In the 2nd-year Lifecycle and Flows Class, Charlotta Hellichius took on the sustainability of an infant toy and redesigning a part of its ecosystem to decrease its environmental impact. "Sophie the Giraffe", manufactured by Vulli, is a French teeth-er made out of natural rubber—and a bit of a phenomenon. Sophie sales have soared, quadrupling since 2006, even before Sophie was exported to foreign markets. (Indeed, in 2010 there were 816 000 giraffes sold in France. 828,000 babies being born that year, suggesting that almost every French baby got one.) And this year, the company expects to sell more Sophies outside of France than domestically.
The rubber Sophie is made from is sourced from the Malaysian Coast. It is transported to a small manufacturing facility in Rumilly, France, and then the finished product is exported to many foreign markets. To end up in American stores, Sophie travels far; Charlotta set out to minimize the impact of her journey.
Her research revealed that Sophie is packaged as a "precious product" even though her materiality isn't. As Sophie is one of the most gifted child toys, it is firstly individually packaged, then typically gift wrapped and put in a bag to bring home. The project aimed to reduce the layers of packaging and reduce material resources.
Sophie is made of an elastomer, and is therefore flexible. Charlotta reimagined the placement of the toy in a "warped state"—it's giraffe neck bent down in its box. Upon opening, the neck out spring back, returning to its original shape. This created an opportunity to significantly minimize Sophie's packaging.
Since the product is targeted at giftgivers, Charlotta's design provides Vulli with an opportunity to both reduce materials, increase nesting and shipping efficiencies, and provide the user with a dramatic "pop up!" delightable when the recipient opens the package. Using 1/6th the amount of packaging, the re-imagined packaging of Sophie complements the existing Vulli offerings, and creates a new consumer experience whilst minimizing its environmental footprint.
Finally, being a small, family-run company, Vulli has the possibility to test packaging in small, local runs. There may be much to be gained (and saved) with this novel redesign.