How to Make the Perfect Packaging?

The following text was first published in the April issue of the Tartu Observer.

For this issue, I was going to write a funky story about how I have been drawing Rüütli Street already for two years, but then something crazy happened. In two weeks’ time, I went from sending hopeful emails to having my ‘The Bridges of Tartu’ set of storytelling postcards sold all around Estonia.

On Wednesday, April 17, I rang a doorbell on the edge of Tallinn. Literally on the edge, as across the street gaped a bowl-shaped wasteland, the Väo quarry.

The door to the warehouse of Rahva Raamat, one of two major booksellers in Estonia, opened. I introduced myself and the contents of the box I had been holding. A soft-spoken woman counted the packages my box contained, stamped the handover documents and it was done. I was outside again and looked at the quarry. A truck passed by.

Only three months earlier, I was gluing together the first paper prototype of what was to become the packaging of ‘The Bridges of Tartu’ set of storytelling postcards. You know, I study UX/UI design and this field is about prototypes and user tests. So I did both.

I gave the next sleeve-like packaging prototype to an inquisitive colleague with an inquisitive family. They repeatedly took the postcards from the sleeve, put them back in it, and told me what felt right and (mostly) wrong about the experience.

In parallel, I packed my courage, walked into a few Tartu souvenir stores, and asked the salespeople what they thought of my prototype and how would they best package such a product.

Funnily enough, with everyone the discussion drifted to how to discourage the too inquisitive clients from taking out all the postcards from the packaging, thus wearing it out before it is bought.

‘Cut a window in the packaging so that clients can see the product that’s inside,’ said one.

‘Seal the packaging in plastic wrap,’ said another.

‘Please don’t seal the packaging in plastic wrap,’ stressed third.

I took the best of these insight nuggets to my usual printing house. Only to be told that what I envisaged now was too advanced for their machinery. So I had to contact Ecoprint, the biggest printing house I knew in Tartu. They were really nice and professional and quickly drafted a custom packaging template based on my instructions.

But first, they probed what was to be the quantity of my order. I guess my quantity was around the lowest mark their machines viitsivad teha.

But they did.

When I took the first of the printed packaging and put these seven postcards in it I knew the whole thing was 99% perfect. In both form and content, it was something that I myself had been missing in Tartu. This gave me the confidence and drive to offer it to several great shops.

And now this journey that started with a glue stick and paper knife had taken me to ‘The Bridges of Tartu’ set of storytelling postcards being on sale in Tartu, Võru, Viljandi, Pärnu, Tallinn, and online.

The next months will be decisive whether they remain on sale. If ‘The Bridges…’ makes it as a product. Whether the world misses it as much as I did.

But without this great packaging, we would not have gotten even so far.

→ Check it out at Rahva Raamat online store or at Tasku Rahva Raamat!