Reusable envelope for the Finland Post
Posti, the Finland Post, asked the University of Art and Design Helsinki1 to design Long-Life Envelopes that can be used more than 20 times. As a relatively newly privatized postal service company, Posti wanted to be equipped with a competitive edge to be a global logistics service provider. They regarded RFID2 technology as a potential core competence that will help them grow globally, given that RFID chips enables real-time-trace. The price of RFID chip was, however, several times more than that of an envelope, which made Posti come and ask for the reusable envelope design concept.
The solution has an envelope and a fastener separately. There are three glue spots on one side of the fastener that meet another side through three holes on top part of the envelop, which allows the user not to break the envelope but only the fastener when opening. Since all the elements that make an envelop dirty when used – post stamp, stamping by a post office staff, sender and recipient addresses – are on the fastener, the recipient can reuse the received envelope once again. Thanks to its similar look to conventional envelopes users can open the envelope without confusion and learn this new system easily. What is more, envelopes and fasteners can be customized for various purposes as long as they meet the standard of the top part.
Eight students with all different nationalities conducted the research phase as a team. The team aimed to avoid creating a whole new solution that won’t work with current infrastructure, and therefore visited number of places: RFID lab, paper factory, envelope factory, the sorting center of Posti and an insurance company that uses millions of envelopes per year. The team also conducted few interesting tests, one of which5 helped find that the reason envelopes are not reusable is not the durability of the material but addresses, the post stamp and payment approval by post office staff.
During the problem solving phase, I have teamed up with Astrid Nørgaard Ladefoged from Denmark and made a great number of prototypes and tests. Posti purchased the intellectual properties of the design solution of me and Astrid.
1. Taideteollinen Korkeakoulu, TaiK in short, in Finnish. The name of the school has changed to Aalto University School of Art and Design as on January 1, 2010 due to the merger with Schools of Economics and School of Science and Technology.
2. The use of an object (typically referred to as an RFID tag) applied to or incorporated into a product, animal, or person for the purpose of identification and tracking using radio waves, Wikipedia. 「http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rfid」, retrieved January 9, 2010.
3. Team members sent an envelope attached with different materials to each other to see which one gets dirty or wears out more quickly. The team found out that paper – the most common material of an envelope – neither gets dirty more quickly nor wears out more easily than other synthetic materials.