Gaea is a storage & transport system designed to reduce the physical waste involved in the home-gardening process, developed over the course of two months for my Industrial Design 1 final project. I focused on sketching to communicate ideas, refining physical concepts using foam modeling, and a strong sense of branding through packaging design and marketing.
1 \ Task
How can natural forms inspire new product & packaging designs?
2 \ Solution
Gaea explores how a form can be versatile and aesthetic while protecting the precious materials that it carries.
3 \ Observation
I first dove into sketching detailed internal and external views of a pepper to better understand how a natural form protects the seeds within.
While I did not use this exact shape or system to guide Gaea’s final design, I was inspired by the cavities and makeshift lid of the pepper’s stem.
4 \ Research
Now was the time to visualize the moods and themes that I wanted to influence Gaea’s form, function, and identity. I wanted the final object to feel organic while introducing just the right amount of interactivity.
The natural curves and flowing lines in the first batch of images guided the overall shape of the final designs, while my love of neo-futurism inspired both the color choices and overall emotion I wanted to incorporate. Finally, I brainstormed a few materials that would best balance precision & quality with friendliness & humanity.
5 \ Ideate
I had a clear idea of both my own design personality and overall direction at this point; bringing the ideas out of my head onto paper (or screen, in this case) was the next natural step.
You may notice a few constants within all three of these concepts. First is the overall color scheme: varying tones of grey body color felt most pure in expressing the above collages, and best complemented various accent colors.
Speaking of accents, all three designs include an accent ring that are either orange or blue. I was very particular about this shade of orange, International Orange; it is the same color used on the Golden Gate Bridge and spacesuits, notable for being easily distinguished from afar. The accent is a beacon, drawing natural attention to the overall product. Blue matches the sense of serenity exuded by the plants that Gaea would hold.
6 \ Prototype
Over the course of previous projects, I had become most familiar with rapid prototyping using 3D modeling and printing. I wanted to challenge myself to gain more experience really manipulating material by hand. This led to my first experience of lathing and modeling with pink foam.
Achieving an even, smooth curvature when whittling a cube into a more natural form was an exercise in patience. These three models also gave me the opportunity to play with scale. From here, I sealed the foam with acrylic so that I could apply spray paint safely.
All I had left to do was glue the accent and body components together before embedding magnets into the lid and container to help simulate the way the final product would actually open and close. The resulting experience provided a satisfying level of pull and “click” when opening and closing the pod, all while keeping the contents secure.
I created the animation below to give a clearer idea of how a finalized version would seamlessly incorporate the body, accent ring, and lid. The bottom of the lid is a magnetic lock that syncs perfectly with the magnetized accent component; the accent slots into the base to provide a uniform surface while being easy to mass-manufacture and assemble.
7 \ Gaea
I created two distinct forms, one egg-shaped (Oon) and the other more spherical (Spharia), to accommodate volume, living spaces, and personal preference. These choices can be further personalized by the two body colors (charcoal and silver) and seasonal accent colors.
When closed, Gaea transports the seeds and soil necessary to start a plant’s life. Green-thumbers can plant these seeds within Gaea itself, upgrading to different sizes of pod as these plants grow.
I had the chance to complete the entire product experience by developing a customer’s first step in their Gaea experience: the packaging. The box’s lid features the brand name and subtitle set against a simple monochrome macro shot of a leaf. Many iterations of the background image, logo, and text placement were considered; my big picture idea was to have each lid feature a unique section of a leaf to assemble the full image when stacked together.
My favorite part of the packaging experience was designing a little pamphlet that provided instructions through simple and joyful graphics. This pamphlet was printed onto bristol board and then laser cut to create the consistent rounded corners.
8 \ Future
My experience with the full development and presentation process reminded me to consider the manufacturers, customers, and retailers throughout project development. The confluence of graphic design, product design, and marketing were all made so visible as I embarked on each part of this journey. I’d love to explore building much larger scale versions of Gaea to accommodate multiple plants and even small trees, really rounding out the product line and my own modeling abilities.
I believe that by presenting the initial premise of an all-in-one plant transport & growth package, and then delivering on form and functionality, Gaea represents a more sustainable future that further blends nature with our built environment.