‘Design The Box’; a fun exercise to generate insights and ideas for your product and help understand your users

Imagine walking through a supermarket. Hundreds of products are vying for your your attention. Often, the only thing you can actually see is the packaging, not the product itself. Unless you know exactly what you need, packaging is an important part of what draws us to purchase a product. What kind of story does it tell? What benefits does it emphasize? What kind of visuals are used to convince you? What about fonts or the name of the product? How is it described in the packaging?

‘Design The Box’ is a fun, creative exercise to help teams step into the shoes of their users. Instead of brainstorming the product itself, we instead brainstorm the packaging. What would the box look like? How would it convince potential users? ‘Design The Box’ is a great exercise for idea-generation. But it also works as a refresher of the user’s perspective when development has been underway for a while.

This variation of ‘Design The Box’ is a simplified version of the one presented in ‘Gamestorming’ by Dave Gray and Sunni Brown:

  • Get your hands on a lot of creative materials; magazines, glue, markers, colored paper, stickers and of course cardboard boxes. Find a room that is large enough to allow a number of teams to work on their boxes;
  • Gather your team, or the teams, that are working on the product. Divide the group into teams of up to 6 people. If your teams are about that size anyways, you can consider keeping the teams as they are and turn the exercise into a team-building activity as well;
  • Invite the teams to briefly brainstorm key features, ideas and things that would be part of the product. It helps to come up with a name and potential groups of users. This is useful both for existing products or for a new ones. The purpose here is not to create an exhaustive list, but just to get the creative juices flowing and build a foundation for the next rounds (15 minutes);
  • Invite teams to create the box using whatever materials they have, using a large cardboard box as their canvas. Encourage teams to go wild and be creative. The box doesn’t have to be incredibly realistic. But it should feature taglines, benefits, images and slogans that fit with the idea of the product (30 min);
  • When the teams have finished creating their boxes, ask them to sell their box to the other teams. Give them a stage and a limited amount of time to present the box (say 5 minutes). Pay particular attention to how teams emphasize particular benefits of the product as these may offer insights and novel ideas. Reflect with the audience on the differences and similarities between the creations;
  • If you want to add a competitive element, you can ask the audience to vote for the box that best captures the product. A simple treat for the winning team usually works best;

The completed boxes can be kept around for future reference. Teams often like to put the box on display in their team room. It is a nice reminder of the user’s perspective on the product.

Presenting the Box

Christiaan Verwijs
Christiaan Verwijs

Scrum Master, Trainer, Developer & founder of Agilistic