Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Andrew's Liver Salts

To: GlaxoSmithKline
      Consumer Healthcare

Re: Original Andrew's Salts

Though I am only an occasional user of this product, I find it effective and always try to keep some to hand. All the same, the packaging of your product is without doubt one of the most extreme cases of bad design I have ever come across. 

I am talking about the plastic, oval bottle with the blue spoon attached to the lid. 

I am taking the time to write about this because I am genuinely fascinated by the process that led to such a design being dreamed up, approved and put into production. It's not simply a matter of not being good, it's more a case of taking bad design to new heights. In short, the person who designed this packaging is clearly something of an evil genius. 

Let's start at the top: 

Firstly there's that spoon that you have to snap off to use. It's too short for a start. As soon as the level of the contents is down to around 80% they can no longer be reached by the spoon – which is probably a good thing, as it is stored in an exposed position on the top of the lid and liable to get dirty. What's more, the way the lid opens makes it almost inevitable that you will place the tip of your finger in the bowl of the spoon just prior to using it – not a good idea. 

No, snap the spoon off and throw it away. It's worse than useless. To get at the contents you will need a very special kind of spoon. A teaspoon is too short. A desertspoon would be long enough but is too wide to use in the very awkwardly shaped container. No – you will need to get yourself one of those long-handled, teaspoon-sized spoons used in ice-cream parlours. You should keep one where you will be able to find it easily, in the middle of the night, when suffering from indigestion. 

The lid is not easy to use either. On the face of it, it looks OK. There's a little depression in the end and a projecting tab for the thumb – but I always find myself trying a couple of other ways first. It's a problem that starts with that spoon. The lid moulding presents two or three distinct profiles that each looks like it might the edge of the lid, together with intriguing tabs to try with your thumbnail.  

It is difficult to believe that such a simple piece of packaging can be so rich in surprises. For example, I was astounded to read on the label on the back of the container:  

See inside label for how to open and dosage instructions

Am I to take this to mean that there is a second label, inside the container that gives you instructions on how to open it ?

However, on the lower corner of the first label there is a triangular yellow tab bearing this amazing statement: 

Peel here but do not remove

On carefully peeling back the corner of the label I discovered there is a second, hidden label underneath containing, amongst other things, advice on opening the container and correct use of the spoon. This must be the mysterious inside label referred to earlier. 

All the same, as the advice is not to remove the outer label, I carefully lower it back in place. 

In this age of technological marvels, of incomprehensible machines and processes, of expert design and professionalism, it's encouraging to come across something so bad as to be almost brilliant. It restores my faith in the imperfection of human nature. 

Somewhere, in your organisation there is an exceptional individual, capable of the most bizarre and dysfunctional feats of design. If you are aware of any other examples of his (or her) work, I would be most interested to know of them. 


William Wormwood

... a week or two later I received a reply

Dear Mr Wormwood, 

Thank you for your letter regarding your disappointment with the pack design of our Andrew's Salts. We are proud of our reputation for high quality and are sorry that we have not met your expectations on this occasion. As we are continually assessing our products with regard to packaging etc. we are grateful that you have gone to the trouble of letting us know your views. 

Yours sincerely, 

[illegible squiggle

Breaking news: 

I note, on visiting my local pharmacy that the packaging remains essentially unchanged but that they have dispensed with the removable spoon. I like to think it was my allusions to the risk of bacterial contamination that prompted them to action. 

All the same, I would have loved to known more of that designer; I can't help fantasising that he or she was responsible the Dyson DC21: 


1 comment:

  1. Interesting design this article. No images!