Cardboard Carrier

Elysha Tsai
29 min readSep 24, 2019


Create a carrier for flavored vinegar based on an understanding of the item’s needs, also considering the roles the carrier plays extending beyond mere utility to include rituals, such as dinner party gift-giving. The carrier should be made entirely of cardboard, involve no adhesive, and be able to be assembled in less than 5 minutes.

I was assigned flavored vinegar as the object for my special carrier. I purchased this from Trader Joe’s because it had the characteristics and challenges of a typical vinegar bottle.

  • The bottle is long and slender.
  • The bottle is made of glass and is heavy.
  • The bottle is tapered at the top — it has a square base but a smaller circular cap at the top.

I was initially concerned about the lack of a spout on my bottle, but it turns out the weight and general shape are more important for the purpose of the project.

I: Exploration of Corrugated Cardboard

In order to familiarize myself with the medium, I created several cardboard “corners.” Through this exploration, I was able to experiment with different adhesives and methods of joining pieces together.

Before I began, I sketched out some of the shapes I intended to cut out and marked where the adhesive would go so I had a clearer plan before cutting. If I hadn’t done this to visualize what the corners would look like flat, I would have cut shapes that wouldn’t fit together effectively. I didn’t put pressure on myself for these sketches to match exactly how my corner would look like, but they definitely streamlined the process.

Some initial sketches to plan out the construction of the cardboard corners. These helped me visualize what shapes to cut out before physically experimenting.

In terms of attaching the pieces together, I used only hot glue because from previous experience, I know it is strong and quick-drying and I presumed the cardboard would be a substantial enough material to sustain the heat and weight of the hot glue. In retrospect, I wish I ditched some of my aesthetic-driven concerns and used other attachment means such as liquid glue, different types of tape, and perhaps thread.

The actual construction of the corners was not difficult. I found the cardboard to be relatively easy to cut — they don’t require as much precision as paper or foam board, but it is important to use enough pressure in cutting so that it goes through all three layers.

I considered the number of separate pieces needed to make a corner. (Only one is needed.) Then I considered the number of separate pieces I wanted my corner to have. I explored this thought in the 5 corners I made.

Five cardboard box corners I made with the purpose of exploring the medium and evaluating methods of adhesion. I will refer to the corners as “Corner #1–5” in which Corner 1 is furthest to the left, Corner 2 is to its adjacent right, and so on.

The corners I made ranged in complexity and practicality.

  • On one hand, the “extra corners” I attached to the third and fourth corner seem extraneous and unnecessary (even decorative) — but looking back, it has the ability to reinforce the specific corner (Corner 3) or one particular edge (Corner 4). The inner corner can potentially be helpful in reinforcing parts of the special carrier discretely. The increased surface area where the adhesive can bridge the two sheets of cardboard increases the structural integrity of the junction considerably.
  • I found Corner 2 to have the most evenly distributed strength among the three edges. Instead of relying on a very thin surface area to attach the edges of the cardboard together, the extended tabs that overlap on top of the adjacent side keep the three pieces well attached. I think I will continue to explore the use of tabs due to, again, the increased surface area where the glue can connect two pieces of cardboard. I think I will explore different shapes of tabs, manipulating length and width, thickness, etc.
  • Corner 5 is probably the least “practical” out of the five corners. To construct it, I cut out two rectangular cardboard pieces (containing 2 6x6 in. squares each) and scored it down the center to define the square shapes. I cut it into 3 “strips” perpendicular to the scored edge (I did this for one square for the 2 rectangular shapes). The “weaving” process was very difficult given the sturdiness and thickness of the cardboard. I had to use a lot of glue to secure the edges of each of the six strips, and the product’s sturdiness (on only one of the three squares of the corner) did not justify the laborious manipulation. However, creating this corner taught me to leave space between each strip and to possibly use a bone folder to bend the areas before trying to weave the cardboard. In all, weaving seemed to serve as more of a decorative element rather than a practical method of joining pieces of cardboard.

II: Creating a Model (“Dummy”) of the Object

Before I dove into working with the cardboard, I did a brief formal study of my object in my sketchbook. I broke down my object into different sections and simplified them into simpler 3-D structures so I can easier make a “replica” out of cardboard.

Next, I documented some of my initial ideas and plans based on my structure break-down of my object. I proposed different ways to approach each section of the bottle, but did not put any pressure on myself to commit to these methods since I wanted to explore different strategies as I worked with the cardboard.

