Procedures – Bone Marrow Biopsy

Today I’ve had a bone marrow biopsy, I was a little nervous about this procedure as it’s fairly invasive in it’s nature and I expected some pain or discomfort. I’m fairly slim (apart from the growth in my bowel which makes me look like I have a beer belly!) which means that the bone in my hip where they have taken the sample is fairly close to the surface.

The reason for taking this sample is that as my form of cancer is related to white blood cells, there is a chance that the bone marrow has been infected. From this sample, they can asses how far these cells have migrated.

The nurses and Doctors were fairly reassuring and helped to explain each stage, but I thought I’d explain the procedure from my point of view. I should also add that experience will be different for different people so please talk to your specialist if you have any concerns.

step 1 – anaesthetic.

The anaesthetic is applied first to numb the area and the soft tissues that the biopsy needles will be passing through.

obviously the needle is fairly large as they need to insert one needle to puncture the bone then another to collect the sample. The anaesthetic is applied using a needle which gives a sharp scratch. Due to the amount of tissue between the skin surface and the bone, this needle is quite long and as it went in and as the liquid was injected I found this a little uncomfortable, but this discomfort was probably more tolerable than I would expect from a dentist.

step 2 – bone marrow aspirate

this first step is to extract a sample of fluid from the bone marrow. From me they took 2 vials (the same as for blood tests). The sample is taken with a long needle which passes straight into your bone. Being a long distance runner, my bones are fairly hard which means the needle took a lot of effort to puncture the bone. The first part as it passed through the tissue was fairly pain free and when it reached the bone the discomfort was tolerable. Rather than a stinging sensation, it felt more like a numb throb as I felt the pressure on my hip and the liquid drain. The nurse explained that sometimes as the pressure is released there can be a bit of discomfort, which I experienced as a numb throbbing perhaps warm sensation.

at this point, the nurse also prepared some slides so that the liquid can be assessed under the microscope. What he’s looking for here is lumps of bone marrow which can sometimes be mixed in with the blood.

Slides, samples and biopsy.
Slides, samples and biopsy.

step 3 – trephine biopsy of bone marrow

This final stage is to collect a plug of bone marrow for further testing. As mentioned before, my bones are fairly hard which means that this process was a little uncomfortable for me. Sometimes this can be performed with a small hand drill but talking to the nurse, he preferred to make the cut by hand as the drill can be a little too rough and also can give poor samples. This next needle is slightly larger than the first and is pushed through the skin using a slight and gentle turning motion to get through to the bone. The bone is then cut by turning the needle and pushing at the same time to collect the sample. The sample is taken through the tube and pulled out in one piece as a plug. (A bit like uncorking a bottle of wine!) From my experience, although a little uncomfortable, and lasting slightly longer, this was no more unpleasant than the first procedure. And I will honestly say that having teeth removed is much more uncomfortable.

Biopsy needle
Biopsy needle

step 4 – dressing and healing

Once complete, the nurse applied pressure to stop the bleeding and applied a dressing. I was advised to sit for a few minutes to assist with the pressure. The procedure was performed about 2 hours ago as I write this and although I can feel that I have a wound, the pain is no more than a dull sensation in my hip and a bit of stinging on the skin, which could easily be where hairs are trapped in the dressing adhesive!

so in summary, the procedure is about 15-20 minutes long, and although uncomfortable, I will be much less nervous going into the second assessment after my first phase of Chemo.

Non Hodgkins, B-cell, Burkitt’s Lymphoma and me

Today is the 22nd of December, the shortest day of the year, but for me the start of a long and scary road to recovery. I’ve been ill for several weeks now with a range of different diagnoses including appendicitis, chron’s syndrome, colitis, and more. On Friday (just on my way out to get a hair cut and go Xmas shopping with my Dad), I had a phone call from the hospital telling me that they’d like me to come in urgently due to a review of biopsy results.

Not very good at smiling!
Not very good at smiling!

Until this point, I’d been told by a number of people that being young and healthy, it’s not likely to be anything serious, that the risk of Cancer was low, and what ever it is will be treatable.

