The Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA) honoured Target’s ClearRx packaging with the Design of the Decade Award. ClearRx, a D-shaped bottle, addresses the communication, packaging and system deficiencies encountered by users of maintenance drugs.
The introducing of the ClearRX system in 2005 was one of the major changes in prescription packaging in a generation, as it provides a solution that can reduce risks associated with taking medications.
Although my voice is of no importance, I fully underwrite the decision of the IDSA.
A shocking 60% of Americans don’t take their medications correctly. On average, over ten prescriptions per person are filled each year. With 300 million citizens, that represents three billion drug prescriptions. Consequently a huge amount of money is involved in issues of incorrect drug usage, while the costs are often measured in lives.
The ClearRX transparent, tapered, Target-red-tinted polyethylene terephthalate glycol bottle stands on its head, with oversized, child-resistant and continuous-threaded closures providing stability in the medicine chest. The ClearRX label wraps over both sides of the bottle. At the arc of the bottle’s top, in large prominent letters, are the name and dosage level of the medication.
For liquid medications the bottle is side-calibrated. And there is the colour-coded silicon ring, initially in six shades, for families with several members taking their own prescription medications, that snaps on the base of the bottle’s neck. Each family member can have his/her signature-colour ring for easier identification of multiple prescriptions.
The bottles are produced in three capacities-17 1/2-, 30- and 60-g-accounting for the vast majority of prescriptions, with 24-, 28- and 38-mm neck finishes.
ClearRX is designed by Deborah Adler and Klaus Rosburg of Sonic Design Solutions. The bottles are extrusion/blowmoulded by Kerr Group, which also is responsible for the two-piece CR and CT closures fitted with foamed low-density polyethylene liners produced by Tri-Seal, a Tekni-Plex company.
In redesigning the packaging, the goal was to combine information architecture with intuition and previous knowledge of cognitive schemas (knowledge of what the most important pieces of information are). Deborah Adler proposed colour coding so that no two people in the same household have the same colour bottle. She wanted people at a glance to know who it was for, what the drug was, and when to take it. The packaging should even include a magnifying lens in the back of the bottle to make it easier for those with poor eyesight to read the small print.
Innovation proposals include, for example label printing with chemicals that change colour over time (so that when a drug expires, a big cross appears over the label).
Looking at the above described ‘thinking process’ behind the innovation, it is unfortunate that the introduction of the Target ClearRX bottle often has been treated as just a packaging and graphic design solution. Target appropriately describes the ClearRX bottle more broadly as a “prescription distribution and communication system.”
To prove their point just one aspect of the design as an example. As said, the bottles have colour coded rings that fit around the collar of the bottle to identify different members of the family. The concept is simple enough: Make sure you’re not accidentally taking someone else’s prescription just because the bottles look similar. However, the implementation is much more complicated because Target has to ensure the right colour ring is going around the right subscription. Therefore Target’s Pharmacy IT system has to track which family member has which colour ring so the colours are not accidentally switched when prescriptions are filled.
From listening to Deborah Adler about working with Target, it’s clear that considerable (if not more) design effort went towards the processes and systems surrounding the bottle.
The ClearRX bottle isn’t just a new SKU in a retail environment or just a piece of packaging that can be swapped out for the old design, it is just the visible tip of a much deeper system of drug delivery.
Read also: “The Target pill bottle isn’t a bottle, it’s a system” by Brandon Schauer (I borrowed some of his statements)
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