Scans of my formal study and the preliminary “plan” for the construction of the dummy.

In the process of creating my dummy…

I experienced the difficulty with cutting along the flutes of the cardboard. I don’t think this poses a huge problem to the preliminary models of my carrier, but I will definitely consider this when I am arranging the pieces I need to cut out for the final construction of the carrier.

I had some difficulty determining what shape to cut out of the cardboard to create the neck of the bottle. I thought it would be easier to visualize how the neck form can be created by making smaller models. I concluded that the “net” of the cardboard must resemble a rectangular shape since the neck of the bottle is not extremely tapered.

L: the uneven edge of the cardboard that came with cutting along the flutes. R: using a small model to explore the conical shape of the neck of the bottle.
I realized that the cardboard piece had to resemble a rectangle a lot more since the neck is not very tapered.

In my formal study, I noticed that the corners and edges of my bottle were rounded, so I replicated this aspect in the use of multiple score lines instead of just one per edge.

Attention to detail: rounded edges of bottle created by multiple score lines

I took advantage of my ability to manipulate the three layers of the cardboard so I can make a cap. This cap, however, ended up too small for the neck. In the real bottle, the cap has a greater diameter than the neck of the bottle, so I later added an additional layer of cardboard to create this effect. This, however, caused both the neck and cap to be a lot larger than its actual counterparts.

Troubleshooting through the measurement errors I made in creating the neck and cap of the dummy.

Since weight is one of the most important and challenging characteristics of my object, I took that into account by filling the bottle with rocks.

I noticed that the bottom of the bottle caved in, so I scored lines on a square piece of cardboard to achieve this effect. I thought this might be helpful in case I wanted to take advantage of this concave element in the carrier models I make down the line, more specifically support mechanisms.

I realized that my initial plan to tackle the “transition” area of the bottle would be difficult to cut, so I ended up cutting out “wings” from the main bottle piece and glued them to a scored square piece with a circular cutout. I recognize this was a sort of last-ditch effort and the result reflects the lack of planning.

The most difficult part: the transition area.
Staged photographs of my dummy + comparing it to my actual object.


  • Think about how we are interacting with the objects, some objects want to be touched in certain places. (i.e. we don’t touch the frosting portion of cupcakes, we hold it by the bottom “cake” part)
  • By making our object out of cardboard, we are understanding the structure of our object better. We are learning how to simplify an object (translation). At the same time, we are learning physical skills — manipulating cardboard.
  • Organizing my peers’ approaches to the same object made me realize how differently they were constructed. (i.e. Donuts: stacked upwards, separate pieces curved inwards, “shell”)

Takeaways for my own dummy:

  • The weight is accurate (enough) to the actual vinegar bottle. People were surprised at how heavy it was when they first held it.
  • The dummy is wider and shorter than my actual bottle. I measured exactly 2.5in. of my cardboard on each side because that was the actual width of the bottle, but I didn’t account for the added width that comes with scoring the cardboard and folding it.
  • I didn’t plan out the “transition” area (between the main wide part of the bottle and the neck) well enough so the result is a shorter bottle. The folding of the cardboard and overall construction of that area is also sloppy and very telling of the lack of planning.
  • In general, I was too focused on what my dummy looked like from the outside, I disregarded the nuances and maintenance of accuracy to my actual object. I also concluded that I spent too much time thinking and not doing — this is a problem I have that is consistent across many projects I want to work on.

General Takeaways + How it applies to the Creation of the Special Carrier:

  • If I’m unsure if something would work, try making a prototype of it to test its effectiveness instead of trying to work it out through thinking/drawing.
  • The thickness of cardboard changes the way I should plan out my cardboard cut-outs, compared to the actual measurements of the object. Because I wasn’t aware of this before creating the dummy, my dummy ended up being a lot larger than intended.
  • Scoring cardboard weakens it and also increases the size of the cardboard piece when bent.

III: Preliminary Models of the Special Carrier

Before I dove into creating sketches of a potential carrier, I considered what makes a carrier a carrier, and what a carrier means for my object.

To me, a carrier is something that makes an object easier to transport from one place to another and contains some element of support or protection for the object. I associated the ease of transport aspect with the presence of handles. For the vinegar bottle specifically, since (1) the cap is unscrewed from the top and has the potential to leak if tilted and (2) the bottle is long and skinny and is meant to stand vertically, all my models contained handles. I also wanted my carrier to contain substantial support on the bottom and the sides due to the weight and tall height of the bottle — my preliminary models reflect these thoughts.