Although not panicking at this stage, I was now beginning to think that it was something more serious.

I wanted to track the events of the coming days for two reasons:

  1. To help people in a similar position as me to understand the process and prepare themselves for this technically complex, whirlwind adventure that I’m about to face.
  2. To act as a diary of events for my own posterity and to help me keep my sanity.

I hope that not only friends and family but others who are also affected by this condition can find something useful in this series, and if I’ve made a positive impact on one person, I have achieved my goal.

Diagnosis and Symptoms.

As far as I can tell, for these kind of tumours, the symptoms generally present themselves as physical swelling. Due to the location of my tumour and the fast growing nature of it, it was restricting my bowel movements which meant that I was struggling to digest food, open my bowels and a general feeling of sickness.

One strange symptom which occurred but only for a couple of days was night sweats. I initially thought I’d wet myself as the sheets and duvet were sodden. I then realised that I was dripping with sweat even though I was cold. Since having steroids, this symptom has gone.

In my case (being fit and healthy) the diagnosis was a fairly slow process. I first saw the GP about the swelling, who suggestive it could be my appendix due to the location. I was then referred to a gastroenterologist who again felt my stomach and suggested that as I was in fairly good health otherwise and the pain was not too severe, it could be something like Chron’s disease. So he referred me for a CT scan so they could get a better look.

About 4-6 weeks growth.
About 4-6 weeks growth.

While waiting for the CT scan, I became a little more unwell and pains, cramps and discomfort were getting more severe. I reached the point where I couldn’t eat any more and was being sick. At this point, I phoned 111 who sent me to an out of hours GP at 11:30 pm Friday 12th December. He decided to admit me to the hospital for safety. I spent about 5 days there where they kept me under observation and pulled my CT scan forward. The scan results were inconclusive especially noting that I had no visible signs in my blood tests, so they then performed a biopsy of the mass to determine it’s nature.

By Wednesday I was feeling a little better and the pain had been brought under control using pain relief and eating a purée diet to help food pass through my system. They decided to send me home over Christmas so they could identify and plan my treatment over the break with a view to starting in the new year.

The biopsy results came in on Friday 19th, and I was called into Worcester Royal Hospital which has a specialist oncology team who have been looking after me ever since.

Procedures – a catheter

I thought I’d talk about some of the procedures that I’ve so far been through and explain a little about what they’re used for, why and more importantly what it feels like.

Today, I’d like to talk about the Catheter, anyone who’s been in hospital for a few days will have experienced these, but for me it’s a fairly new experience.

What is it?

Top of wrist

Top of wrist

A catheter is a small tube with a valve that is inserted into a vein usually below the elbow.

they can be placed at any point, usually where the larger veins are, in my experience (I’ve had about 8 inserted over the last couple of weeks) I prefer them to be in the forearm as it’s easier to write and shower than when it’s in the wrist or elbow.

They’re inserted using a needle which is relatively pain free (a small scratch) which is then removed leaving a tube in place. It is secured using a waterproof adhesive label, although this sometimes need replacing after a shower.

Underside of forearm
Underside of forearm

What does it do?

A catheter is used to apply fluids (I’m currently hooked up to a saline drip to make sure my bladder is fully flushed through ready for treatment) it can also be used to apply medicines such as ‘intravenous paracetamol’ which is more potent and fast acting than tablet form. It can also be used for taking blood samples rather than having to puncture the skin several times.

What are the side effects/downsides?

Sometimes if they’re inserted or removed a little quickly they can bruise is the skin as a little blood is let out under the skin. Otherwise, I’ve experienced no worrying or painful experiences, the medical nurses apply these regularly and can help with any concerns.

Bruise from removal from a small vein.
Bruise from removal from a small vein.

The downside to these kind of catheters is that they need to be removed every two to three days as they can begin to get clogged up and uncomfortable. Between each application of fluid, the nurse will flush the line with fluid to reduce this risk, but as a precaution, and for the ease of the nursing staff during a long term stay, they may decide to insert a PICC line or a Hickman line. I’ll be having one of these inserted tomorrow, so I’ll tell you how it goes ūüôā

Saline solution
Saline solution

The Decline of Physical Media – a self fulfilling prophecy?

