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Approaching Universal Design in Home Care Packaging

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Fmcg products, in general, should be designed to meet the needs of all people who wish to use them, so this requires a fundamental condition of good design that includes all – or as many as possible – in the usage equation. The global briefing Universal/Inclusive Packaging Design in Home Care explains that the need for UD or ID speaks to the changing demography of home care consumers and has a commercial value to the manufacturer.

The poor, disabled and the elderly together form a massive global constituency. Ageing consumers face the continued physical responsibility of maintaining their homes. A growing recognition of disabilities means a greater need to accommodate their related needs. The elderly and/or disabled also face additional pressure on their incomes – especially since many are fixed – due to needs and services required to accommodate their continued inclusion in mainstream society. These costs eat into their consumer spending power, forcing them to be more frugal with their consumption.

In 2015, the 60+ household demography will spend below the global average household expenditure of US$70, in constant prices. Manufacturers must keep in mind that this demographic had a significant overall spending power in that same year, since they make up 27% of the global household population. Regardless of the frugality of these households, they will continue to become a more prominent part of the consumer pool, as they are projected to reach 29% of household population in 2020 and contribute US$46 billion of home care value sales in that year. For manufacturers, the 60+ demography is a pot worth protecting, and one key approach to do so is by adopting more UD across their portfolios.

UD or ID essentially encompass the design and composition of a product, environment or service so that it can be accessed, understood and used to the greatest extent possible by all people. These are dependent on six principles illustrated in the briefing. Designs are unlikely to satisfy all of these principles within the same product. Instead, they are integrated towards an ultimate aim, that of reducing product exclusivity. In reality, the process tends to become one of choosing the most important principles for the product concerned.

In the context of laundry detergents, for example, packaging has in recent years evolved to accommodate demands for convenience and ease of use for consumers, as well as to maintain commercial margins or drive sales gains for the brand owner. This has resulted in the development of predetermined dosing formats, such as liquid tablets, which help to remove the physical effort of measuring, dosing and pouring, as was the case with bulkier powder and liquid bottled detergents. UD, in this case, could be argued to have been a “win-win” for both consumer and brand owner alike.


Consumers with mental or physical limitations will require product designs that compensate for what they lack, or at least help them to make the best of what they have. If one sense or physical capacity is limited, packaging designs will need to emphasise the use of other sensory factors to assist the consumer in accessing or using the product. Packaging design can take several approaches within UD, from a visual, tactile, cognitive, physical and process angle.


UD or ID is not completely attainable, but it is approachable. There is a danger that designs that try to cater to too many different individuals end up failing to meet the needs of any of them. The aim of the manufacturer in using UD in home care packaging is to get close to a universal design, then try to obtain the ultimate universal design. By bringing about meaningful designs that encompass the principles laid out in Universal/Inclusive Packaging Design in Home Care, then it can capture a greater share of future revenues.

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