Two fourth-year Graphic Communications Management (GCM) students from Ryerson University in downtown Toronto secured first place with their sustainable and innovative packaging design concept in the annual Student Design Challenge hosted by the Paperboard Packaging Alliance (PPA) in Washington, DC. Dorotea Bajic and Laura Rendell-Dean worked together on the design that took top honours. Their first-place achievement not only marks the first time Ryerson University has made the top three in the competition, but also represents an inaugural win for Canada.
“This win means a lot to me and it’s really crazy to think we are the first GCM students and Canadians to win this competition, especially when it means our design is going to be commercially produced,” said Rendell-Jean. “Since I’m in my fourth year at GCM, this competition has been an incredible way to sum up all the work that Dorotea and I have done over the last few years. GCM has provided so many opportunities and given us students so much information on how to succeed in the print and packaging industry, and this is just a small example of everything GCM is capable of.”
Bajic added: “Going into this, we were just looking for a fun way to apply our skills and learn. Once we submitted our entry, it was out of our minds. We definitely weren’t planning to receive an email months later telling us that we were finalists. It was an exciting moment for all of us. After three years of dreaming about working in structural packaging design and telling my friends non-stop that I’m going to be Canada’s most brilliant packaging designer, this moment is monumental. The possibility is there and I’m excited to see where it takes me.”
Associate Professors Natalia Lumby and Jay Park, from Ryerson’s School of Graphic Communications Management, lent their industry expertise as faculty advisors, supporting the students in their entry. Joined by leading institutions and industry veterans in packaging, including California Polytechnic State University and Clemson University, the Student Design Challenge is an elite international competition, well known in the packaging industry for its level of difficulty as well as the prestige of the award. “I’m so incredibly proud of our team this year. In addition to creating a solution that’s visually appealing and innovative, they were able to use their technical knowledge to create a package that is highly functional,” Lumby pointed out. “For example, by creating a design that’s printed only on one side and folded into itself, they were able to cut down the print production time and complexity. A true example of taking what we know, and using it to innovate. The impact of these small changes should never be underestimated from a sustainability perspective.”
About the first-place design. This year’s challenge was to create an educational package for Trees Into Cartons, Cartons Into Trees (TICCIT) – an outreach and educational program for school-aged children that highlights the renewability and sustainability of paper and paperboard packaging. Developed by the Packaging Paperboard Council, the program promotes use of paperboard as a sustainable packaging material and emphasizes the importance of recycling. “We approached this challenge with the intention to create something to promote learning and initiate a positive learning experience for the educators that would be receiving this product,” explained the winners on Instagram. “Our idea started by taking the TICCIT logo and turning it into this three dimensional hexagon box that would include many touchpoints to suit different types of students. The package was for children aged 8-10, so hands-on learning would be key for their engagement.”
The design was delivered as an educational package with three games for Trees Into Cartons, Cartons Into Trees (TICCIT). The two Ryerson students created the ‘Education Crate’ (a ready-to-ship package containing educational materials), a sampling carton die-line from TICCIT, and planting instructions to enhance the educational experience for elementary students. The final design was required to promote brand recognition and the TICCIT program, as well as be commercially viable on standard machinery and highlight paperboard packaging as a preferred substrate.
Their winning design gave great consideration to the ‘unboxing’ experience and gamified learning about paperboard. “We bounced ideas for educational games and crafts we could include in our design and made prototypes for mini-packages that could showcase the broad applications of paperboard,” they revealed in a post on GCM’s Instagram page. “Inside the box were three triangular boxes, an assembled sapling carton and an additional un-assembled sampling carton. Within the three triangular boxes, we provided three unique and interactive activities that keep students learning and having fun.”
“On behalf of the Canadian Paperboard Packaging Council contingency, I would like to congratulate Team Ryerson for their first place finish in the PPC Carton Design Contest. There were many Canadians participating virtually this year and cheering on our local university. I’m thrilled to say that Laura and Dorotea’s unique carton design was the highlight of the show! Thank you Team Ryerson for making Canadians and Ryerson Alumni proud!” – David Ellis, President, The Ellis Group.
Sponsored by WestRock. In lieu of an in-person event this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Canadian team was invited to participate in PPA’s virtual fall conference where Dorotea and Laura were presented with their prize. This year’s entry from GCM was sponsored by WestRock, a customer-focused industry giant in paper and corrugated packaging products, that’s committed to innovation and operational excellence. With 44,000 employees and nearly $15 billion in revenue, WestRock joined the virtual congratulatory celebration by hosting a meeting at the end of the conference, to personally congratulate the students on their winning design. “We all face new challenges in a COVID climate. Doratea and Laura rose to the challenge to create an engaging and intuitive packaging solution to inspire the next generation of thinkers and makers,” said Brad Walling, Senior Director of Design (Food and Beverage, Americas) at WestRock. “What impressed me the most as a packaging professional was their tenacity and collaborative spirit. Working as a team, in many cases across time zones and with limited tools, Doratea and Laura created an impressive hexagonal carton that communicated a sustainability message that was both engaging and fun.”
“Rather than focusing only on visually appealing or specific parts of the TICCIT packaging, the students took a holistic approach to design the package that considered structural integrity, graphics, manufacturing, user experience, and sustainability,” said Jay Park. “As a GCM faculty advisor, I admired their teamwork and ability to overcome the many challenges and uncertainties presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
About the Paperboard Packaging Alliance (PPA). The Paperboard Packaging Alliance (PPA) is a joint initiative of the American Forest & Paper Association and the Paperboard Packaging Council. Its mission is to promote the benefits of paperboard packaging and products to influence preference for these materials in packaging design and selection.