From my frame of reference as a packaging designer, I’ve had a fairly close connection with the media and home entertainment (HE)¬†industry for several years now.¬†I have always been a keen music lover both as an amateur performer and avid collector. It is with this in mind along with the recent news of the impending¬†HMV administration that I thought I’d express some of¬†my concerns about¬†the state and future of physical media.


It was at a recent National Trust visit that I realised how far the heritage and familiar logo of HMV¬†(His Master’s Voice) spans. As purveyors of music playing devices since 1899, the Gramophone¬†company opened a music shop in London¬†in 1921.¬†Following acquisition by RCA, HMV¬†were also instrumental¬†in building well known brands such as EMI and JVC in the 60’s and 70’s.

Aside from¬†continued growth¬†during the 90’s and some unsuccessful attempts at innovation,¬†I witnessed, along with everyone of my generation a much¬†more rapid decline in the availability of music in disc format¬†over the coming years.

After a sales peak in 2001 fuelled by the popularity of CDs Рand as my music buying appetite began to flourish, there grew an air of doom and gloom across the industry as talk of piracy and internet downloads (and of course supermarkets) threatened physical sales. Not constrained to music, film, TV and games also felt the impact of internet technologies. Although difficult to identify, I wonder how much of this decline was due to demand and how much was availability against convenience?

Record Shop

In my parents’ generation, going to the music store was an event. My Mum will recount stories of travelling with her mates into the¬†local record shop¬†to listen to music, grab a milkshake or coffee and choose albums to take home. Even as I was growing up, I had a wide variety of choice – Tower Records, Our Price, Virgin Megastore, I would travel into the city and spend 4-5 hours listening to the ever diminishing vinyl sections and be really proud of myself when I found a great record before it¬†became popular through¬†radio airplay. As time went on, and the internet age overtook, Vinyls and listening stations vanished from the high street to be replaced with everything from clothes¬†to¬†fruit-bars to headphones. A modern HMV¬†store would struggle to boast more than 25% of floor space devoted to music. So even as a¬†committed fan of the shopping experience, I¬†find it¬†increasingly difficult to satisfy my (admittedly eclectic) taste.

listening booth

If I talk to a marketer from any other industry sector they would start by telling me that one of the key motivators of their trade is buyer behaviour. Although there is now a generation of consumers who have never experienced the listening booth, I’m not sure their needs are any different to mine – I buy music over the internet too, in fact I purchase through several channels – music¬†on subscription, music downloads,¬†physical media¬†purchase through the internet and shopping in store. I listen to the radio for recommendations, I also like the ‘listen’ buttons on¬†websites – and my favourite feature of internet shopping is the “you might like this” suggestions. These features used to be available in-store although I fear that this added value and personal touch¬†was too difficult to quantify¬†against sales¬†in a demanding retail environment. What I am very sad to have lost through internet shopping is the additional content, the artwork, booklets and inserts¬†(and obviously packaging)¬†which¬†for me was¬†very much a part of the whole purchase experience.

sgt peppers lonely hearts club band

With its self-fulfilling prophecy, I worry that the music industry and HE sector in general has lost sight of¬†what’s important for the¬†consumer. I will personally be very sad to see the demise of music on the high street, and would love to see a wave of innovation which¬†sets to improve¬†the terrible audible quality that people seem to tolerate for convenience sake. For now, however, I leave you with some hope that I will at least¬†cling on to:

2012 Vinyl Sales grew by 39% in the UK (similar figures reflected in US) Рabout 15x growth since 1993
Digital downloads reflect less than 1/3rd of all album sales
Even with a 13-14% decline in sales last year Рwe bought 43.6 million CDs in the UK (86 million US)

Even in the high turnaround, impersonal world of modern music, our appetite is greater than ever.
Provided the industry pulls itself back together and re-invigorates its focus, I am optimistic for the future of physical media.

