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Redefining The Unboxing Experience With Sonos Packaging Design Refresh

by Chloe Gordon on 03/10/2022 | 6 Minute Read

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Editorial photograph

Our Mission, Our customers:

In 2019 our team set out to redefine what the unboxing experience meant for Sonos. We were inspired to establish a Sonos-specific approach to sustainable materials, and a refreshed visual system that could serve as our foundation for the next several years. Our customers want and expect us to be responsible with our material choices. They provide feedback about how sustainability matters to them, but they still want a premium experience. Our newest packaging design system aligns with Sonos’ brand identity and progresses our sustainability KPIs. This system was developed for adaptability and scalability, and is our most premium and sustainable packaging to date.

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We designed our new packaging system to address today’s challenges, striving to define Sonos’ own distinctive point of view. Our objective was to refresh Sonos’ packaging with minimal or no cost increase for the portfolio.We initially partnered with Character, a SF design agency. They were instrumental in providing an outside perspective to complement our in-house design team who prototyped, refined and realized our final system.

Our Approach

The initial exploration range was broad and then narrowed down to the final system we’re presenting today. From the start, we considered what it meant to have our packaging “out there” longer than many of our other touchpoints. Our aim was to create a more timeless system vs. trend driven.

Our Development

SustainabilityWe started by focusing our effort on the development of a premium printable paper that would eliminate the use of PP matte lamination. We expanded our focus beyond the paper to also define a unique point of view on how we would live in the retail environment and at home. For Roam, we worked to replace a traditional plastic hanger for peg hooks with a woven paper loop. This attention to detail meant that we were able to create a fully paper based recyclable box.

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Although we loved the crisp photograph-based approach to our previous design language, the only way to achieve that was to coat the outer layer of our gift boxes in a protective plastic coating. When it was time to refresh our design system, finding a more responsible solution for our brand was imperative. Generic kraft papers are highly recyclable and were already a part of our packaging color palette, but are hard to keep tonally consistent. An uncoated Kraft approach quickly rose to the top of our list as a material we thought would work. We developed a proprietary FSC-certified Sonos Custom Kraft, a light neutral kraft that can highlight both white and black inks and embody a premium look and feel. In addition to becoming the centerpiece of our pallet, our new paper also pairs well with generic kraft materials and a wide range of ink colors that tie to the natural tones of the home.

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Premium Design Visual Design Language - Expressions of artfulness are something we have always included in our visual design systems. For this refresh we wanted to bring more purpose to that moment by combining the visual representation of sound waves with the unique product geometry. The result is a custom pattern for every product.

The representation of our products on the packaging was another challenge of moving to uncoated papers. We wanted to illustrate our products in a way that honored the industrial design. We landed on a fill based illustration style that elevates through simplicity. These illustrations vary in angle and composition depending on their product category. This detail establishes a uniquely Sonos approach to our packaging system.

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In addition to illustration, sound visualization, and material updates, our team defined tactile improvements with the introduction of embossing the product illustration area and a crisp foil stamped primary logo. The collective aesthetic works to further distance our appearance from the tech feeling of other consumer electronic brands, creating an experience that feels like it belongs in your home during the unboxing.

Our packaging design system introduces an adaptable grid system that serves as the binding thread for the different visual elements. The grid system grounds the product illustration composition on the front of the box and establishes relationships to other graphic elements on adjacent panels.

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Holistic Unboxing ExperienceOur original scope for the project was to refresh the visual design system, which historically has meant the external surface of the gift boxes. During development of our new system, our Packaging Experience & Visual Design teams collaborated to create a holistic experience starting from the outside visual design, and then extending the look and feel to additional elements throughout the package. Roam’s packaging experience was our initial driver for the realization of a holistic design system. We also updated our existing products such as Beam (Gen 2) to understand how to adapt both the structural materials and graphics throughout.

When it came to the first touch point for our customers, we wanted to make getting to the product quick and easy. To achieve this we explored a range of security seals but landed on a simple tear strip label made from our Sonos Custom Kraft. During the unboxing we aim to reveal the product in a delightful way that heroes the product’s industrial design, and is easy for our customers to remove from the packaging. All of these structures are developed with premium design and sustainability at the forefront, which has resulted in a beautiful combination of kraft papers and paper pulp trays.

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Tackling a redesign

Brand HarmonyOur packaging refresh was done to complement our larger brand identity at Sonos. Our packaging system leverages Aktiv Grotesk, a typeface that brings more character and nuance than traditional Helvetica. This subtle change is something that is used across our brand materials and that we lean on heavily in our system. Other key visual packaging equities such as our sound visualization patterns, product illustrations and iconography have found their way into other brand touchpoints and systems as well. Each of these elements were explored in detail and defined at a portfolio level.

Varying Form FactorsOur biggest challenges in creating a cohesive system were the range of sizes of product packaging and creating consistency. We worked with products like our Arc soundbar, measuring over 3 feet long, down to our ultraportable Roam product which fits in one hand. Unlocking the adaptive grid and building out the visual design language that could scale as needed based on the box sizes was critical to the refresh.

The Outcome

Our global packaging design system continues to roll out across our entire portfolio covering 4 regions of the world including 26 countries. We plan to complete the rollout by the end of 2022. By embracing natural materials we will have removed the use of 97,902lbs of plastic from our packaging. As we look ahead, the work done in defining and developing a Sonos specific point of view around sustainable materials paired with premium experiences will anchor our work as we move forward.