From her office near Paris, Daphne Gerrits oversees packaging design for Teva products worldwide. And if you think for one minute that a medicine box is just a box, then Daphne wants you to think again...
Good packaging is vitally important; patients can be interacting with their medication every day, so design is really important for them – not only from the more technical side, but also from the way it looks. And we’re not just talking about patients here, we need to think about their caregivers, as well as healthcare professionals such as pharmacists, nurses and physicians.
The box is so much more than a box. We do a lot research to establish what people need from the packaging – there are emotional needs and rational needs. People want to be reassured they have a quality product in their hand and that means designing it in a way that brings it alive. But they also really want the information on the packaging to be as clear as black and white. A box might look or sound simple, but you need to go into a lot of detail to find simplicity and get it right.
Packaging is, first and foremost, about safety. You need to present the crucial information about the contents, but not in a way that makes the packaging so crowded that it becomes difficult to read. The most important information must be easy to find at a glance. We need to make sure that the packaging makes the job of taking the medication as easy as it can be for everyone who takes it.
People don’t want to be constantly reminded that they are ill – so a good package shouldn’t look too clinical. There’s lots of little things you can do – for example, people respond differently to different colors, so if you choose a positive color, you can help people feel better. At the same time, while it has to look nice, it can’t look like a candy box.
These basic guidelines apply everywhere, but when it comes to implementation there are other things we need to take into consideration, such as local laws and regulations. The trick is to have a design that is flexible enough to cope with those local needs, while at the same time ensuring we retain the integrity and benefits of the global design.
My office is near Paris, but we are a truly global team and we work successfully with people in many countries. Naturally, I spend a lot of time on the phone. We manage to get things done by collaborating, by making sure that people understand what we are doing. Over time we have built up a mutual trust and way of working that is really producing results. It’s a true team effort with collaboration between TGO [Teva’s manufacturing and supply chain organisation], folks in regulatory affairs, the brand leads, the corporate brand team, our packaging steering group - and more - who have been involved from day one.
I’m also a musician by training. I’m a pianist and I play the violin, plus I’ve got a PhD in molecular biology, which is how I ended up in the pharma industry! When I was younger I couldn’t make up my mind about what sort of career I wanted. I think in the end you need to do something you feel makes you happy, and keeps you going. Typically, that’s something you’re good at and that you have a passion for.
I love my current job, because – like making music – it requires creative thinking to produce the best solutions. If you work in pharma, it can be difficult to find your niche if you don’t fit in the regular boxes of things like research or finance. I am one of those people who didn’t really have a speciality – until now.