The making of the Genotek genetic test packaging

Overview• Process

We start by visiting the client’s laboratory a couple of times. Listening to lectures on modern genetics and understanding the task at hand. Beginning to work on packaging design.

Formulating main principles:

  • personal experience, confidentiality: “this is about me and only for me”
  • sensitivity: the packaging is universal for different types of tests; it can come into a person’s life under very different circumstances, from doing it for fun to difficult and unpleasant events such as trying to diagnose severe genetic disorders
  • expensiveness: the test isn’t cheap, plus we also need to emphasize the company’s extensive experience and unparalleled service

Analyzing the existing packaging. It looks generic and doesn’t match the price of the product. Realizing that it’s not only about the shape and the cardboard. We want to improve the entire process of gathering samples, make it more personal and secure.

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Two directions are born: nature—naturality and space—technologies of the future. Both work well to reflect the theme of DNA analysis.

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Discussing both directions with the Genotek team and deciding to concentrate on modern technologies. Immediately starting to look for materials that would embody the idea.

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Trying out the first mock-up with the help of guys at the studio. Testing the construction and use scenarios. Discovering ways to improve.

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The box is ready for graphics. Elaborating the details.

Talking to the technologist and improving the flaps and perforation.

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Continuing to work on the use scenario. Collecting samples should be easy and convenient.

Testing all stages of using the packaging once again: opening, sample collection and submission to the laboratory.

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Compiling a brief overview of saliva collection techniques and starting to work on improving the funnel.

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Working on a new shape. We need to take into account the collection process and how the funnel can be attached and detached from the vial.

Conducting a couple of tests, choosing the right size and angle of the cone.

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Unexpectedly finding an interesting and simple solution: the shape resembles a flower head or a mushroom.

The barely noticeable texture on the outside allows to easily twist off or attach the funnel to the vial. The smooth internal surface works well to collect saliva.

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Testing the old and new solutions using 3D printed prototypes.

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Starting to work on graphics. Thinking of a way to showcase both the theme and the box’s multi-layered contents. Keeping in mind that we need a solution that should be adaptable to other media ranging from corporate documents to printed advertising or a website.

Going through ideas.

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And getting a new one: we can make the outside surface of the box out of matte tinfoil which will partially reflect the surroundings. This will implement the mirror idea and the “look inside yourself” principle.

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The search continues. Every day, people make microdecisions about their lifestyle, they think about what to eat and drink, how to work out, how to prevent or treat illnesses, what food to give to their child. These decisions are rooted in habits and rules imposed by society and mass culture. A personal approach and the ability to make a conscious choice only come with experience, after many trials and errors. The genetic test allows to explore your personal nature and traits and answer all these questions scientifically.

Coming up with a metaphor of focusing. Everything that was blurred becomes clear, as if under a microscope.

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Alas, the photos and blur effect printed on packaging won’t be as striking as they are on screen. Deciding to show the focusing in a more abstract way by using a dotted pattern. At first, the drawing looks abstract, but after unwrapping layer after layer of the package it gets more clear. In the end, the user sees some familiar image. We can start with a ballerina, an illustration for talent and skills, sport and creativity.

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Trying the idea on the box. Alternating contrasting colors of the layers and sides.

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Testing the idea in real life.

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Placing the box on various media.

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Presenting the ideas to the client.

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Everyone likes the approach.

Exploring this direction further. The unboxing process culminates in unfolding the insert with instructions and the vial. This moment is impressive even as part of the packaging, but we also want to support the impression with bright graphics. Trying to add more color to the dotted illustration and to come up with a different image to replace the ballerina, she is too abstract of a metaphor.

Thinking of a way to quickly generate pictures with required parameters: uniform distribution of dots on the grid and three different dot sizes based on image darkness. After trying several plugins realizing that it would be quicker to write our own.

The coder creates a simple script with a web interface. We can choose a picture in the browser and it will generate an illustration that can be exported into an SVG file. Plus, as an experiment we decide to add the ability to set a couple of parameters: dot density (grid resolution) and grid color and type (checkerboard or square).

Testing ideas becomes extremely fast. Quickly arranging pictures and running them through the generator.

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Now we need to find a way to quickly see how our ideas would look on packaging. The box is complex, it has many sides and layers. Printing and cutting it out every time will take extremely long. What if we create a 3D version and rotate it?

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No, it isn’t convenient either and takes a long time. Deciding to create a mock-up in Photoshop using two smart objects, the face and the back. Using the same smart object to build a pseudo 3D visualization. Copying the smart object, using a mask to choose a side, transform it in perspective and assemble a box out of these sides. Now we can open both sides in a new Photoshop window. Using a new sketch, saving—and voilà!—the sketch is applied to all sides and angles.

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Too removed from humans.

People, then?

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Too beaten. Plus, it’s not even the person who is holding the box, it’s some random people.

Something abstract?

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Too pointless: there was chaos before and there is chaos now.

A helix with chromosomes?

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Very straightforward, but also a sure win.

As an experiment, trying to replace dots with letters used to code genetic sequences: G, T, C, A (guanine, thymine, cytosine, adenine). The result resembles ASCII art.

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Looks impressive and more to the point than the dots.

Quickly updating the script to generate ASCII instead. All right!

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Simultaneously rewriting and typesetting the instructions. We need to take into account a couple of important points. The first is logistics. The box will include a unique barcode that the customer will need to register on the company’s website and attach to the vial before sending it to the lab. It’s the most inexpensive and, in the client’s experience, the most sure way to submit samples: a courier can simply deliver the box to the client. However, now the client has a certain responsibility and we need to make sure he or she is aware of it.

Inserting the barcode right in the middle of the text, in the first bullet point. This way users won’t miss it.

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The second point is that the box is universal for all types of tests, yet use scenarios differ.

Clients who order personal tests need to submit their saliva by inserting the vial in the mini-box which is a part of the original box, calling a courier and sending it to the lab.

People ordering diagnostics of rare genetic disorders need to take the vial, go to a medical clinic, fill the vial with blood, pick it up from the clinic and call the courier.

First we try to fit all these details on one side and leave the other side for general information. Providing all blood-related details in a small comment in the corner.

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A couple of iterations later we come to an understanding that there are many more nuances to the process. All information doesn’t fit on one side of the insert and is fairly confusing. We decide to devote each side of the insert to an individual scenario. A large heading will help understand what the user needs to do. Also deciding to abandon the color black. It looks cool for personal tests but everyone agrees it’s tactless when it comes to diseases.

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This is much better. Now we have enough space to explain whether users need to submit saliva or blood and go over all steps in details. Now we just need to write on the blood side that the funnel won’t be needed. Great!

Making the final decision to put a helix in the center. No chromosomes or any other noise. It rhymes well with the rotation of the insert’s sides. Searching for color schemes. Getting an idea to enhance the helix with colored patterns.

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In the final design the helix is much more recognizable. Color coding saliva and blood sides of the booklet with cold and warm colors respectively. The code will be printed in lacquer and will shine in the light.

Since the user won’t have many parts of the box remaining once they’re done, deciding to add some stickers they could keep.

To maintain the reveal metaphor choosing to go with thermal paint which becomes invisible when heated.

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Meanwhile industrial designers and preparing the final version of the box layout.

Proofreading all texts, drawing icons and typesetting the final mock-up. Preparing and testing a prototype before sending it for production.

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Starting to work on the corporate identity elements.