Why is Packaging Important?

I recently read a book (Ready Player One) in which the lead character became absorbed into a matrix style online gaming world which he felt was better than the “real” world around him. A world of warcraft style adventure ensued as they battled to win a prize to inherit their digital world from its inventor after his death.

Even in this fantasy world of a digital tomorrow, the character had to order his food and hardware to be delivered or collected from an outlet or storage.

I am normally a strong advocate for independent retail and the high street. It pains me to admit, however,¬†that¬†this year I purchased about 90% of christmas presents online. (though 2 gifts haven’t arrived in time which strengthens my argument)

This year (2012) online shopping is expected to reach nearly 10% of all retail spending in the UK and is growing quickly with almost two thirds of adults reported to make online purchases. [, ]

Even in the world of online, we still need Things and things need packaging.

Apart from the career it has developed, to me packaging is important for several reasons:

Product protection.

  • Cucumbers last three times as long on the shelf when shrink wrapped, which increases shelf life and therefore reduces food waste.
  • Good glassware packaging can reduce transit damage to almost 0%



  • For a retailer, liquids and grain would be much more expensive to distribute without convenient packaging.
  • Also as a method of preserving. Tins were developed between 1810 and 1813 to improve shelf life – It’s hard to imagine life without this type of packaging.

Tin Can


  • For a brand owner, packaging can communicate a product benefits
  • For the consumer it can help make purchase decisions.
  • Packaging is also a great way to communicate environmental or ethical status e.g. ‘fair trade’ or ‘recyclable’

Can Communication

Product Extension

  • A container¬†can be a way for the consumer to identify and interact with the product for example a shampoo bottle.
  • Packaging can also become a product in itself for example gift packaging where a collector will keep the packaging both for storage and as a keepsake.


By carefully choosing the correct materials and production methods, not only can we reduce cost and environmental impact of the packaging, we can also reduce waste (e.g. food or perishable goods) improve consumer choice and increase the value of the finished product.

The type of project I enjoy working on the most is gift packaging. The sense of satisfaction when creating a design which will be kept and cherished, rather than disposed of, offers a much greater sense of reward.

Cohesive Packaging Design

These days, you don’t have to look far to find a blog about packaging design. There seem to be hundreds of people from various walks of life giving their top tips about how to create great packaging. Living in the world of 2D,¬†it is easy to¬†forget the¬†stuff that makes the packaging. Many designers aren’t aware of the constraints or capabilities in manufacturing and find it difficult to look beyond the on-screen graphical representation.

Packaging is a tangible thing¬†which you can pick up,¬†hold and open. I wanted to talk about this;¬†the assembled bones and flesh that make up the creative design in the real world. It’s important that all the elements of a design are considered together. The way they interact, look and feel is as important¬†as the pictures and type placed upon them. I have always believed that it is the little details that make a big difference.¬†A minor change can really affect the overall feel of the end result. If, when developing an idea, the designer (or project manager) considers all the following elements, the end result will be a truly cohesive packaging design:

but before I start…

…I realised, while writing,¬†that each element could¬†independently become a huge topic, so¬†over the coming¬†weeks I will start to expand on these component parts along with several sub-headings which have evolved in my notes. In the meantime, however, I will try to summarize as a pre-cursor.

Shape or Structure

The shape is important for many reasons; identification, style, size, mechanics of storage and display. The shape can also determine the ease at which the product is dispensed. Structure for me is the method by which the shape is constructed. Whether it’s the position of a seam line or method of opening, a simple change can be the difference between nice clean lines or low-cost alternative.


From cost to weight ratio,¬†strength and security¬†through to nice¬†‘touchy feeliness,’ the¬†substrate plays a huge part in the final result. Carefully choosing materials which complement the design in a consistent way can really help the final message. In dealing with large global projects, the availability and environmental impact of the material is also a really important consideration. Poorly managed choices can adversely¬†affect brand consistency, corporate¬†image and cost.

