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when you are buying the package and not the product

I think one of the shortcomings of the industrial design program at UC is the total lack of cool packaging assignments. We do a bowling ball box and a powertool package in the second year, and after that it is sort of do-as-you-please. No one asks us (or forces us) to see the potential in packaging (the package sells the product...) so we mostly think of packaging as boring corrugated boxes.

That being said, I think there is tremendous potential for innovation in packaging, and that really comes into play when you are selling the package as much (if not more than) the product. Two great examples are 1 liter water (as well as other bottled water like voss) and stride gum. For all of these products, the package sets them apart from the competition and is often the biggest selling point.
For more on innovative and wildly creative packaging, take a look at