Brands that prioritise accessible packaging design not only demonstrate empathy and inclusivity but also distinguish themselves in a crowded marketplace. Steve Brownett-Gale of Lifestyle Packaging highlights the significance of accessible packaging and how it can make your product range stand out.

In the UK, one in five individuals lives with a disability, a physical or mental impairment that significantly impacts their ability to perform routine activities. This statistic underscores the importance of inclusivity in all aspects of life, including product packaging.

What is accessible packaging?

Accessible packaging is a design approach that considers the diverse needs and abilities of all users. It focuses on creating packaging that is easy to open, hold and use, regardless of the user’s physical or cognitive abilities. It ensures that regardless of their capabilities, all customers can independently access and use products.

The core principles – as detailed by Microsoft’s Inclusive Design Toolkit – are to recognise exclusion, learn from diversity, solve for one and expand to many. Accessible packaging is not just about physical access; it also encompasses clear and understandable product information, ensuring that everyone, including those with cognitive impairments or literacy challenges, can make informed decisions about the products they buy.

Design requirements

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has set guidelines for accessible packaging design – ISO 17480:2015 – which provides requirements and recommendations based on ease of opening.

It encourages brands to consider factors such as the force required to open packaging, the need for tools, and the intuitiveness of the opening mechanism. This includes design aspects such as the opening location, methods and evaluation techniques, both instrumented and user based.

Adherence to these guidelines ensures that packaging is accessible to a broad range of users, including those with limited strength or dexterity. It’s not just about compliance; it’s about creating a product experience that respects and values all consumers.

Creating with empathy

Creating with empathy is a critical aspect of accessible packaging design. A user-centric design approach involves understanding and empathizing with the end-users needs and experiences throughout the design process. This approach allows brands to create custom products inclusive for all, enhancing user experience and fostering brand loyalty.

It involves engaging with users, understanding their challenges and frustrations with existing packaging, and using this insight to drive design decisions. It’s about seeing the world from the users’ perspectives and creating solutions that make their lives easier.

OXO, known for its kitchen tools and housewares, is the perfect example of a brand that has created accessible packaging with empathy. OXO’s Good Grips line was founded on the principle of universal design when its founder noticed his wife struggling to use a potato peeler due to arthritis and spotted a gap in the market for a product that could be used by all. The line features a range of kitchen tools with pressure-absorbing, non-slip, comfortable handles designed to provide a better grip.

A spotlight on successful models

Several brands have successfully implemented accessible packaging designs.

For example, Procter & Gamble’s Always Discreet range has packaging features that aid blind and partially sighted customers. It uses NaviLens technology that allows them to scan a code on the product and access packaging information, usage and disposable instructions that are presented audibly and through haptics via the NaviLens app. These features include braille and large print on the packaging, making it easier for these customers to identify and use the product.

Re-affirming its commitment to inclusive packaging, Proctor & Gamble has many products with accessible design, such as its shaving brand, Gillette. Gillette began phasing out its plastic blister packs in 2021 across its premium refillable razor range in favour of new cardboard packaging, which has since been extended to its range of blade cartridges. The packaging features a tear strip and minimal glue, making it easy to open for customers of all abilities without the need for scissors or other tools.

Meanwhile, Unilever has developed Degree Inclusive, an accessible deodorant for individuals with visual impairment and limited arm mobility. The design features Braille so it is easier to identify, a hooked container for one-handed users, enhanced grip placement and magnetic ‘click’ closures to make it easier for all customers to remove and replace the cap. It also has a larger-than-normal roll-on applicator to reach a larger surface area per swipe.

These are just a few examples that highlight the potential of accessible packaging to enhance user experience and differentiate brands in the marketplace.

Generating broad appeal

Accessible packaging has broad appeal as it caters to a diverse range of customers. It is not only beneficial for individuals with disabilities but also for the elderly, children or anyone who may struggle with conventional packaging. By incorporating accessible design elements into their packaging, brands can make their products more user friendly for a wider audience. This enhances the customer experience and opens up new market segments they may have previously overlooked.

Promoting the benefits of accessible packaging should be an integral part of a brand’s marketing strategy. This involves highlighting the functional aspects of the packaging and communicating the brand’s commitment to inclusivity. It’s about telling a story that resonates with consumers, showing them that the brand values all its customers and is dedicated to meeting their diverse needs.

Ultimately, the age of inclusivity calls for a shift in how we approach product packaging. Accessible packaging is not just a design trend; it is a necessity that brands must embrace to ensure inclusivity for all customers.

Inclusive packaging as a brand differentiator

By focusing on accessible design, brands can differentiate themselves in a crowded marketplace and attract a broader customer base. More importantly, they can foster deeper connections with their customers by showing that they understand and cater to their needs. This can lead to increased brand loyalty and customer retention, which are key to long-term business success. The future of packaging is undoubtedly inclusive, and brands that recognise this will be the ones that truly stand out.

It’s time for brands to step up and embrace the challenge and opportunity that accessible packaging presents. They need to invest in research and development, engage with their customers to understand their needs and work closely with design teams to create packaging that is not just functional but inclusive.

Investing in accessible packaging design is a smart business strategy that can drive growth and success in today’s competitive marketplace.