Inside Apple's secret packaging room

It's no secret that Apple sweats every last detail when it comes to their products, an obsession which even includes a product's packaging

Adam Lashinsky's upcoming book, Inside Apple, provides an intriguing look into the inner workings at Apple while examining the management and product development strategies they've implemented to create numerous game-changing devices.

Now it's no secret that Apple sweats every last detail when it comes to their products - which if anything, is actually an understatement.

Indeed, Apple's VP of iOS software, Scott Forstall, once explained the extent to which Apple leaves no stone unturned. Speaking to the design of the iOS interface, Forstall said, "I actually have a photographer's loupe that I use to make sure every pixel is right. We will argue over literally a single pixel."

Of course, Apple's attention to detail stretches out far beyond the product itself and even encompasses the packaging said products are shipped in. Is it any surprise that Apple, in addition to its slew of technical and design patents, also has a number of patents pertaining to package design?

While packaging may seem secondary to most consumer electronics companies, Apple takes package design very seriously. From the way Apple packages its Magic Mouse to the iPhone 4S, anyone who has ever opened up an Apple product anytime in the last 15 years or so can attest that Apple's packaging is elegant and reflects a thoughtfulness that most companies don't bother to deal with.

To that end, one of the more interesting anecdotes in Lashinsky's book reveals the existence of a secretive packaging room within Apple HQ that is only accessible to a select few with the requisite security badges.

To fully grasp how seriously Apple executives sweat the small stuff, consider this: For months, a packaging designer was holed up in this room performing the most mundane of tasks - opening boxes.

For Apple, packaging is more than how a product is nestled comfortably inside a box. Consequently, the user experience isn't solely relegated to the device itself, but begins when a consumer picks up the box itself.

In one example illustrating Apple's exhaustive attention to detail, Lashinsky relays how Apple's packaging room at one point was filled with hundreds, yes hundreds, of iPod box prototypes so that Apple could determine which box lent itself towards evoking the emotional response Apple was looking for upon opening up a product for the first time.

One after another, the designer created and tested an endless series of arrows, colors, and tapes for a tiny tab designed to show the consumer where to pull back the invisible, full-bleed sticker adhered to the top of the clear iPod box. Getting it just right was this particular designer's obsession.

What's more, it wasn't just about one box. The tabs were placed so that when Apple's factory packed multiple boxes for shipping to retail stores, there was a natural negative space between the boxes that protected and preserved the tab.

Apple's attention to detail hasn't gone unnoticed by its rivals, either.

Samsung's Galaxy Tab packaging looks remarkably similar to Apple's iPad packaging, and is even at issue in one of Apple's many lawsuits against the Korean-based electronics giant.

Going back even further, Microsoft's packaging team in 2006 created a humorous internal video, rooted in frustration, showcasing what Apple's iPod box would look like if it was designed by Microsoft.

The video subsequently leaked and Microsoft, to their credit, paid attention to the internal critique. The end result was more sleek packaging without the avalanche of information comically spoofed in the video above.

The other day, I bought a new case for my iPhone. The box the case came in is already in the trash. My iPhone case, though many months older, has been spared a trip to the dumpster.

Why? Well, I guess it just looks nice and seemed worth holding onto.

How a customer opens a box must be one of the last things a typical product designer would consider. Yet for Apple, the inexpensive box merits as much attention as the high-margin electronic device inside.

Indeed, there's a method to Apple's detail-obsessed madness.

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Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.