Based in Delft, the consultancy was founded fifteen years ago, on a belief in design for function and a commitment to find “solutions that sell”.
According to Stephen Rein and Ronald Lewerissa, Flex, the company, made a deliberate choice to go into structural packaging design about eight years ago.
“Often structural packaging design was done by graphic designers with very little knowledge of and feeling for production methods such as engineering,” they explained.
“While we were trained as industrial designers we also wanted to combine the technical knowledge and the creativity that is needed to develop successful structural packaging. Now over forty per cent of our projects are in this area.”
One client, Albert Heijn, who is considered the authority in the fresh juice market in the Netherlands presented Flex with a brief to design a new bottle that would convey his juices as ‘the freshest’ on the market.
Making juices in eighteen different flavours, bottling them fresh every day and supplying them to retail, requires it’s own technology and logistics system.
The response to the clients brief was bottles with tear-off labels, which meant that the consumer could always present a clean embossed bottle on the breakfast table by tearing off the cardboard label.
The packaging methodology for the bottles in two sizes, allows for almost no loss in time to switch from one product to the next. The diameter selection and the labeling method played an important role in the final solution.
To apply the cardboard collars a new machine was developed and implemented that could run up to 17,000 bottles an hour.
According to Flex, the collars have dramatic attention value on the shelf and the label design by FutureBrand uses the ‘ears’ to communicate the juice flavours.
Another client, Hero, also turned to Flex, to design a completely new fruit juice bottle. The client wanted Flex to address the perceived problems of time and convenience when it came to Dutch consumers eating more fruit.
This time the solution was a daily portion of fruit in one bottle, called Fruit2day. Flex developed the ‘fruity’ pack, a bottle that looks like fruit.
The pack is comfortable to hold and convenient to drink and its content is promoted as a healthy alternative to two pieces of fruit a day.
Comfort and drinking convenience were an important focus of attention for the designers. Flex was asked to design a bottle that calls up the same feeling as the sight of real fresh fruit.
The bottle resembles two stacked pieces of fruit with the sleeve, designed by FutureBrand, wrapped around the bottle.
Flex currently has a studio with twenty-four designers from different countries throughout Europe where most of their work is conducted, as well as global projects in North America and Asia.
Spare lamp kits light up for Philips
Flex created a unique storage unit for Philips automotive, a market leader in car lamps. The project was critical for both partners.
For Philips the ‘spare lamp kit’ helped the Philips brand communicate the qualities of its innovative lighting system Blue Vison. And for Flex it meant the company could be involved with a true global brand in durable consumer products.
Existing storage systems for spare lamps involve generic injection moulded boxes, which do not offer any possibilities for brand exposure or the communication of product values.
At the same time the scope of the project was to offer functional user benefits and reduce product and/or logistic costs as there are over thirty-five different sets of lamps.
The solution from Flex required an innovative use of materials and a unique way of working. The expanded polypropylene foam, generally used for hidden applications, has been coloured blue and is used in a visible way as the main storage box.
The advantage over a hard injection moulded material is better protection for the lamps with less potential for damage in the glove compartment of a car.
In a clever approach, the kit opens like a Swiss army knife: the main storage unit, information cards with installation instructions as well as the hanger for display in retail, all swivel out.
Large car makers, like Toyota and BMW, have decided to sell their cars with the Philips kit in the glove compartment in most European countries.