The Glass Mouse

There is a trend in technology packaging that might be called “The Glass House look”. Hope the architect isn’t displeased.

I live near Philip Johnson’s Glass House, and pass by it often on my training rides through New Canaan. On one such ride this weekend, I stopped and climbed to the top of the high fieldstone wall that lines Ponus Ridge Road to take a peak, and was again reminded of its simple beauty, and the jewel-like quality it gave all of the contents within the glass walls, effortlessly framing and protecting them.

It later occurred to me, as I browsed through an Apple store, that more and more of the computer accessory packaging is beginning to share the same straightforward design philosophy. There is some very simple, clean, elegant technology packaging out there these days.

It seems to be driven by two things. The first of course is Apple. Much has been written about the breathlessly elegant work being done by their in-house design group. I don’t need to add to this dialogue, it speaks for itself.

But the second is the increasingly attractive product design being done by others in the category, and the probable recognition by the package designers that the best design philosophy is the same thing that motivated Philip Johnson in the design of his house, but in reverse.

In his case he spoke about the transparent relationship you have with nature when the lines between the interior and exterior are blurred, when looking out. In the case of technology packaging it is about having nothing between the consumer and the product, when looking in.

But in both cases, the Glass House and the new Apple Mouse box, the intent is the same, a structure that minimizes itself, to maximize its own clarity and transparency. And through this simplicity a way of highlighting both what’s inside and outside the box.

Very few packages, or pieces of architecture for that matter, could do more with less.


About Richard Shear

designer, husband, teacher, blogger, father, athlete, author, historian Richard has over 25 years of brand identity and package design experience, with a wide range of clients such as Ahold, Coca-Cola, Hasbro, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, Pernod Ricard and Procter & Gamble. He began his career working with the legendary advertising art director, and AIGA Medalist, George Lois and the British design manager Clive Chajet. In his next design management position at Lippincott & Margulies, he worked with Walter Margulies learning the complex skills of global corporate identity. He then became Creative Director and Partner at Peterson & Blyth, one of the premier brand identity and package design firms of the time. He is a founding faculty member of the Masters in Branding Program at New York’s School of Visual Arts. He publishes the blog The Package Unseen, and has been a guest lecturer at colleges including FIT, Trinity College and Tyler School of Art. He is a graduate of the Tyler School of Art at Temple University. Richard is a Board member of the AIGA MetroNorth Chapter, past President of AIGA‘s Brand Design Association, President of the Package Design Council and a member of its Board of Directors. He is a member of USA Cycling and US Rowing, a nationally ranked masters bicycle racer, and a member of The Saugatuck Rowing Club, the 2010 Masters Club National Champion.
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