McWaters. “No one was forward-thinking about this, whether we had a pandemic or not. When you Google videos of how many times a package is touched by somebody by the time it gets to your door, it's a little scary.”

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The silver in the packaging works similarly to an aqueous coating. “It's like an ink you would use in the print production process, and it acts as a top coat on the packaging,” says Danielle. Not only is the coating versatile and can be applied to virtually any substrate, whether it’s paper, glass, or aluminum, but it doesn’t interfere with the given material’s recyclability.

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Editorial photograph

The coating also lasts for the life of the packaging, a direct response from the agency concerning shifting attitudes and behaviors that now come with packaging in the wake of the pandemic. While the CDC says there is little to no risk of contracting COVID-19 from packaging, there’s a bigger question at play for brands and the packaging they use for their goods—namely, why should this all be on the consumer? Maybe you’ve spent the last six months aggressively wiping everything down. Shouldn't brands or corporations have a part to play in all of this?

“We’re shifting the conversation, and saying that the responsibility is actually on the company,” Danielle says. “The company needs to be the one creating this product and giving this product to its customers. That's a really valuable relationship. And right now, that onus is on the consumer, right? Stockpile sanitizers and wipes, leave it outside for three days—we don't know. There’s a lot of distrust and fear swirling around, and this allows companies to address it head-on.”

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You also won’t have to wait very long to find it in stores. Ethical and sustainable skincare brand Kulia will feature the Matter coating on its products launching this fall. Designsake also wants to ensure that designers get these materials in their hands so they can experiment with them. Neenah, a manufacturer of premium papers, was excited by the packaging innovation and helped create the initial Matter-coated packaging samples. Additionally, upon request, Designsake will provide samples to creatives that might be skeptical of how the coating works.

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“With MATTER, Designsake continues to push the boundaries of packaging design by innovating where consumers care the most, the precise touchpoint where human hands meet packaging surfaces,” says Dallas Franklin, creative director at Neenah. “Introducing a product line that is not only beautiful and sustainable but also antimicrobial, is exactly the reason why Neenah values Designsake as a critical packaging partner, one who is at the forefront of packaging technology.”

And while Matter is just starting to launch this new coating, consumers should know that the antimicrobial covering isn’t a COVID-killing silver bullet. 

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While Matter does provide a protective barrier to the individual handling that product, it works alongside the material, not the human interacting with that product. “Matter eliminates the opportunity for microbes to exist on a protected surface,” Danielle says. “It stops bacteria’s ability to metabolize by preventing it from converting nutrients into energy, which inhibits bacterial survival, reproduction, and colonization.”

And also, yes. You still have to wash your hands.

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“This isn't a cure-all,” Danielle adds. “This isn't like a vaccine, but it is a step in the right direction because, unfortunately, this shit is probably going to happen again. So how do we be forward-thinking enough to prepare for it?”

Last year, if you had told any random passerby on the street about the trainwreck that is 2020, they would likely laugh in your face and point at your imaginary tinfoil hat. But no matter how hard we close our eyes and try to wish it away, this is the world we have right now. As we stare down 210,000 deaths in the US alone without a genuinely real vaccine in sight, new developments and technology like Matter will be necessary to bridge the gap to an unknown future. 

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Every person wants to breathe a little easier when doing something as commonplace as going to Target or the grocery store. If we can get some of our daily routine back, even if it's something as simple as unboxing something without the aid of rubber gloves and disinfectant wipes, then we can get a tiny bit of joy back in our lives.


Designers or brands looking for samples of the Matter coating can reach out directly to: info@thisismatter.co

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