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Ryerson GCM students win PPA Student Design Challenge

November 4, 2020  By PrintAction Staff

Dorotea and Laura's winning design — a three-dimensional hexagon box including touchpoints to suit different students. Photo: Ryerson GCM.

Two Ryerson Graphic Communication Management (GCM) students, Dorotea Bajic and Laura Rendell-Dean, earned the top spot in the Paperboard Packaging Alliance (PPA)’s Student Design Challenge. This marks the first time Ryerson students have achieved a top-three result in the competition, and also the first time a Canadian project has won the challenge.

Laura Rendell-Dean, fourth-year Graphic Communications Management student. Photo: Ryerson GCM.

“This win means a lot to me and it’s really crazy to think we are the first GCM students and Canadians to win this competition, especially when it means our design is going to be commercially produced,” said Laura Rendell-Dean, one of the winners.

This year’s design challenge was to create an educational package for Trees Into Cartons, Cartons Into Trees (TICCIT), an outreach and educational program developed by the Packaging Paperboard Council. The program aims to educate school-aged children on the renewability and sustainability of paper and paperboard packaging by promoting it as sustainable packaging material and emphasizing the importance of recycling.


“We approached this challenge with the intention to create something to promote learning and initiate a positive learning experience for the educators that would be receiving this product,” Dorotea and Laura explained on a Ryerson GCM Instagram post. “Our idea started by taking the TICCIT logo and turning it into this three-dimensional hexagon box that would include many touchpoints to suit different types of students. The package was for children aged 8-10, so hands-on learning would be key for their engagement.”

The final product, the Education Crate, is a read-to-ship package containing education materials, a sampling carton dieline from TICCIT and planting instructions to enhance the educational experience for elementary students. The final design was required to promote brand recognition and the TICCIT program, be commercially viable on standard machinery and highlight paperboard packaging as a preferred substrate. Dorotea and Laura’s winning design gave “great consideration to the unboxing experience and gamified learning about paperboard.”

Dorotea Bajic, fourth-year Graphic Communications Management student. Photo: Ryerson GCM.

“We bounced [around] ideas for educational games and crafts we could include in our design and made prototypes for mini packages that could showcase the broad applications of paperboard,” said Dorotea and Laura on Instagram. “Inside, the box contains three triangular boxes, an assembled sampling carton and an additional unassembled sampling carton. Within the three triangular boxes we have provided three unique and interactive activities that keep students learning and having fun.”

The event was held by the Paperboard Packaging Alliance (PPA), a joint initiative of the American Forest & Paper Association and the Paperboard Packaging Council (PPC). In lieu of an in-person event, the team was invited to participate in the PPC’s virtual fall conference, which is where the two Ryerson students were presented with their award. This year, Ryerson GCM was sponsored by WestRock, a paper and corrugated packaging products company.

GCM Associate Professor Natalia Lumby and Assistant Professor Jay Park both acted as faculty advisors supporting the students in their competition entry. Other entrants to the competition hailed from a number of leading institutions, including California Polytechnic State University and Clemson University. The competition is known as an elite international event that is well-known in the packaging industry for its level of difficulty and prestige.

The design was delivered as an educational package with three games for Trees Into Cartons, Cartons Into Trees (TICCIT). Photo: Ryerson GCM.

According to Jay Park, the students took a holistic approach to designing the packaging that considered structural integrity, graphics, manufacturing, user experience and sustainability.

“I’m so incredibly proud of our team this year. In addition to creating a solution that is visually appealing and innovative, they were able to use their technical knowledge to create a package that is highly functional,” added Natalia Lumby. “For example, by creating a design that is printed only on one side and folded into itself, they were able to cut down the print production time and complexity. A true example of taking what we know, and using it to innovate. The impact of these small changes should never be underestimated from a sustainability perspective.”

Recognition came from industry leaders, as well. “On behalf of the Canadian Paperboard Packaging Council contingency, I would like to congratulate Team Ryerson for their first-place finish in the PPC Carton Design Contest,” said David Ellis, president of The Ellis Group. “There were many Canadians participating virtually this year and cheering on our local university. I am thrilled to say that Laura and Dorotea’s unique carton design was the highlight of the show. Thank you, Team Ryerson, for making Canadians and Ryerson Alumni proud!”

This competition marks the second international packaging competition win for Ryerson GCM this year.

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