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Behind the Curtain: Inside Apple’s Secret Packaging Room

Behind the Curtain: Inside Apple’s Secret Packaging Room

As almost everyone knows, Apple sweats over every little detail of their products – an obsession that even extends to the product’s packaging.

In his “iOnApple” column for Network World, Yoni Heisler writes on a segment from Adam Lashinski’s upcoming book Inside Apple:

…it’s no secret that Apple sweats every last detail when it comes to their products – which if anything, is quite an understatement.

Indeed, Apple’s VP of iOS software, Scott Forstall, once explained the extent to which Apple leaves no stone unturned. Speaking to the design of the iOS interface, Forstall said, “I actually have a photographer’s loupe that I use to make sure every pixel is right. We will argue over literally a single pixel.”

Apple’s attention to detail even extends to the packaging the products are shipped it. Apple, in addition to its numerous technical and design patents, also owns a neatly stacked pile of patents for package design.

For many companies packaging design is secondary, but Apple takes package design very seriously. Anyone who has ever opened an Apple product in the last 15 years can testify to that. Apples packaging exhibits elegance and thoughtfulness that most companies can’t be bothered to deal with.

An anecdote in Lashinsky’s book reveals a secretive packaging room deep inside Apple headquarters where only the select few with the proper security badge may enter.

“To fully grasp how seriously Apple executives sweat the small stuff, consider this: For months, a packaging designer was holed up in this room performing the most mundane of tasks – opening boxes.”

Heisler writes:

In one example illustrating Apple’s exhaustive attention to detail, Lashinsky relays how Apple’s packaging room at one point was filled with hundreds, yes hundreds, of iPod box prototypes so that Apple could determine which box lent itself towards evoking the emotional response Apple was looking for upon opening up a product for the first time.

One after another, the designer created and tested an endless series of arrows, colors, and tapes for a tiny tab designed to show the consumer where to pull back the invisible, full-bleed sticker adhered to the top of the clear iPod box. Getting it just right was this particular designer’s obsession.

What’s more, it wasn’t just about one box. The tabs were placed so that when Apple’s factory packed multiple boxes for shipping to retail stores, there was a natural negative space between the boxes that protected and preserved the tab.

Apple’s rivals have been paying attention. Maybe a little too closely.

The packaging for the Samsung Galaxy Tab looks remarkably similar to the iPad’s packaging. It’s even an issue in Apple’s numerous lawsuits against Samsung.

“How a customer opens a box must be one of the last things a typical product designer would consider.” Lashinsky writes in his book. “Yet for Apple, the inexpensive box merits as much attention as the high-margin electronic device inside.”

This explains why I still have the boxes for almost all of the Apple products I’ve purchased over the years sitting on a shelf in my office closet. And my wife has always said it was because I was a pack-rat.