When thinking of the social aspects of convenience in design, I am immediately reminded of the Dead Kennedy's album "Give me convenience or give me death" (1). I always found this title amusing and true. Our society demands convenience, so much that we don't even realize how convenient the world has become. Many of the luxuries of our day to day lives are a result of convenient packaging design.
Over the last few decades, the world has exploded with new, innovative packaging. Just take a look at The Die Line (2). This site is a blog of endless, beautiful, creative packaging. Many of the items we refer to as "great" not only because they are aesthetically pleasing but because they make our lives just a little easier -- a re-sealable bag, a twist off cap. We have become so used to these new ways of packaging that its hard to even remember what it was like to have to tap the end of a ketchup bottle.
Not all aspects of current packaging techniques are positive. Much of this packaging, while convenient is not always the most environmentally friendly. In Nathan's 3m lecture (3), he spoke of the vicious cycle of packaging. He explained that most of the time the packaging that society likes is the type that hurts us the most. Many times packaging is oversized and un-biodegradable. It's tough to change packaging when the current techniques are often the cheapest options for companies.
Its a tough decision for companies to switch to environmentally friendly packaging. They risk the welfare of their product with every and any change. Companies like Sun Chips have found a good way of making their packaging green, maintaining convenience and also staying true to their brand (4). Society is not going to quit demanding convenience. Designers, manufacturers and companies must place a larger emphasis on inventing new, environmentally friendly ways to meet these demands.
3.Nathan from 3m, Sen Seminar Lecture, 3.23.10