Print Method

Whether a single colour flexo identity stamp or a complex gravure security label, the method by which we apply our text and graphics (although somewhat determined by material and volume) can help ensure our artwork is presented as intended. Rather than making a compromise because of supply constraints, by understanding the benefits and performance of each technique, we can apply our artwork both effectively and efficiently.

Finishes & Techniques

After print comes ‘finishing.’¬†The¬†generic term for what might be described as the final enhancement.¬†From in-tool embossing to glitter varnish, these enchanting augmentations can easily lead to a garish tackiness if badly executed.¬†With careful consideration, however, they can also be the little detail that you can’t quite put your finger on; an indefinable quality.

Present Packaging for Puerile Pastime

We may not behave as such, but my brothers and I are technically adult. Our tastes and projections of one-anothers’¬†wants have accordingly matured in a similarly mundane manner.

During our younger years, the unknowing exited surprise of an unwrapping experience was difficult to contain. It has slowly become the centerpiece to our nostalgic (and somewhat exaggerated) storytelling.

As we have grown older, through a combination of inherent¬†intuition¬†and fear of disappointment, we tend towards the safer “is-there-anything-you-need” options.

One recent Christmas, my youngest sibling (perhaps slightly drunkenly)¬†proclaimed “It’s not the same any more, I’m not sure I can get excited about clothes.” he continued to remark that the presents¬†we acquire as adults (although gratefully¬†received) cannot be ‘played with’ or enjoyed as the toys or games we looked forward to as children.

The problem therefore is this:

How can we be sure that the gift is useful and not superfluous while;
a) ensuring that the opening experience is exciting and
b) satisfying our curiously competitive creative nature?

The solution follows:

created by Liz

10 Things you need to know about packaging design

In its overuse, most people dislike the phrase “thinking outside the box” and there are countless packaging companies using similarly un-inventive tag-lines. You don’t have to search too far to find a blog by a branding or design agency discussing the merits of “brand communication” and “consumer engagement”. Today, however, I wanted to pick out what I feel to be the important aspects of packaging design and how they relate to the real world of packaging manufacture…

In plain terms, here are my packaging design top 10 dos:

1) Think about the contents.


Whatever anyone tells you, and however “loose” the creative brief, the MOST important thing about a piece of packaging is what goes in it. Packaging in its most basic state is created to contain something, so in order to consider the design, we really need to understand the product which it has to contain. The contents will therefore determine for us, at least, the minimum size, weight and shape, and in turn the method of opening.

2) Understand the function.


In 1896 Louis Sullivan posed the term “form follows function” which became a maxim for the modernist movement. This idea is therefore not a new one, but it is very important. Although there are some great examples of clever and unique packaging inventions, just creating something that’s different is not in my mind good enough. In order to create truly great packaging we really need to justify our design by relating the shape, materials and all the other elements, firstly to the content, and secondly the journey through which the product will travel. If we can answer the question, what function does this packaging need to serve (whether it’s strength, ease of use or so on) we can then create a truly meaningful design.

3) Be mindful of the supply chain.

A great example of why the supply chain is important is the success of shelf ready packaging (SRP) over recent years. In the world of the supermarket, product would be delivered to a distributer in a box, then shipped to the store in a box (sometimes a smaller one) then removed from the box, and placed onto the shelf loose or on another display unit or box. So some clever people decided that by designing the outer packaging in a better way, you could do 3 things Рreduce the time to shelf in store, reduce the amount of wasted packaging, and improve and enhance the brand message during the journey of the product, while giving better protection. If we think about the way the product is stored and transported, we can help to minimise the impact of our design on the wider world.

4) Establish the brand message.

Once we’ve considered the product and its function, we should design our packaging in a way which helps to enhance the message which the brand intends to portray. By selectively choosing the materials, shape and images we can help to communicate the brand to the buyer both consciously and subconsciously. Every element of design from quality and texture through to the strength and complexity can augment our idea.

5) Add an element of security and safety.

