How Amazon Now Shapes What Our Stuff Looks Like

Amazon has a lot of power of design and culture as a result now. Hopefully, their ethics won’t screw us all over.

As I came up as a designer and I started to present to footlocker, Dicks Sporting Goods, Target and then later The Apple Store and Best Buy I was amazed at how much input the retailers had on everything from color (ever wonder why all the electronics in Best Buy are black?) to overall product concept. Retailers have always had a lot of opinions based on what they see happening in their doors. With the consolidation from mom and pops, to regionals, to big boxes those opinions have got more influential… those opinions while well intentioned, are always based on data of past performance, not marketplace trends and not based on what is best for the brand. In other words, they are a good input when balanced out with other inputs.

Now we have another consolidation going on with Amazon. The interesting thing is Amazon will sell anything. They have publicly said if there is one person in the world who wants one of something they want to be able to sell it. However that doesn’t mean it will come up high in their algorithms. That is a combination of reviews, clicks, and pay to play on the back end.

This particular influence on packaging I find positive though. I had to go through several packaging redesigns specifically for the Apple Store. They just wanted us to make really expensive packaging with magnetic flaps, UV inks, and over done OoBEs. All that stuff takes away from the percentage of the BOM devoted to the product (or raises the retail price, or kills margin) and it just gets thrown away. Amazon is influencing brands to do the opposite. They have an “Easy Packaging” standard which is basically the simplest craft box with one color printing, 100% designed to be shipped and recycled. That is a good thing in my opinion.

I’m all against unnecessary stuff, but lowest common denominator I don’t think is great for the brand, consumer or designer. Isn’t designing experience what we are all about? Packaging is part of that experience. Next thing you’ll see is Amazon requiring all products to be 1x1 dimensional cubes for shipping as all the products are smart/connected/iOT and we designers won’t have any say in the matter? No thanks?

Bad enough I think that just by Amazon retail control most products aren’t held/touched/felt so all the good stuff we designers like to put into products (nice CMF, materials, weight considerations) are irrelevant and all the matters is price… Don’t also get me started on the super weird practice of Amazon using their own terrible in-house photos for some products they distribute.


Looks like the next step in the tide pod challenge. I wonder how many people will try to smash down one of these in 1 go.
With the styling I thought it was a carton of orange juice in the kitchen.

Never a bad time to listen to Zappa on creativity. Hate his music, but the first time I was face to face with a retail buyer, I completely understood what he was talking about.

Thanks for posting that video Ray. I saw that a couple of years ago and felt the same way. We would do all of this research and development only to get in front of a buyer who would say “meh, I don’t like it… what else have you got”… or “these are selling right now, you have anything like that?” . I’ve also worked with some great buyers who have been able to abstract trends from what they see that is selling and have wanted to be a proactive part of the process to help us develop the right thing. They are the rare gems.