How Dogs Live with American Families

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Our immersive ethnographic research with pet owners found that while pets have gained greater membership in families, pet food packaging has not reflected this shift. Dogs often eat in the kitchen with the family—the front stage of family life. But their food is stuck in the garage—the back stage of family life. Big bags of dry dog food resemble other back stage packages: charcoal, concrete mix, and potting soil—all products that would never be brought into the home.

Using this insight, we worked with our packaging client, Graphic Packaging International to explore a range of packaging innovations to make dog food packaging more front stage friendly. Ideation sessions produced dozens of ideas of which five were prototyped and placed into the homes of pet owners for testing. These tests identified the most effective concepts and eventually led to several new packaging designs. Dogs are now poised to become full-fledged members of the front stage of family life.