Most of us pay little attention to the sort of box that our computers come in. It’s a perfunctory barrier; something we rip off and toss in the trash with little thought, eager to get at what’s inside.
The first generation HP Chromebook 11, which was released last year, turned this on its head. Its retail packaging was as every bit as standout as the device it housed. Those of you who have bought or seen a boxed HP 11 in person will know what I mean — it’s the sort of consumer packaging you don’t want to throw away.
But what made it so special?
HP Chromebook 11 Packaging Concept
Made by HP and designed by Google, the Exynos-powered 11.6-inch Chrome OS notebook shipped inside a seemingly seamless plastic shell; a futuristic looking case housing a futuristic cloud computing device. But this was more than just a box. Equal parts luxury and attentive design, the softly curved edges of the stark white capsule matched up perfectly with the build and colour of the Chromebook chassis within.
In many ways the design was almost deceptively simple, rather like Chrome OS itself. But a lot of thought was put into crafting a package that could work as a whole, as an extension of the laptop, and as something capable of rivalling Apple or the Google Nexus line in the “wow” stakes.
Designed from the ground up by Liquid Agency in partnership with Google’s design team, every part of the product box screams Google: from the outer label slip to the moulded inner trays, the packaging emphasises the simplicity of Chrome OS by being simple itself.
Opening it up you don’t find the device held in place with polystyrene or cardboard but sat in soft, moulded trays. There is no bubble-wrapped charger and no bag containing an acre’s worth of leaflets, manuals and other irrelevant paper junk. Just the notebook, a charger and a quick-start guide.
According to Liquid the chief inspiration for the package was a simple takeaway box. They wanted to match its purpose by being functional, simple but also environmentally friendly.
A wealth of engineering was required to design and mould the package to be structurally sound and capable of withstanding the bumps, tumbles and varying temperatures that regular shipping and transportation inflicts. The couture design and engineering needs meant that new machines were created specifically to ‘…create the box’s unique shape and density.’
“Specifically, we wanted to do less, not more,” they say.
It’s not surprising to learn that the concept won Liquid a gold award at the 2014 Silicon Valley ADDY Awards.
Extending the Story
The two Chromebooks I’ve owned had very standard cardboard packaging. Nothing special, nothing that extended the experience inside to the moment before I’d even turned it on:
Packaging is often far more important than people kid themselves to believe. It’s the first impression. When bought online, it serves as the handshake of thanks. It should be special.
By combining form and functionality with design, Liquid Design did for Chromebooks what Apple did for its hardware: it brought the story of the product inside, outside – right where people could see it.
Rumoured poor sales may mean the HP Chromebook 11 lacks a legacy, but it will certainly have left a good impression on those who bought one.