September 4, 2019

Top 5 picks for most iconic school packaging


Warning: May include nostalgia. 

Top 5 picks for most iconic school packaging – Fall is here! Which means it’s time to welcome the return of freshly sharpened #2 pencils and the smell of highlighter on binder paper. It’s back to school season, and all over the country kids are stuffing their backpacks with folders and composition notebooks.

We wanted to take this opportunity to highlight our top five picks for the most iconic packaging that define the school experience.


The list

#5 Glue Packaging

#5: Elmer’s Glue

Elmer’s Glue was introduced to the world in 1968, with truly iconic packaging design that reminds us all of elementary school art classes. The classic, white, orange and blue packaging features their logo of “Elmer the Bull” and a twist top dispenser which always seems to be clogged.


#4: Brown Paper Lunch Bags

The brown paper bag to store your lunch is still a staple of school packaging. It’s simple, efficient and what it lacks in color or any measurable design flair, it makes up with ease-of-use. Roll up the top to generate a makeshift lid and it can be carried or stashed in a backpack. It represents the ultimate example of utilitarian packaging, carrying the lunch essentials from home to school. Just pray it doesn’t get ripped — or rain.


#3: Aluminum lunch boxes

There was a day-and-age where selecting a metal lunch box was a monumental decision in the life of a student. There were billboards that advertised your interests, connecting like-minded friends and making up a key ingredient in the fabric of the school social structure. Smithsonian has dedicated a full article detailing the significance of the lunch box and its role in grade school culture.

“Knight Rider” by Thermos, 1981. Richard Strauss / Sl.


#2: Lunchables

Beginning in the 1990s and continuing to this day, Lunchables litter tables and school cafeterias. The famous compartmented packaging was invented to allow working mothers a time-saving lunch option for their kids, with crackers instead of bread to maximize shelf life. The design is meant to mirror a typical ‘80s American TV dinner. To this day, kids peel off that orange plastic film and construct the cracker, meat, and cheese sandwich.


Honorable mentions

These packaging solutions missed our list, but definitely deserve mention as iconic symbols of the back-to-school season.

  • Jansport Backpacks
    • When we talk about school packaging, it would be remiss of us to neglect the container for all of our school containers. The simple zipper and canvas design in which we stashed all our books and supplies are clearly deserving of credit.
  • Plastic Sandwich Bags
    • Trusty Ziploc™ sandwich bags have been the answer for food packaging for everyone not eating Lunchables for decades. Strong, flexible, and air-tight plastic bags are a key ingredient in back-to-school lunch packaging.
  • Clorox Disinfectant Wipes
    • Every classroom needs a turquoise, hard plastic, pop-top cylinder to help battle the onslaught of germs. Also, it wouldn’t be the back-to-school season without children getting each other sick.


#1: Crayola Crayon’s box

Our top pick for school packaging has to be the iconic green and yellow design of the Crayola crayon box. It’s stood as the industry standard for generations and continues to dominate back-to-school aisles and classrooms. Crayola has added major functionality improvements to the packaging as well, including the upright design that allows crayons to be selected and replaced one at a time and the all-important, built-in sharpener. Crayola’s packaging defines reusability and to this day, kids learn the names of obscure colors from the back of the Crayola box. For all of these reasons, we give Crayola crayons our top spot for most iconic school packaging.


Welcome in a new era

 It’s time to welcome in a new era of packaging that will stand as iconic for future generations. Plastic bags present serious environmental concerns and cannot be deemed a long-term solution. We have already seen aluminum lunch boxes replaced with vinyl and polypropylene plastic models. What’s next?

There are a variety of companies that have launched sustainable packaging designs, aimed at improving the sustainability of the back-to-school market. For example, S’well has created a line of food containers made of stainless steel, with the intention to replace plastic lunch boxes. Ticonderoga’s new packaging boasts that the classic pencils are now made from 53% pre-consumer recycled wood. The box is green and features a leaf, wood image, recycling symbol and product name: “Renew” to drive home the message that Dixon Ticonderoga have planted themselves squarely on the sustainable side of school packaging.


Ready for the future

Iconic packaging designs have to be built for the future. The functionality has to be prepared to stand the test of time and fend off competitors. That’s why at EPE we focus on innovation and design optimization with sustainability in mind. We focus on the future.

At EPE, we create engineered, cost-optimized and environmentally sound packaging solutions, built to stand the test of time. We guarantee optimized solutions that are 100% recyclable and significantly reduce packaging material, which allows for sustainable improvements along the way.

Creating packaging solutions that go beyond current practices allows us to establish designs that become industry standards for today and future generations to come.