What I considered in these preliminary models:

  • Structure/support
  • Number of Pieces
  • Ease in construction/Straightforwardness

I didn’t want to be influenced by the form and design of carriers for objects like my vinegar bottle just yet. I sketched out several potential models, their nets, and the mechanisms involved. Somewhere along the process, I referenced images of wine bottle bags. The results lacked in a lot of variety: (1) the bottle is inserted and removed from the bottom from the top of the carrier, (2) the handles are either cut out from the bag material or are string attached to the main “bag,” (3) there are two handles.

In creating the initial designs for my models, I attempted to draw interesting forms encasing the bottle first, then thinking about how, in a practical sense, they would be carried and supported by the material. Then I drew more sketches with the intention of planning out what pieces to cut and how they would be constructed in real life.


My first model is a representation of my initial thoughts when placing a bottle of vinegar in a carrier. I made this to get the idea of a “bag” out of my system. The construction was very simple: it is made out of one piece of cardboard, with two rectangular cutouts for the handles. The entire carrier is held together by three lines of hot glue on the bottom panel.


  • It supports all sides of the bottle effectively.
  • The fit is very snug and it is clear the carrier was constructed for the bottle.


  • Handles are small and uncomfortable —they dig into the fingers and don’t accommodate larger hands.
  • Curvatures of bottle are not represented in the form of the carrier.
  • The carrier does not represent the form of the bottle, the bottle is only visible from the top.


I had a lot of sketches involving using a long piece of cardboard that extends up from either side of the bottle. This model is what resulted from that. I also explored using a neck hole and offering multiple points of support (neck + bottom) in order to accommodate the bottle’s challenging features.


  • Streamlined and follows general contour of the bottle
  • Gradual “unpacking” of the bottle is interesting


  • Handles are small and do not accommodate for more than a few fingers
  • Not supportive of weight and height of vinegar bottle, the carrier does not inspire confidence
  • Requires separate pieces to come together — not cohesive


The last model I made on this day was inspired by the curvilinear aspects of my vinegar model — I wanted at least one model to celebrate this. My initial plan was to make an “8” form out of the cardboard, but then I realized at the halfway point, a slot needed to be created so the upper half “handle” can continue to support the bottom half.

After cutting out a long piece of cardboard, I set the bottle in the middle and used the bottle as a guideline as to where to score and fold the cardboard so it follows/fits the bottle’s shape. I determined where to cut out areas of support, slots, etc. in the process of forming to general “8” shape. The walls of the carrier ended up being pretty far away from the carrier itself, since I wanted to somewhat conform to my original sketches of the carrier. I achieved the curved walls with a bone folder — I scored the cardboard at even intervals and made sure to individually bend them inwards. I realized that this adds almost an “elastic” quality to the cardboard. I was able to straighten the cardboard when I had to, but in a resting position, it remains curved.

After determining the neck hole as an area of support for the bottle, I cut out tabs to connect the “halfway point.” This obviously won’t sustain the bottle — this led to the use of a slot instead.
After threading the end of the cardboard through the slot I cut out, I realized that the tab needs to be inserted further down the front panel than I anticipated.
I created these square borders intending it to go around the bottle in another model, but I ended up using them as a support in my final model. The rounded square cut out from square pieces creates a wall around the bottle so it doesn’t slide around when the carrier inevitably swings. This is the only place I used an adhesive.

I randomly came up with this tab mechanism that worked decently, to my surprise. I knew that I wanted the tab to be seamless against the front wall, so I decided to cut a thin slot where the tab/handle can fit through. To secure it, I scored the outside of the handle. This makes it so that the area below the scored line gets caught in the slot when the carrier is being carried. To release the tab, one simply has to push down on the bottom part (inside the carrier) and pull it out of the slot.

Staged photos with a revised (thinner) handle.


  • The mechanism involving the tab and handle being the same piece works.
  • The scored tab mechanism works.
  • The bulk of the carrier is constructed out of one piece of cardboard, it is easy to see how it is assembled.
  • The bottle stays in the carrier despite being able to see a lot of it from the side — this is due to the neck cutout and the square support pieces on the bottom.
  • I only used glue for the bottom support part.


