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How Consumer Packaging Has Influenced Medical Packaging

Stand Out Packaging in the Crowded Medical Marketplace

The year is 1883. Your daughter is running a fever. You’ve ridden four miles into town by breakneck speed on your horse. You burst into the apothecary and ask for a cure. The chemist pulls a plant out of a jar marked “willow bark” and puts it in a bag. You thank him and speed back to your log cabin.

Medical Packaging

The year is 2022. You stand in the pharmacy aisle of the bodega and contemplate the pros and cons of acetaminophen versus Tylenol. You squint through your glasses, fogged from your facemask, and opt for the (slightly more expensive) Tylenol. In the back of your head, you’re aware it’s the same product, but you’re comforted in your decision by the brightly colored packaging and familiar brand name.

Historically, packaging has been all about efficiency. The only things relevant to packaging design were the ability to transport the items, keep them protected and identify the contents of the packaging. Now, with billions of dollars in profit to be had annually in the medical industry, medical packaging is transcending simply keeping products sterile during transit.

Increased Consumer Awareness

As with everything in our lives over the past two years, recent changes all trace back to the novel coronavirus, Covid-19. Even so, few industries have seen quite the upheaval that the medical industry has.


Take, for example, oximeters. Pre-2020, it’s possible you might recognize these small, plastic devices (a cross between a finger puppet and a chip clip) from your annual check-up at the doctor’s office, but you certainly didn’t have one in your home. In March 2020, you would be lucky to find two or three damaged boxes shoved to the back of the bottom shelf down a random aisle at your local CVS. Now, oximeters take up entire end caps. The technology is simple and many companies make them. Through a combination of sleek product design, flashier packaging, and ease of use instructions oximeter manufacturers hope to stand out from the crowd.

Covid Tests

These trends go down the whole line through thermometers, over-the-counter medications, and even rapid at-home Covid tests. What’s particularly fascinating, if you examine the packaging these at-home tests arrive in, is they do not seem at all different from many others health and lifestyle products directed at millennials. They rely on nostalgic serif fonts and even in some cases boxes that look like they have tie-dyed or painted on with watercolors. You would be forgiven for thinking that a product that is as difficult to keep on shelves as covid tests, manufacturers would forgo any kind of packaging decoration, but consumers' demands extend to everything, even medical packaging.

The Apple Effect

Some theorize the shift in medical packaging design stems from the “Apple” effect. Design Engineer David Schweitzer notes how “many brands now understand that building relationships with patients and consumers starts with packaging. Doctors and patients always have a choice in prescription medication, especially in a competitive marketplace.” Schweitzer compares the ease of use and aesthetically pleasing design choices of Apple Air Pod packaging as something that should be emulated in medical packaging.

Apple Products

John Troutman, Lead Designer at Canary, echoes similar affection for Apple’s designs. “They’ve clearly set a gold standard in so many different areas. From a packaging standpoint, I’ve always loved how Apple can present something with as little explanation as possible and allow you to get it.” Like how the 19th-century chemist would label his jars with one word or phrase, Apple labels their tablet boxes with the immediately iconic, “iPad”. It is more than possible that we are approaching a full-circle moment. In a world where we are constantly bombarded with information, the most effective marketing and packaging could be the simplest.

Whether people enjoy the look and function of Apple products is a separate discussion, but one thing that cannot be denied is we are now having that discussion. Living in a world of choices, it is imperative that brands, even medical companies, put significant thought and effort into developing their packaging to be functional and stand apart from the crowd.


GCB Solutions has the packaging industry experience to help you through shifting trends. Whether you are beginning the design process or looking to make that final push to launch, we can help.

Call us at (904) 263-2804 or schedule a free consultation, today!


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