Redesigning LED Packaging (Student Work)

Derrick Lin


close up of point-of-purchase display

Designed by Bryant Yee, a recent graduate of the School of Art & Design at the University of Michigan, United States.

In the next decade, the application of LED bulbs will become increasingly widespread due to their increased energy efficiency and the absence of toxic metals in their construction. Although the price for an ~800-lumen LED bulb is quite expensive when compared to an incandescent or CFL bulb, the energy savings over the lifetime of the bulb are significant. At 11¢ per kWh, a 12.5-watt, 800-lumen LED bulb uses $37.50 of electricity over its 25,000-hour life. This is a $142.50 savings when compared to the $180 required to run a 60-watt, 860-lumen incandescent bulb over the same period. While LED bulbs clearly have many advantages, their packaging presents numerous problems including excessive use of plastic clamshell and complicated typographical information. Both of these issues are highly problematic, as they are inconsistent with the bulb’s ultimate goals of conserving energy and promoting sustainability.

The first problem with the packaging is that it is made out of plastics, which are primarily manufactured from oil and natural gas, which are both non-renewable resources. Additionally, nearly all of the molecules that plastic factories have produced for decades are still with us and will remain present for centuries. Plastics litter the landscape and the oceans; they break into microscopic particles and enter the food chain. To reduce materials and waste during production, the assembly of this packaging design requires no glue and is constructed from 100% post consumer recycled paper that is manufactured carbon neutral. Also, this design promotes a system where consumers can easily send their incandescent or compact fluorescent bulbs to a recycling facility as the package also serves as a prepaid return-shipping container. To increase utility while maintaining structural rigidity, the inside of the box holds an innovative paper design. This design can quickly transform to fit any bulb placed back inside of it, while protecting it from being crushed during transport.

In addition to new regulations regarding bulb packaging, starting in mid-2011, the Federal Trade Commission announced that new laws regarding the labeling of light bulb packaging would commence. The new labeling requirements will promote consumer education by clearly displaying information that will help them select the most efficient bulbs that best suits their lighting needs. The label on the front of the package will emphasize the bulbs’ brightness as measured in lumens, as watts are a measurement of energy use, not brightness. Currently, reliance on watt measurements alone has made it difficult for consumers to compare traditional incandescent bulbs to more efficient bulbs, such as compact fluorescents. A compact fluorescent bulb may be able to produce the same amount of brightness as a traditional incandescent bulb, while using significantly less energy, or watts. Finally, new labeling will also display the estimated yearly energy cost for the respective bulb. These changes in information presentation will be key drivers in helping consumers make educated purchasing decisions as they transition to more energy-efficient types of bulbs while contributing to the overall increase in the adoption and promotion of sustainability.

Exhibition display at the University of Michigan’s School of Art & Design senior thesis show. Over 100 fully-functional boxes were constructed.

The graphics on the package have also been redesigned to help the consumer more easily understand the bulb’s specifications and benefits. To drive consistency, the point-of-purchase display, which is separated in to six different drums, follows the design cues of the individual bulb packaging. Each drum is color-coded based on the brightness and mood of each bulb where, for example, a warm white would be a warmer color compared to a cool white. The display accommodates for three different moods: warm white, white, and cool white, and then separates those moods by their brightness: 450-lumens and 800-lumens. Within each drum are modular packaging units as each bulb is available in a single, double and quadruple pack. Consequently, the only difference between the multi-packs is the sleeve holding the modular boxes together. For this purpose, the consumer would not have to mail back a quadruple-sized box if they only wished to send one bulb back. This modular container would also save money in manufacturing costs since only one die would be necessary for all of this packaging, even though the bulbs can be bundled in various quantities.

Since this package is manufactured carbon neutral, from 100% post consumer recycled paper and without the use of any glue, it’s an extremely sustainable solution for packaging items. The design is meant to ultimately create a movement towards glue-free, plastic-less, globally sustainable packaging. With the appropriate graphic labels, focusing on lumens as opposed to watts and emphasizing annual economic savings for the consumer, the bulbs should be steadily purchased. With the bulb purchase and subsequent removal of its package for use, consumer interest in the unique packaging will be stimulated. The consumer will be encouraged to recycle their old bulbs using the highly flexible paper interior. The distinctive packaging and graphic label contrasts greatly from every light bulb package on the market today, and therefore would promote using glue-free packaging for all companies. In short, the sustainable nature of my packaging should ultimately create competition in the packaging world, pressing a green movement in other major companies who continue to use wasteful products in the production of their packaging.

To view more of the project, please click here.