Whether attempting to subvert thieves in store, or minimising the risk of loss or damage in the post, if we can add a security feature to our packaging, we will help to improve its market effectiveness. There are many forms of in-store protection in the forms of labels tags and cases, but unfortunately many of these are uncompromising or ugly. By adding an element of “benefit denial” using intelligent materials or design, not only can we improve the look and feel of our product, we can enhance the effectiveness of the packaging as a product in its own right.

6) Research the materials and techniques.

Part of my draw to the packaging industry is the range and speed at which modern technologies are evolving. Even in my relatively short career I have seen some massive shifts in techniques and materials. I could in fact write a new blog about this subject in itself. By really understanding the tools available to us, whether it’s a clever printing technique or a new material technology, we can start to enhance our design in a unique way which works hand in hand with the processes available to us, rather than being limited by our own knowledge.

7) Design the opening experience.

This is my favourite bit of design. It may be true that success isn’t really measured beyond the shelf, but by getting in the head of the end-user and thinking about how they feel as they open the box, we can enhance our product by taking our customer through an experience which is easy and fun rather than annoying and frustrating. You don’t have to search far on twitter to find someone talking about a clamshell pack they couldn’t get into or a product that disappointed them on arrival due to a badly packaged state. If we can improve what I like to call the opening experience, we can begin to convert the sometimes negative image of packaging.

8) Be creative.

Ultimately, what we’re really trying to do here is to come up with something unique that people are going to talk about, or be interested in. If it’s a product on a shelf or delivered via online shopping, we need to design our packaging with words like impact and outstanding in the forefront of our minds. The world is becoming busier and louder, so it’s our job to help our design stand out.

9) Realize the Product/Brand extension.

Marketers call packaging the “silent salesman.” In many cases, for example toothpaste, the packaging is or has become the product. If we think of the packaging as an extension of its contents, we can help present it in a coherent way. Not only can we make a dull product desirable, we can engage the consumer by expanding the uses or features of the product by delivering it in clever ways or combining with other products to create new uses. Some brands even join forces to enhance one another’s image – for example, Jean Paul Gaultier and Coca-Cola (both of whom already have iconic packaging) have merged their brands for this promotion to create something unique and interesting.

10) Don’t forget to Develop.

Just because you’ve created a great idea now, doesn’t mean it will always be great. In order for a design to be relevant and up to date, it should¬†continue to¬†evolve. By considering this at the outset, we can even program ideas into our design so that we can add seasonal or promotional elements to help enhance the message in the future.

Procure! for procurement sake

Although politicians have been avoiding phrases like “green shoots” in recent months, the general consensus seems to be that the economy is once again starting to cultivate. Whether spending or saving is the best route to recovery, many companies have been erring towards caution by cutting as many ‘unnecessary’ costs as possible. I wanted to reflect on how this has affected the packaging industry.

First some facts…

P&G known as the biggest spender in the world of marketing implemented a 5.4% budget reduction between 2010 and 2011 having already reduced their advertising spend by 20% in 2009. At the same time General Motors reduced its yearly marketing budget by 16%, while concurrently channelling 15.7% towards online methods.
Even within the world of media, ironically, there is a reported drop of 11% in marketing spend across the board.
(sources: Times Business,,

The general trend is to spend more effectively by targeting consumers covertly through social marketing campaigns. Analysts therefore predict that marketing using online channels will overtake all other streams by 2016.

“P&G lay off 1600 staff members after discovering it’s free to advertise on Facebook”

So how does this affect packaging?

One of the prevalent strategies that companies seem to have adopted is to re-focus this spend in areas such as procurement. In the boom years, the driving force behind packaging sourcing and spend was the marketing department whereas in recent times, there seems to have been a significant increase of incumbent procurement companies and departments. There have been many new agencies offering these services on behalf of brand owners, while existing print management companies such as WilliamsLee-Tag and HH-Global have been diverting their attention to the world of packaging.

“Why you should consider a career in procurement”

If we can reduce cost of goods and increase competition in the world of packaging this is a good thing, although sometimes the ‘cheaper’ solution isn’t always the most cost-effective.

