What better way to kick off the DVB&ID blog, than to discuss the notion of 'perfection' in design?

This is a subject I discussed when I gave a talk at this year's Ignite UK North event, run by O'Reilly. The format for the talk is simple: 5 minutes, with 20 slides auto-timed to 15 seconds each, to keep things snappy. Take a look.

I spoke about how there are hundreds of things in the world many people describe as a 'design classic' - the London tube map, the Eames chair, and the ipod are just three items which fall into this category. Groundbreaking, hugely influential, often desirable they may all be, but could any one of them really be described as 'perfect'?

How do you define perfection? Well, for the purposes of my talk, I defined it as being when there was nothing I could add or remove from something, to make it do its job any better. And as an example of such a thing, I showed Boots' own-brand paracetamol packaging.

[caption id="attachment_4" align="aligncenter" width="349" caption=""]Boots own-brand paracetamol packaging design[/caption]

Beautiful, isn't it?

OK, maybe not, but if you take a moment to really look at it, hopefully you will see what I mean. In terms of telling a customer all the top-line information they need about a product, it's here, with no fuss at all. It tells you:

- who makes it
- the substance
- the form and dosage
- what it's for
- quantity
- and an actual-size image of what you will be swallowing.

I think why this design works so well is that it's not trying to put any marketing spin on the product. So many painkillers show cross-sections of people's heads or brains with terrifying red flashpoints, or glowing, super-stylised renders of the tablets themselves, offering super-charged, faster-than-the-speed-of-light relief.

But for Boots' paracetamol, the designer has relied on the power of the Boots brand, and taken an approach more akin to information design. Most people know what paracetamol is for, and often buy it when not actually in pain (ie, purchasing for future use), so there is no real need to 'sell' it. Of course, this kind of approach would never work if all packaging design adopted it, but for me, its very understatement makes it stand out.

Even the blue background of the lower portion isn't extraneous, as it is a backdrop for the illustration of the tablet (which, I might add, doesn't have so much as a drop-shadow behind it). Marvellous.

This is an exercise in design economy, and something that I find an inspiration. In the same way as many new web applications and widgets do a single thing very well, so does this.

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