How we built it: When it comes to packaging, sweat the small stuff

To help aspiring entrepreneurs understand what it takes to translate an idea to an actual product, we recruited six hardware entrepreneurs how they did it. They’ll be presenting some lessons and answering your questions at our Structure Connect event Oct. 21 and 22. Below is the fifth in our series written by Jason Johnson of August on how to design packaging to tell a story about your product.

From the beginning, we knew that the August Smart Lock was a product that needed to tell a very clear experience story. The challenge for August is that metal keys and analog access controls have been tolerated for as long as they have because they are part of a concise and simple story: “I give you this metal key and it gets you inside this door. People that don’t have a key can’t get in.”

Of course, this story is riddled with holes, but people accept the core premise. A majority of home automation products run into this challenge, and it is something that in some respects has held back the product category from mass consumer adoption, so that was the foremost idea in our head when we set out to design our packaging. How could we tell a new story about home access?

To do so, we knew our packaging needed to carry a lot of storytelling power for us in terms of the context of the device and what it can do for you.

For context, we wanted to quickly establish that this was a product that is part of the “door opening” experience. The hinged design of the box allows the customer to physically open a door as they explore the packaging, immediately reinforcing this context. Inside this door, the customer gets a chance to see the device and feel its metal enclosure. Because people are trusting their security to our device, we wanted them to be able to touch it and feel how substantial it is, so they feel like they can rely on it.


Inside, we also include the very simple text “You’re invited,” which reinforces the notion that the product is about the very simple experience of authorized access and ease of home entry. It’s welcoming, like you’d want your home to be, but only to those who are permitted to enter.

On the back of the box are six circles, each quickly telling the value proposition of how August can seamlessly become a part of the customer’s lives. The result is packaging that we believe is beautiful and informative.

But getting there took some time.

We had several versions to address physical issues so that everything fit in the packaging nice and snug. For example, there are three steel mounting plates that rattled very loudly in the “shake test,” so we had to add a cardboard wrapper around the plates to keep them quiet. We also discovered after having units shipped to our office from the warehouse that the August would spin in the package and when a consumer open the box they wouldn’t see the logo badge in the right position. To fix this, we added a small pad under the device so it would stay upright and display the logo properly.

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In addition, we had several iterations of the messaging on the box, focusing on the simplicity of installation and use, as well as explaining compatibility along the spine. Lastly, our retail partner suggested we make the box so that it can be opened in the store and people can feel the quality of the product (it’s all metal). It took more than 12 months and seven different versions to get to the product packaging that will ship this month.

More than just a pretty package

Before we ever designed packaging that people wanted to open, we had to design our hardware to be open as well.

As a home security device company, we are very aware of the trust that our customers have placed in us. In the home automation space, this gets complicated very quickly as there is a certain level of interoperability or cross-platform compatibility that consumers are coming to expect. Home automation consumers want their devices and systems to talk to each other to create convenience, save energy or tailor their environment for comfort. But creating those links between platforms can’t introduce security flaws.

Thus, security is the number one topic that must be addressed before working with a platform integration partner — at August, we don’t move forward with any partner that does not agree to adhere to our standards. We will work hard to make our products compatible with a wide range of products and services — but, having a multi-platform compatible product will always come second to having a product that is safe and reliable for our customers.

Learn more about building the August Smart Lock at Structure Connect Oct. 21 and 22 in San Francisco, where Johnson will go into more depth on building a product that can be updated to keep working as the standards and needs of the consumer change without compromising security.