  • (This is before I trimmed the width of the handle and photographed it): The handle is large, uncomfortable to hold, and does not accommodate smaller hands.
  • There is a lot of empty space around all sides of the bottle — this does not inspire confidence. The bottle can also slip out of the bottom “support” structure when held in a certain way.
  • People don’t know how to use the tab immediately, they try to pull it out without regard to the scoreline.
Some exploratory ideas about approaching the handles differently, new curved/angular forms, etc. I still ended up sticking with this general mechanism after positive feedback, but these were legitimate considerations that did not make it past the sketch.

IV: Revision 1

Because I realized the general mechanism and way of constructing Model 3 was pretty effective, I mainly focused on improving the form and aesthetics of this carrier, and how it represents what it contains.

I went about creating this model by cutting out a long piece of cardboard (thinner than the first model, because I wanted it to be more streamlined), and actively comparing it against the first model. Due to the abundance of empty space in the first model, I reduced the distance between fold lines and slots through this comparing action. I also limited the folding lines on the front panel to the bottom part of the panel since I thought the carrier would appear cleaner and more streamlined with a flat front.

Revision 1 laid next to the preliminary model to determine slot and fold line placement.
A basic overview of my intentions with Revision 1.
Sketches exploring other handle and base possibilities.

I realized there was a much more visually-appealing way to construct the recessed base. This involves viewing the entire base as a thick platform with a rounded square recession where the bottle will fit. This method is also a stronger alternative to the “rings” I used in Model 1.

I hot glued the modified rings to the long piece of cardboard. This remains the only area that requires adhesive in my carrier. The masking tape is a temporary fix for the area of cardboard I accidentally bent.
I did not plan the cut-outs I made on this model explicitly, but I made sure to consider both the angular and curved aspects of the vinegar bottle in the shapes of the neck hole, handle, and tab.

I intended to cut the handle a lot thinner than my previous model, but due to a cutting error and not explicitly sketching out the shape I wanted to cut out for the handle, I went too extreme and made the handle too thin. I used some masking tape to strengthen the handle because even I was concerned with the carrier’s ability to safely carry my vinegar bottle.

Like my previous model, I started the process of creating the cutouts and folded lines at the base, to the back panel, skipping over to the front panel, the handle, and finally the tab and tab’s slots.

I also decided to approach the tab mechanism in a slightly different way this time. I scored a horizontal line on the back of the tab instead of at the front. This also kept the tab somewhat locked in the slot of the front panel, but I realized after a few more uses that the act of carrying the bottle ruined the structural integrity of the cardboard — it flattened and the edges rolled up. I eventually had to tape the peeling edges down and carry the carrier by the side for fear the tab would slip out of the slot.

The result is a semi-functioning and elegant carrier that I believe is a huge improvement from my previous model. Not only do the modified cuts make the carrier more interesting, it reflects and celebrates the form of the bottle in an attractive manner. Before the discussion, I recognized some critical areas of improvement being the thinness of the handle and the lack of security in the tab.

I was a lot more aware of the essential “carrying” aspect of the carrier after we were encouraged to ask others to hold our carrier.

We were encouraged to evaluate the reactions/faces of the people interacting with our model. The general consensus I derived from these interactions was that they were scared to even hold the carrier from the handle, but that the carrier looked “nice” and it was cool that the bottle could be seen from the side.

Based on my peers’ reactions to my carrier and the discussion we had in small groups, I determined the following pros and cons that will help me revise the model further.


  • The carrier looks elegant and that quality is also represented in the form of the bottle.
  • The model showcases the simplicity of the mechanism.
  • The revised stacked base looks more cohesive and less like an afterthought. People also appreciated the support and stability it added.


  • Confidence in the carrier: most people did not trust the carrier. This is due to a combination of factors including the thin width of the handle, the ambiguity and confusion as to how the tab stays in the slot, and the fact that you can see 2/4 of the sides of the bottle.
  • The tab started to deteriorate after a few uses. People also did not know how to remove it (it is almost impossible to understand how it works since the score line is on the opposite side of the front panel) and tried to pull it out “incorrectly” which led to the tab being misused. This hints at unclear visual cues for how the tab functions.

To address in Model 3:

  • Experiment with different tab styles: it must be strong and be able to comfortably support the weight of the bottle both literally and in the eyes of the user.
  • Interaction: how to possibly reduce the time and complexity in the process of taking out the bottle.
  • Attempt to remove adhesive from the carrier altogether.

