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Can Annoying Cigarette Packs Make Smokers Quit?

We have warning labels and anti-smoking campaigns. So why not intentionally annoying cigarette packs?

Can Annoying Cigarette Packs Make Smokers Quit?

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Screw Nicorette. RISD ID grad Erik Askin has a better idea to help smokers kick the habit: Make cigarette packaging so irritating, you have no choice but to quit.

As things stand, cigarettes are too well-designed, Askin says, and he’s right. The standard hard pack flip-top makes it easy to grab smokes, share them with the requisite “I-only-smoke-when-I-drink” mooch, and store them in small places: a pocket, the cuff of your T-shirt — wherever. Even soft packs have design cred. Industrial design kingpin Raymond Loewy whomped up the iconic Lucky Strike packs back in 1940, and dorks in pompadours and peg-leg jeans have been smoking them ever since. For too long, cigarette companies used good design for evil. Now, Askin says, it’s time to use bad design for good.

Ergo, he turned a rectangular pack into a thoroughly inconvenient diamond. Called Design to Annoy, the thing is so wide and the angling so severe, it’s impossible to grip without looking like a fumbling doofus. Bumming becomes an awkward collision of fingers — a social exchange best avoided at all possible costs. And don’t even try to stuff the pack in your back pocket. Chances are, it’ll fall out and if it doesn’t, well, that sucks for you, too, ?cause you’ll probably look like you’ve got a big load of coal in your pants. You CANNOT win.

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Production and branding also get trickier–that is, less effective and efficient for the maker. For example, the shape makes the label practically invisible in a vending machine:

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And it’s got too many weird angles, so it’s difficult to manufacture.

Askin’s idea is obviously a provocation, and he’s the first to admit that it would be “tough to implement.” Not that you should write it off entirely as the idle musings of a clever young designer. Cigarette companies already have to plaster morbid health warnings on cigarette packs. Why not morbidly bad packaging? Robbing cigarettes of their efficiency is a matter of public health.

Naturally, Design to Annoy got us thinking about other products you could rejigger to anger people into chucking their bad habits: a beer can, whose stay tab breaks off before you pop it open; a mug that spills coffee down your shirt; a chastity belt for your refrigerator; a roulette wheel that never, ever lands on your number. Oh, wait, for some of us that actually exists! The possibilities are practically endless. Designers: Hop to it.

[Images via Erik Askin]

About the author

Suzanne LaBarre is the editor of Co.Design. Previously, she was the online content director of Popular Science and has written for the New York Times, the New York Observer, Newsday, I.D.

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