System76 packaging + unboxing experience

The design process behind System76's first generation branded packaging and the extra elements therein

Despite the actual box construction being predetermined and not open to exploration, one of my most challenging and longest-running projects was creating branded packaging for all of System76's laptops and its compact desktop, the Meerkat, as part of the ongoing process of building System76’s identity.
Since the company’s primary tagline is “Unleash Your Potential” and its mission statement is “to enable the curious and capable makers of tomorrow,” I wanted the outside of the box to be very minimalist, with only the bare essentials for shipping and the company logo printed on it, and the inside to be an elaborate unfurling of the creative possibilities open to you with your shiny, powerful, new computer.
That concept of potential is why I chose the direction of “grid paper covered with imaginative illustrations and STEM-inspired doodles,” since a large portion of our customer base is affiliated with STEM fields. The illustrations weave around and overlap each other, a depiction of a free-flowing brainstorming session. The final point is driven home when you lift up your laptop and reveal a question printed on the bottom of the box: what will you make?
The packaging for the Meerkat acted as a first draft of the concept since it was the first product to launch with the new packaging and had different dimensions and design parameters. Since nothing could be printed on the bottom of the interior, “what will you make?” was printed so that you might read it as you lift the lid, leading you into the possibilities.
Comps of the package design. It was eventually decided that brown ink on the entire exterior would be needlessly expensive and the look of plain cardboard would facilitate a better "reveal" of the design upon opening the box.
The design orientation changed to accommodate the different dimensions of the two boxes. The Meerkat box, being square, had a taller lid when open and therefore a longer vertical canvas in which to fit the flow of illustration.
Part of the unboxing experience is a hand-stamped envelope containing an introductory letter and a handful of nifty freebies, sent with every customer order. However, anyone that wants a handful of free stickers without purchasing a new computer can send a self-addressed envelope to the System76 corporate office in Denver, CO.
The designs and iterative process behind the "In the Box" welcome kit and all other swag can be found here and here.
The final step came much later when we realized how unintuitive and confusing the Korvuu packaging was for customers. Laptops came back to us (for repairs and other service) severely damaged in transit, although the original packaging is sufficient for safe return shipping. However, people had the tendency to cut or tear the layer of suspension plastic, not realizing it wasn’t shrinkwrap, therefore compromising the packaging integrity and necessitating other less convenient means of repacking and shipping.
Several attempts to guide them through the unboxing process were attempted. By the end of it, all I had were believable but pointless vector illustrations of our product and packaging.
This was the least effective version of the unboxing sticker.
People were confused.
It was around this time that we realized human beings will do what they're going to do and if they don't want to see warnings, they won't.
After a long and arduous process of user testing, a process through which I gained some fascinating insights about how much people don’t see warnings and what makes them harder to see (hint: the color red renders warning labels almost invisible), we finally got to this sticker, which is placed directly over the laptop covering so that you (hopefully) see it immediately upon opening the box and (hopefully) don’t kill the packaging:
We figured we'd worry about helping customers repack their laptops later.
Back to Top