Q&A with Michael Hendrix from IDEO: The Future of Package Design

by Jessica Deseo on 08/26/2014 | 5 Minute Read

Michael Hendrix from IDEO: The Future of Package Design

Our third Q&A is with Michael Hendrix from IDEO. As an IDEO partner, Michael Hendrix leads the Boston studio and guides the firm’s East Coast-based Design Directors. Michael will be speaking at The Dieline Summit, our conference this Fall in Paris (Nov 16-17). 

We had the opportunity to ask Michael a series of questions that represent the theme of The Dieline Summit and overarching question:

What is the Future of Package Design? 



JS: We are very familiar with your work and your contributions to the design world. Can you give us a short background on your journey to this very point?

MH: I think the common thread throughout my career has been a desire to use design as a transformative tool: empowering others, making people happier, making products friendlier, making businesses more effective. Whether it's been teaching, start-ups or consulting, this desire has kept me motivated. 


JS: Without giving away too much, what is your take on the future of packaging?

MH: One thing I see is that the sharing economy and maker culture are the first truly different manifestations of personalization. Packaging is adapting to this, making it easier to create customized, low volume designs with unique functions. I think this will have significant impact on manufacturing, requiring companies to move to small scale robotics to have the flexibility in their production lines that they need.  We recently worked with a company called Pillpack (http://www.ideo.com/work/disrupting-the-drugstore) that has applied this concept to medication and I'll share more about it at the conference.


JS: What intrigues you about design, and specifically product and packaging? 

MH: I'm still fascinated by the "a-ha" moment when something we encounter is so clever that it's novel. It's a subconscious connection, usually discovered by a designer intuitively then realized intellectually. This has led me toward a field of study called embodied cognition, a theory that our comprehension of the world happens through our five senses instead of just our minds. Packaging is a perfect place to explore this idea: visual, tactile, aural, and olfactory. (I shared thoughts on this topic in Metropolis last autumn: http://www.metropolismag.com/Point-of-View/September-2013/Designing-with-Metaphors/


JS: Our world is facing complexity that is leading to uncertainty. We are bombarded with so much information, that it is becoming increasingly difficult to retain so much. What does the next generation of design and communication design look like? 

MH: One of the amazing things about the socialization of the web is that we've ordered information on our own terms—a way of dealing with all the data. In some ways it's great because we can feed ourselves with what we want. On the other hand it's dangerous because our micro worlds become homogenous and create a false reality bubble. I think the next generation of communication has to solve this problem. How do we design dissent or randomness into the system to keep us honest?


JS: What does the next generation of designers look like?

MH: We used to talk about T-shaped people, those who have a deep craft and broad curiosity. Now I see designers that are X-shaped or ∏-shaped; they are multi-disciplinary themselves with even broader curiosity. The lower cost of technology is one reason this has happened. It's much easier to experiment with mediums than it used to be. And education has changed too. Most designers have multiple degrees, with many not studying design until their graduate programs. I think these people have an advantage because they are bringing new perspectives to the design world.


JS: What excites you about the future, specifically the future of package design?

MH: Packaging, when done well, becomes a genuine extension of a product, making it part of the whole experience. This is great news for packaging designers because it elevates the craft from simply being about aesthetics or practical details like protection, to being about participation and meaning. 


JS: What in design specifically has left a profound impact on you? 

MH: For me it's more a matter of whom than what. 20th century design's first heyday came immediately after the second World War. There was a surge of capability and optimism embodied in people like Lester Beall, and Charles and Ray Eames. They saw design as systemic and agnostic of mediums. When you look at their bodies of work it's hard to classify them as a "kind" of designer. It's the epitome of what we call design thinking today. I think most designers are confident they can design in a different medium than they were trained in because they are confident in the methodologies of design. The philosophies of these three people in particular helped me come to that realization and ultimately led me to designing systems, experiences and businesses.


JS: With your talk at the Dieline Summit, what lasting impact do you want to leave on future designers, brand, and product creators?

MH: I want to instill a confidence in intuition, a commitment to meaning, and a curiosity in the diverse world around us.


We would like to thank Michael for his answers on his career, design, motivation
and the future of package design. He will be speaking at The Dieline Summit 
in Paris November 17th. 

See full schedule below:

Take advantage of our early booking rate at 980 € includes VAT (TAX).
This early booking rate ends September 15th.

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