Packaging and Shipping News

Today’s problem / opportunity: packaging a product that’s likely to be distributed chiefly by mail, you start to think about a lot of things:

  • shipping costs (passed on to your customers)
  • the experience of receiving the item and opening it
  • protecting the item in transit
  • providing tracking info to customers
  • resolving delivery issues

When I first approached the problem, I knew what I wanted to do: I would use a stiff cardboard post-consumer recycled envelope. People get it in the mail and they appreciate the look of it, the fact that the package is easy to open: they can reuse the cardboard envelope (since it’s stiff it protects things like paper documents, or can be used to remail).

So I looked at envelopes: I selected the ones that were just large enough for a single bag, thinking that most orders would be single-item or 3+ items, and that custom boxes may be used for 3 or more items. I was tempted by the envelopes with peel-and-stick closures. I was tempted by envelopes with zip-strip openers. But both of these seemed to not fulfill the original idea of recycled and recyclable / reusable packaging. The peel-and-stick uses a not-so-great space-age adhesive, and yields a throw-away cover strip. The zip-strip is not reusable and the strip is (again) plastic). So I bought a bunch of these stiff envelopes with no adhesive and no zip-strip.  I developed a folding pattern that would let the bag sit comfortably (and flatly) in the container. I used ordinary Elmer’s glue to seal the package. See the result below:

I shipped a few of these out (my mom and Chelse). They arrived in good shape, and the experience of opening was good. So then for the next batch I did more, and took a bunch of these down to the post office, where I got educated about USPS rates. All my packages came in at, like, 13.6 ounces. If an envelope package comes in at less than 13 ounces, it qualifies for a letter (instead of a package) rate. The difference (for US shipping) is, like $2 versus $6. So, in order to see where the weight was coming from, I weighed the bag and carton separately.

Carton with bag: .85 pounds (=13.6 ounces). Carton alone: .30 pounds (=4.8 ounces).

So, if I switch to plastic packaging, I can easily shave off 2 oz, pay less for the packaging and the shipping (and lower the cost of ordering the bag), while also worrying less about the bag becoming stained or water damaged in transit. Plastic shipping wrap could also be a better way to store the bags in inventory (again, protecting from stain, water damage and sealing out moist air).

But I don’t like using plastic, and I think it compromises the experience of opening the package when it arrives (which I think is pretty nice at present).

Any ideas?

Coming soon in a post: how will I handle my first ‘I didn’t get your package’ complaint? How will I enable customers to track their shipments?

First Bags are Here!

Super excited that the first run of bags are back from my manufacturer here in San Francisco. They look great! Many of the bags have been spoken for already, but there are some left: the colors RED and HOT PINK are going super fast, so hurry up and put your $30 (plus shipping) on the PayPal barrelhead and watch as your produce shopping life is transformed before your very eyes.

For those who pre-ordered, OOPS! I didn’t collect your mailing address–so I’m going to ask you to order on the website like everybody else. Don’t worry, you’re still special and will get all the bragging rights and recognition you truly deserve.

Configurability Doesn’t Mean Buckles and Latches

Configurability doesn’t require buckles and fasteners. This knot will definitely make it into a design at some point…

Fabric on the iPad Holster

canvas and warm woven going for the workman / toolbelt look, but softened

This one has a step-through leg strap that I liked but later rejected for two reasons. First, it’s not configurable: people of the same waist size have widely varying leg measurements, and so the fit around the leg has to expand / contract in order to look right. Second, perhaps more subtle but very important was the feeling of stepping into a garment: I think it would make people uncomfortable to put the thing on in public if they had to step into it as they would a pair of shorts. The act of stepping in and pulling it up around your waist feels like a private thing. I dunno: maybe it’s just me.
This design also tied on around the waist (no velcro): I still like the idea of a tie to secure it, but I think it’s a little too precious to have a knot / bow at the end of it. New closure ideas coming all the time.

utility / work belt theme?

What would you put in a utility holster? Another thing I discovered with this design is that you can’t cut material on the diagonal like this and then expect it to take any strain: with this construction the straps would come away from the pocket within a week. The aesthetic of the two tones coming together and criss-crossing is amazing though! (I think)

And Now, for Something Completely Different…

Here’s the problem statement:
I spend a lot of time in meetings at work. Everybody who used to bring a heavy laptop is now bringing a smartphone or tablet so that they can keep up-to-date on email and read news surreptitiously while somebody else labors on over powerpoint about this quarter’s objectives or design review results or whatever. And yet, to get one of those tablets to the meeting, you have to carry it gingerly by the ear, or else put it into your mammoth laptop briefcase. Isn’t there a better way to carry it?

prototyping tools for a tablet holster: wooden tablets, paper and a stapler

I cut down some boards so that they resemble the form factor I’ve seen in tablet devices: the iPad size, the Kindle size, the Samsung Note size. Talked to the sales guys at Best Buy and realized that they think the Note will fit in your pocket. The guy demonstrated to me, and I thought he looked awfully proud that he could fit the thing in his pocket.

I experimented with the three sizes and eventually agreed with him that the 5-inch form factor likely wasn’t going to drive adoption of a sling or a hammock or a disco purse or a baby bjorn or a holster for men. The 10-inch form factor of the iPad was likewise problematic. I couldn’t find a place on the body where it really seemed to fit. It was too large and too flat to fit anywhere that felt comfortable. In a pinch, I think it fits okay on the torso on the side just under the arm, which is where I would wear an over-the-shoulder bag to keep it. I think there are a lot of those bags out there.  But the 7-inch tablet: this area is ripe for innovation. It (the 7-inch tablet) fits under the arm, sure, but could comfortably sit on the chest (pectorals) or lower abdomen. And the best fit (for me, I found) is right on the meat of the outer thigh,a few inches above the knee.

what is this thing?