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It’s a wrap: Strategic design master’s students shine in package refresh competition

The Institute of Packaging Professionals’ 48HR Repack Student Design Competition is in the books, and four women in Furman University’s Master of Arts in Strategic Design (MAS-D) program are among those recognized for their creativity and design-thinking.

Clockwise from top left: Margaret Hughes, Caroline Williams, Judith Rios, and Abigail Jackson.

The M.AD Gals, including teammates Margaret Hughes (’20, Christopher Newport University), Furman communication studies alumna Abigail Jackson ’21, Judith Rios (’20, Clemson University) and Caroline Williams (’19, University of North Carolina Wilmington), came away with the competition’s inaugural People’s Choice Award (sponsored by Printpack) for reimagining The Coca-Cola Company’s 12-can fridge pack.

The IoPP Southeastern Chapter presented the virtual two-day design throw-down, which took place February 4-6. It drew 33 teams representing about a dozen universities across the country including Clemson (1st place winner), Virginia Tech (2nd place), California Polytechnic University (3rd place), University of Florida, Georgia Tech, Michigan State, Rutgers and others.

While the field was packed with big name schools in packaging, Jackson believed her crew was up to the challenge.

“I knew we were competing with schools that had packaging programs and 3-D printers and rendering capabilities. But we were like, ‘We’re in this, and we’ll just see what happens,’” she said. “We did our best and it was so unexpected to make the top 10, much less earn the first ever People’s Choice Award.”

Jackson came into the online event with a few competitions under her belt, including three Furman 24-hour “Sleep When You’re Dead” battles. She and her team selected The Coca-Cola Company’s challenge to refresh the fridge pack to make it more sustainable, portable, and consumer- and shelf-friendly.

The M.AD Gals, named for Furman MAS-D partner Miami Ad School Atlanta, gathered in Jackson’s and Hughes’ apartment and began hashing out ideas.

“You can’t just go to the computer and immediately start designing – you have to sketch things out in black and white first because introducing color can interrupt the overall vision for your idea,” says Jackson who leaned on past competitions to inform her strategy.

Keeping The Coca-Cola Company’s branding principles in mind while taking a ‘no idea is a bad idea’ philosophy, the M.AD Gals blurted out ways to recreate a package that had been a mainstay on shelves for 20 years.

“We actually came up with our idea within the first two we screamed out,” Jackson said. “Then we just kept going – thinking about materials and exactly how we wanted to execute it.”

The design team arrived at a stacked “double-click case” for the package, employing plastic lids that snap onto the tops and bottoms of six-pack Coke cans.

materials for click case

Sustainable and affordable, HDPE plastic was employed in the double-click case.

With no access to 3-D printing, the team scavenged the recycled high density polyethylene plastic bits from beer packages. The team’s graphics for the package reflected environmental themes and a renewed vision for waste reduction design.

Turns out the M.AD Gals didn’t need the allotted 48 hours. They finished the package, design rationale and pitch video in about 35 hours – not a bad investment for bragging rights, the first People’s Choice prize and $500 cash.

With the sheer number of submissions to be evaluated, the judging process by industry professionals took some time, Jackson said. The team learned it made the top 10 in April, but didn’t hear of the final award until a month later.

In the initial fray surrounding the emailed results, Jackson, who assembled three different Furman/Miami Ad School cohorts, wasn’t sure if any of her teams had actually won.

“We were like, ‘Wait, wait, is this us?’” Jackson remembered, when she read that an Atlanta team had snagged the People’s Choice Award. “We were so excited once we figured it out. We found out in class and just couldn’t hold it in, so we broke the news to  everyone. With all the schools we were up against, we were shocked and thrilled – we couldn’t believe it.”

The M.AD Gals score the People’s Choice Award, sponsored by Atlanta-based Printpack.

Last updated June 24, 2022
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Clinton Colmenares
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