This is a little post about a little box that comes with a little computer. But the box tells a big story about packaging design.
Computers are high-value products and need solid, durable packaging. I keep all the boxes my Apple products come in (recycled and FSC content) and stack them up to raise my notebook for Zoom calls—I don’t want people looking up my nose. But it is all sort of ad-hoc.
Now, Taiwan computer company ASUS, which makes the thin and expensive ExpertBook B9, is changing the game.
ASUS has gone further than just making their box out of recycled fiber. It packs the accessories in a box that folds backwards into just what every laptop user needs: A laptop stand that raises the display.
It is better for Zoom calls and also relieves “tech neck,” which is what happens when you are looking down at the screen. As Posturite, a vendor of ergonomic products, explained: “The weight of your head hanging forward places a huge amount of strain on the spine which, over time, can cause aches and pains and even long term injuries.”
Google the term “ergonomic nightmare” and a dozen articles about notebook computers will pop up, all pointing out that you should use a laptop stand and a separate keyboard and mouse. One would think someone would have figured out a better design by now, instead of everybody selling their own version of a MacBook Air. We shouldn’t have to buy a second keyboard, mouse, or laptop stand just to avoid sore wrists and necks. Computers should be designed around our needs instead of making us adapt to them, but that’s where we are. At least ASUS is trying here.
ASUS actually tilts towards ergonomics with its scary hinge that puts the weight of the computer on the display but raises the keyboard to a more comfortable angle. My heavy-handed daughter has had this for three years and likes it, and it hasn’t broken yet. But it is not enough, which is why the box that turns into a laptop stand is such a good idea.
This is not the first time we have seen clever packaging from a computer company. A few years ago, we showed Samsung’s packaging for their Serif QLED TV, which came printed with instructions for cutting it up and turning it into a cat residence or a stand for the TV.
According to Gizmodo: “The cardboard is now perforated with a dot matrix pattern that makes it easier to cut up and reassemble into other objects. Scanning a QR code on the boxes with a mobile device grants access to instruction manuals for turning the cardboard into magazine racks, shelving, end tables, or a cat house your feline will turn to shredded paper in a matter of hours.” The Sans Serif typeface is embarrassing for a TV called Serif, but everything else about it is a clever example of reuse and repurposing.
This box that turns into a wedge is a different kind of thinking. It’s a solid box that turns into a useful tool. Instead of designing for disposability, we are getting a design for a second life—a new purpose. We need more thinking like this.