by Almitra Inocencio

It’s true. My colleagues and I have the innate ability to prolong usability discussions on most things that exist in todays world. These conversations typically blossom in situations where there are a few cocktails, direct sunlight and cheeseburgers involved. Oh cheeseburgers.

Sure, I’d consider myself a connoisseur of the condiment kind. I eat out a significant amount and there’s nothing that gets me more excited than the availability of a packaged, to-go sized flavor enhancer, aka a “Condiment Sachet.” After a sufficient amount of Googling, the internet provides a short history of the sachets for us all – these convenient little packets were originally modeled about 42 years ago, to provide a more sanitary experience with less waste.

Cool! Except for the feeling of disappointment I get whenever I’m about to lather on the ketchup with these incredibly awkward plastic rectangles. You know the feeling. You need two hands or a rigid set of incisors to rip one of them open; and they almost always tear at an angle in which the contents end up spewing out all over your white, silk blouse.

This leads me to the importance of usability in product design. While the idea of a travel-friendly condiment is great in theory, we must remember that in the end, the objective is to get the ketchup (or mayo, or mustard, or soy sauce, or chili paste, etc.) out of it’s container and prepped for consumption. In 2010, Heinz introduced their dual-functioning ketchup packet in an effort to make eating on the go more fun and convenient with the dip & squeeze.

A good step in the right direction, though a bit extreme, this makes me incredibly happy as it totally reflects acknowledgement that the packet industry is in need of a usability facelift. And maybe it’s a lot simpler than revamping completely.

The current rectangular design with the slightly perforated corner is troublesome due to the errors that are typically encountered when trying to guide a tear in the form of a precise half circle. Most of the time, we end up ripping straight through the packet as seen in the first photo above. I’ve noticed that in Europe and Asia, the perforations have been slightly altered to cut straight across the top of the packet. This makes a lot of sense.

Which leads me to something I’ve been conjuring up since my last visit to Burger King.

I may be over thinking this, it may just be due to the fact that I’ve misplaced my Tide To-Go pen. What do you think?