V: Revision 2

I wanted to clarify a lot of my thoughts and takeaways from the previous discussions before jumping into the planning and creating of Model 3, so I created this graphic organizer outlining the three core mechanisms I should pay attention to: the opening, carrying, and security mechanism.

Because I realized the lack of security in the tab was the most pressing issue from my last model, I decided to prototype different tab options before implementing it into a model.

Left + Middle: I explored using a protruding piece from the “front wall” and a slot on the handle. The cardboard is not sturdy enough/ is unable to maintain its structural integrity with this setup. RIght: I came up with this sliding mechanism accidentally, but couldn’t find a way to secure it so that the tab stays without budging. I thought it was interesting that by pulling the top and bottom of the “wall,” it tightens the tab.
This tab works a lot better (in the prototype, at least). The fit is snug and it gives the user confidence in its security. When done at this smaller scale, the true force of the weight of the bottle on the slot, and the angles that the handles are subject to moving in, is not represented. On the right, I considered using just a square window as the slots for the tab. Although it is just as secure as the slots, my peers commented that it gives them less confidence in the security of the tab.

I thought the best way to address the stacked base mechanism without an adhesive is to make it part of the original net. I scored alternating sides of the extra piece so that it folds into a thick base structure. I also thought to use the side walls as a mechanism to keep the stacked pieces together. This ended up not being very effective, because I destroyed the structural integrity of the extra piece that fits into the slots while attempting to fit them in. It also would not stay in very well. I ended up using tape to secure the back wall to the stacked base to temporarily fix this issue.

This picture captures the fallacy of the tab. Almost all of the tab that is supposed to be flushed against the front wall is slipping out. This is very dangerous because the tab is synonymous with the handle, and once the tab slips out, the carrying of the bottle’s weight relies on how tightly the person was gripping the handle.


  • The carrier looks very secure with the sidewalls, thicker base, and handle flaps. The user has a lot of confidence in its ability to carry the vinegar bottle (initially).
  • I found an effective way to integrate the stacked base with the front and back walls of the carrier — they all are made of the same piece of cardboard.


  • The tab comes out easily and when the user notices this, they have no confidence in the carrier.
  • The wings of the handles get stuck in the slot, slowing down the interaction and opening mechanism.
  • Some of my peers commented that the immediate part of the handle that comes out from the back panel’s slot looks like a thong.

To address in Model 4:

  • Tab: find another way to make the tab and slot so that it is 1) easy enough to know how to use AND 2) stays secure when the carrier moves inevitably while it is being carried
  • Stacked Base: try another way to keep them together without adhesive. Probably ditch idea that back panel has to connect with bottom.
  • Adjust fit/proximity of the front wall to bottle so tab can fit comfortably. I also wanted to bring back the slightly slanted walls for visual interest because I think my last model looked too straight up-and-down.
  • Refine the shapes of the handles and cut-outs so the users only think about the carrier and are not reminded of extraneous things.

VI: Revision 3

Since the most pressing issue in my previous model is the lack of security in the tab, I decided to prototype different tab and window options before I cut them out from my model.

Building off the prototype I made in my last iteration, I cut out an extra piece from the tab so that the user has to push up the tab and in the process, lodge it securely into the slot. This presents the tab from coming out horizontally with normal use of the carrier.

I also considered integrating a window in the front wall. This was initially suggested to me by Asher, and I agreed with him in that it would be a cool way to showcase the label of the bottle, while being able to see the true form of the bottle in another way. After sketching a few possibilities of shapes of windows, I settled on one that integrates the tab’s slot.

Inspired by the iPhone’s slide to toggle on/off feature, I mirrored the tab’s roundness in the window. I think this is an effective visual cue that potentially suggests people to slide the tab down to release it.

Documentation of how the tab, slot, and window evolved over these past two models.
I measured my tab/window against this model, measured it against the label placement on the bottle, traced it, and cut it out.

Wanting to make the cutouts on my carrier as concise as possible, I combined the tab’s slots and window into one cohesive shape.

I wanted to make the topmost layer of the platform to not open from the side, so I modified the net of the initial cardboard cutout so that it resembles a “4.” I used a small paper prototype to plan this out. This, however, still leaves the problem of the layers to separate without anything to secure it into one cohesive unit.

