Unboxing and the Ends of Design: A Psychology of Unpacking

By Keith Russell.

Published by The International Journal of Designed Objects

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic Free Download

What are boxes for? Opening or containing? In making a box we are making a stage for the drama of the box being used, being filled, being opened, being emptied, being reused, or being folded flat and sent off for recycling. Because the box slips into the background of the drama of the object it contains (to reveal and release), the box becomes available for a range of possibly complementary, complimentary, neutral and even disruptive affects. Looked at from the vantage of Actor Network Theory (ANT), the box becomes an actor or an actant. The box takes centre stage. The box performs and reciprocates the appreciations and anticipations of its audience: its users. As an actant, the box may disguise its contents by looking nothing much like what it contains, as happens with a plain brown rectangular cardboard box (ugly duckling affect); or it may predict aspects of the experience of its contents by offering an aesthetic experience in its own right, as happens with cigarette packets (pleasure dome affect). As an actant, the box does many wonderful things. In hazarding a theory of object affects, this paper will explore a variety of object affects that are formed in the drama of getting things.

Keywords: Packaging Design, Actor Network Theory, Unboxing, Affects, Play

The International Journal of Designed Objects, Volume 9, Issue 2, June 2015, pp.17-23. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 432.743KB).

Dr. Keith Russell

Senior Lecturer, School of Design, Communication and Information Technology, University of Newcastle, Newcastle, NSW, Australia