A Peek Inside Notpla’s Design Lab

November 24, 2023

We recently sat down with our Product Designer August Ford to share an inside look at the new product development process of our packaging solutions, tailored to our customers' needs. At Notpla we prioritise the ability to constantly design new products, of different shapes and sizes, that meet our consumers' evolving preferences while reflecting our commitment to sustainability. 

Walking partners from concept to final product through this adaptable process that not only fulfils their requirements but results in unique innovative sustainable packaging is what makes us stand out. To better understand this, August gave us an exclusive deep dive into what this process looks like, how designing new seaweed coated food disposable containers works, and how sustainability guides everything we do here at Notpla. 

Step-by-Step Process 

When embarking on new packaging designs, August explains that there are two variables that determine the design process. “It depends a little bit on whether the client gives us the kind of shape they want, or whether it's an open brief and we design it from scratch,” he notes. Regardless of which route, the first step centres on analysing the core requirements for Notpla’s materials to deliver.

“First we'll look at what the box needs to be doing, what kind of food they need to hold, whether it's wet or dry, that will affect the construction.” With key criteria defined centred on use case and contents, we then enter prototyping cycles of virtual modelling and hands-on testing. As August describes, "We work through rounds of tweaks to optimise box durability, dimensions, and weight capacity - all the performance criteria."

Refining Design Through Waste Reduction

Once confident in full box functionality, August shifts to what he calls the most rewarding stage. This “optimisation phase” puzzles through an intricate challenge – aligning boxes on sheets to avoid any excess. Or as August explains, “That's basically making sure that we get as many boxes out of the sheet as possible. So not wasting anything.” For him as a designer, taking sustainability constraints head on fosters innovation. 

This rearrangement smooths boxes into Notpla's signature shapes. August details, "I keep compacting and streamlining until I land the maximum yield." Letting minimal waste guide form sequencing allows us to discover entirely new nature-inspired outlines unlike more conventional boxes.

Navigating Sustainability Speedbumps 

But August tells us that zero-waste packaging often presents challenges. As customers often want larger formats, but the reality is that bigger boxes counter efficiency, and result in the use of more materials. This is why we steer clients toward right sized versions that balance durability and conservation.

Technical difficulties around strength arise too in the plant-based world. As August notes, "Coated board struggles with hot, heavy contents. We creatively overcome these through materials science innovation.” But ultimately August sees these limitations, when embraced openly, as a possibility for designers to pave new packaging possibilities.  

What Sets Notpla Apart

When asked what defines Notpla's packaging design ethos, August responds, “I think what differentiates us is the amount of effort we put into this kind of like optimisation and efficiency work because our material's so precious to us.” 

Indeed most brands prioritise aesthetics over conservation, as August notes. “I don't know if everyone does that, because plastic coated sheets might be much cheaper, so you don't have to worry so much.” But our urgency to reduce waste at all costs is what informs the form of our product. For example, as August explains, “Our medium box, the way that looks is purely informed by how many we could fit onto a sheet.”

As clients quickly discover the savings enabled by our zero-waste design approach, beyond the beauty of the designs, they do understand the benefits of it and its unique properties - that deliver the efficiency of traditional takeaway packaging but without the negative repercussions on our planet. As August concludes, "When you showcase serious sustainability value through cost and conservation, that catches businesses' attention." 

At Notpla we believe that by letting the restoration of our planet guide product design, that’s were innovation can emerge. Have a look at the video below to find out more about our Notpla coated boxes design process. 

If you are interested in working with us and adopting genuine sustainable packaging solutions don’t hesitate to contact us

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