I also realized in my previous iteration that by cutting a whole rounded square shape out of the rectangle, the sides of the platforms become bent and weak because the cutout is so close to the edge of the rectangle shape. I solved this problem by not cutting one edge of the rounded square altogether. This works because the bottle is supposed to be flushed against the back wall anyway.

To solve this problem, I attempted to use a string to weave through holes I punctured through 3 of the layers. With one thin strip of cardboard I cut out, I threaded through both sides of the platforms. I tied knots at the two ends of the string and snipped off the ends. I also superficially scored the top of the last layer of the platform, where the string can be tucked into the cardboard, so that it being raised doesn’t make the bottle not stand flat against the bottom.

Some other modifications I made were…

Making the side wall smaller in width. I noticed that there was too wide of a gap between the bottle and the walls in the previous iteration, and this distance caused the sides of the back wall to bend and be weak. Eventually, one side of the wall snapped off from the bottom part. This problem should be solved by making the cardboard piece that makes up the wall smaller in width.

I also scored the handle wings instead of folding them. I realized that this made the cardboard deteriorate faster than before.


  • The carrier feels very secure with the side walls, stacked base, and modified tab.


  • The wings of the handle still get stuck through the slot, ruining the interaction of the carrier.
  • The assembly of the stacked base is lengthy, longer than 3–5 minutes.
  • The distance between the top of the bottle is very close to the handle. I anticipate it is even more uncomfortable for people with larger hands.

Takeaways from last discussion:

  • The complexity of all the elements actually worked against my carrier, masking the simple beauty of my mechanism. I should simplify the cutouts and stick to either curves/angles.
  • I have to figure out another way to keep the stacked base together through a faster assembly method.
  • I should make the interaction as simple as possible by reconsidering the handle comfort (wings — remove?)

VII: Revision 4

Based on the feedback I received from the last discussion, there weren’t any immediate changes I could implement. I decided to sketch out possible mechanisms and possibilities to address these problems:

The first issue I tackled was the requirement to assemble the carrier within 3–5 minutes. I realized in the process of brainstorming ideas that I could sacrifice the lasting stability of the stacked base. As long as it stays together while the bottle is being taken in and out, that is sufficient. At first I was thinking about ways to still use string to anchor all the sheets together, but I concluded that my ability to thread the string through all the holes during the presentation in a timely manner is very hard to achieve.

L: using a thick piece of cardboard and bigger slots. This was the easiest to assemble, but it was not super supportive. M: trying to find ways to fold over the stakes so that the stake is more secure in the slot. I ended up ditching this idea in favor of a more secure slot system. R: I realized I could flatten out the stake and in effect, create a much thinner slot — this resulted in the most secure yet relatively-easy to assemble method of securing the platform base.

I settled on a “stake” method — in that I stick at least one piece of cardboard through slots to keep all the layers into one cohesive unit. I then realized that a “corner” piece would be stronger than a simple rectangular one. I experimented with creating this stake by cutting along and against the flutes of the cardboard, scoring or folding the corner, and experimenting with different thicknesses of cardboard through flattening. I settled on a corner that is cut along the flutes, flattened purposely. I also cut slots that are somewhat thin so that the corner fits snugly inside. I made two corners and 2 slots total.

Because I knew I wasn’t showing this model in discussion, I felt more freedom to draw all over the model to make notes for myself for my final interation.

I reconsidered the shape of the neck hole — how small can it be so that it doesn’t look complicated, but that the interaction with taking the bottle in and out isn’t made more difficult in the process?

I also considered the shape of the handles in this process. I eventually decided to omit the handle “wings” altogether to streamline the silhouette of the carrier. I also thought that if I strike a healthy balance between a too-thick and a too-thin handle, the handle would be comfortable enough so that wings are not necessary.

I also received suggestions to make the front and back panel even less “clunky” by shaving off the two sides of the walls by around 0.75 cm. In this process, I settled on a non-tapered style for the front wall to be more consistent with the formal qualities of the rest of the carriers. I also developed a new slot for the back panel, so the tab can still fit through. The user would have to fold the tab to insert it through the tab. During this process, I also decided to omit the side walls altogether because (1) the thinner walls made it impossible for me to cut slots wide enough to accommodate the width of the bottle (2) more importantly, I realized that the neck hole and platform were already giving a sufficient amount of support for the bottle. The side walls were adding unnecessary complexity and can be removed to see more of the form of the bottle anyway.