When outsourcing packaging, it is easy to reduce the cost of materials (e.g. weight reduction or material conversion strategies) or simply remove additional supply chain costs such as print enhancements, reducing the amount of component parts or offering a ‘generic’ branding alternative across territories or form factors. These kind of cost savings are quick hit and easy to quantify.

The Procurement Strategy

The problem with cost reduction strategies is that even when comparing direct campaign effectiveness, the long-term benefits of brand quality can be difficult to measure when trying to gain trust and recognition in the new world of social media. Cost inherently (but not always) affects quality so it is important when designing packaging that we fully understand the benefits and effectiveness of the plethora of finishes and materials in our toolbox.

The good news is that many of the manufacturers, meeting the challenge by being careful with costs and reducing spend during the recession have started to see comfortable balance sheets leading to new investment in premises, technology and machinery.

The packaging holy grail…

I’ve always believed that it’s the little details that count in the battle between good and mediocre design. By understanding the brand message and intended usage it becomes easier to convey this through use of materials and design. But even then, it is important to involve the right people throughout the supply chain from marketing through to manufacturing to ensure that the initial message is communicated in an effective and coherent way.

If you’re looking to promote a product through the viral effects of social marketing, the way it looks on shelf (or tiny .gif thumbnail) is no longer enough. In order to achieve the holy grail of a “YouTube unboxing moment” we must consider the whole opening experience. The unquantifiable and subjective ‘look, feel and quality aspects’ are key to the “I want one of those” effect. It is therefore important, while being conscious of price, to consider all the elements of the packaging such as material choice and design style during the evaluation stage. This way we can begin to really understand the wider effects of packaging upon brand effectiveness and customer opinion.

Why I like making Pop-ups

I love my job, but It has to be said that having to explain what it is that I do to everyone I meet, can become tedious.

“You design boxes?… But aren’t they all square?”

Although technically a ‘square’ (sided) box is actually uncommon, I have to concede that the unrelenting parallelogram has actually become the sequitur of my design career. To begin with, I would explain that it really is more interesting than it sounds. I would then proceed by embellishing in brand names and products that I worked on. Nowadays, I just agree.

Pink PSP Pink PSP detail

I first encountered pop-ups a couple of years into my career; someone showed me a credit card holder and asked if I could replicate something similar. The design was fairly simple: a folder with a slot and a panel which lifted the card when you opened it. This lead me to the realisation that I could add value to the design by presenting the product in a different way. From here on, the packaging became an enhancement to the product rather than purely a method of enclosure.

Guillermo Del Toro Detail 1 Guillermo Del Toro Detail 2 Guillermo Del Toro Production

The packaging company I worked for understandably required me to design in a way which suited their mechanical production lines. This meant that there was a limit to the complexity of the design I could create, but this only heightened the appeal of my self induced challenge.

Reindeer Pop-up  Church Scene

I spent the following months trying to find different ways to display the product while creating a design that could be automated. I dissected pop-up books, browsed through guides and instructions, copied and read up on some remarkable designers until I had visualised and replicated all of the main constituents of typical pop-up construction.

My first design took a while to migrate into a real product (I designed it with a view to creating the greatest movement with minimum assembly) and I was immensely proud when it was used in production.

One of my favourites

Each time since where the opportunity has arisen, my childlike enthusiasm has become difficult to contain. I will happily stay up all night cutting and sticking until the final iteration is successful.

Heavy Trash the making 1 Heavy Trash the making 2 Heavy Trash the making 3 Heavy Trash the making 4 Heavy Trash the making 5 Heavy Trash Studio

Heavy Trash page 1 Heavy Trash eyes-brain Heavy Trash Head

From “Heavy Trash- I want Oblivion”¬†Video – check it out here

The challenge with pop-up design is turning a flat piece of artwork into a 3D moving scene. For products where I’ve been able to work directly with the illustrator or key artwork, this process is much more fluid. But whether I’ve been involved at the start or fixing a design problem later, the¬†consummation of adding value and creating something from the original shape is greatly satisfying.