Friday, July 06, 2007

Seeking innovation in the wisdom of the past

They don’t make them like they used to. Well, the trend to do it like they used to is coming back. We are entering a phase where it is becoming trendy to look to the past for a glance at the future. Call it nostalgia, retro, or whatever else, but companies are realizing that in some cases the old ways are still the best ways.

I tried out an innovative concept in tea the other day – Mighty Leaf Tea. Why are they innovative? What can tea do differently? It is leaves in hot water, right? The secret to this innovation is going back to an artisanal concept for tea-making. Instead of shredding the tea leaves, which produces something tea-makers call “dust” (bad for tea), Mighty Leaf uses whole tea leaves.

What is really interesting about this tea, though, is the package design. First, due to the larger size of the tea contents, the package really makes itself a presence in your cupboard. By being bigger, they increase the chance of consumption. The greatest thing about this package is in the way it folds together. It combines graphic presence with shape and some ingeniously placed (and curved) folds to fold together in a three dimensional design that seals with a tab – reminiscent of the classic paper folding method of origami.

It is both simple and complex, and creates something that is functional and elegant. Like with origami and tea, great innovation can sometimes be found by getting back to the raw essence of a thing.

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