I considered using a tapered cutout design on the handle immediately leading up to the tab. I cut it like so so that the shape of the neck and cap of the bottle can be seen from the front. I later realized that this tapered shape isn’t in anywhere else in my carrier design, so I later opted for a straight cut.

After working through these kinks, I was ready to create my final iteration.


I intended to rely almost entirely on Model 5 (Revision 4) to construct my final carrier, but I realized I should do more specific measurements to ensure everything is more or less symmetrical, centered, and as precise to my ability. Nonetheless, I still referenced Model 4 and 5 pretty heavily in terms of the fold line and slot placement. Between Model 5 and the Final, the main improvements were:

  • Craftsmanship. Implementing the new changes from last discussion in a cleaner way.
  • Simplifying cutouts even more.
  • Streamline the modified back panel slot.
From L → R: Model 4, Model 5, and Final Model in progress. Active comparison was made in the process of creating all these iterations.
I paid more attention to craftsmanship in this final carrier, but looking back, being more aware of this throughout the iterative process would have led to a cleaner final result. L: “Furry edges of cut-outs. R: Paying more attention to the spacing between each fold line in the handle. I used my small ruler as a point of reference.

Despite changing my blades very often and paying special attention to cutting technique, I still struggled with good craftsmanship, as shown in the jagged/furry edges on many of the cardboard surfaces. In retrospect, I should have made a more conscious effort to work on this as I was creating my models instead of noticing it at the very end.

Another challenge I faced in the final model is the simplification of the curves and cutouts. It was difficult to anticipate how each change in the cutouts will affect how the effectiveness of the mechanisms, without making a completely new model. I realized that in the end, where I folded the carrier was more important than complex cutouts for the basic mechanism to work.


The evolution of my special carrier (Model 1~Final).


Detail shots — L: Stacked base held together by two corners. R: Tab threading through modified slot.
Close up of the tab mechanism.
Opening the carrier to take out the bottle.
Placing the bottle back into the carrier.


This project challenged me in ways I did not expect. The unfamiliarity with the medium, and 3-D work in general, was a prominent reason for discomfort, but I think my struggles were rooted in the ways I process and carry out my thoughts. Specifically, it is my tendency to internalize or simply draw out possible mechanisms and models, rather than pushing it one step further and physically trying it out with the medium. I realized at multiple times throughout this project that I was spending more time staring at my project and trying to imagine if something would work, rather than just making a prototype. I actively pushed myself to the “doing” mode in the later revisions with my tab, string, and corner prototypes, but I think making more completed models as part of the iterative process would have sped up and made my improvements more thorough.

I also realized the interconnectedness of the different “tracks” of design. I interpreted this project as more of a Products project, but I realized that even within the realm of 3-D work, communication is still integral and imperative to the effectiveness of the design. I came to this conclusion due to the emphasis on interaction and visual cues of this project. We were encouraged to give our carrier to others and evaluate their reactions, facial expressions, and initial approach to opening our carriers. I found this to be an equivalent to stepping back and seeing a 2-D art piece from far away to evaluate it holistically. As designers, we come up with mechanisms that make sense to us, but since this project is a design for service, a design for others, it only makes sense that our projects are easy to use and equally as effective to other people. Two significant times where I realized the importance of communication of the formal qualities of my carrier was (1) my peers’ lack of confidence in model 2 due to its thin handles, 2 wall design, and ambiguous tabs and (2) the effectiveness of the tab and window’s mirroring roundness.**

Looking back at my project, I think my project hit a lot of the key objectives of the assignment. Through a simple mechanism, I was able to create a carrier that reflects the form of the object through the intentional cutout shapes and “windows” in which to see the true bottle through the cardboard. At the same time, I did not sacrifice support or make the user question the ability of the carrier to carry a heavy vinegar bottle. I did this by identifying two main areas of support — the neck of the bottle and the stacked bottom base — and making sure they are supported well. The process of going too far in terms of support and representative “form” also helped me learn the importance of keeping things simple. I think it was imperative that I pushed something too extreme for me to understand a perfect balance between a purely functional and a decorative product. The requirements for the carrier to be assembled within 3–5 minutes and it to be held together without adhesive also forced me to focus on simplicity and how to make a clean, effective product that does not seem “complicated.” I still think the interaction aspect of my carrier can be streamlined more, but I am pretty satisfied with how I refined a lot of the problems I encountered through this process.



Elysha Tsai

Carnegie Mellon Design + HCI ‘23