You are now in the main content area

Graphic Communications Management students win prestigious AmeriStar Packaging Award at PACK EXPO

Program brings students to international packaging conference in Chicago
By: Asmaa Toor
November 08, 2022

 Eleven Graphic Communications Management (GCM) students traveled to Chicago, along with Dean Charles Falzon, Interim GCM Chair Natalia Lumby and GCM Assistant Professor Jay Park, to attend PACK EXPO International, one of the largest packaging and processing exhibitions in the world, with over 2000 exhibitors and 44,000 attendees. Four teams of students in the GCM program won the IoPP AmeriStar Packaging Design Award and placed first for four different challenge categories. The Institute of Packaging Professionals (external link)  (IoPP) is the largest packaging association in North America and its annual AmeriStar Packaging Design Award is one of the most reputable packaging design challenges. 

Group of Graphic Communications Management students at the TMU Exhibitors booth supported by PMMI

Group of Graphic Communications Management students at the TMU Exhibitors booth supported by PMMI (external link) 

PACK EXPO International in Chicago 

Students started preparing their designs through the GCM808 Package Prototyping course in fall 2021 and further developed their designs in winter 2022. The students were recognized with awards in the categories of electronics, foodservice and sustainability. The awards were presented live at the PACK EXPO conference.

GCM assistant professor Jay Park, who guided the students with their projects in GCM808, says he encouraged his students to take a holistic approach to each of their designs.   

Jay Park

Graphic Communications Management (GCM) associate professor Jay Park

“The students worked really hard in this competition. I am especially glad to see that they created their packaging designs by considering the diverse functions of packaging we discussed in class such as manufacturing, distribution, cost, user experience, accessibility, and sustainability, rather than solely focusing on the visual aspects of packaging,” he said. “I believe that this holistic approach is the key to a successful packaging design. I am thankful to the IoPP for letting students experience this taste of success, which will further encourage their future success.”

Dean Charles Falzon takes a selfie with students, GCM Interim Chair Natalia Lumby and GCM Professor Jay Park in Chicago at the PACK EXPO Conference

Dean Charles Falzon joins GCM Interim Chair Natalia Lumby and GCM Professor Jay Park in Chicago at the PACK EXPO Conference

Taking students from the classroom to the industry 

Students worked in teams of three or four in GCM808 to begin the process of creating their packaging design projects. GCM student Mackenzie Beane explains that her team’s packaging idea was creating a corrugated board cactus package, where the package would include an internal pack to keep the cactus secured during the distribution process. They also designed the box without any added glue to keep the package secure, making the package environmentally friendly and sustainable.

“In Package Prototyping, I learned further in detail about creating artwork, die lines, and materials during the packaging process. Dr. Park was teaching our designs to be at the industry level. After being selected for our team to enter the competition, we worked further to improve our design with the help of Jay and the TAs,” Beane said. 

Award slide for Other Category from the AmeriStar Packaging Awards

Winners of the Other Category: Mackenzie Beane, Rachel Ng, Wanting Li

GCM alum Prudence Villaneuva agrees that the program provided her team with essential skills to succeed in the industry.

“GCM has equipped us with the necessary skills, both through theory and experiential learning, to produce an award-winning packaging design,” Villaneuva said. “Our internships and courses have provided us with a skill set that ranges from technical print and packaging design considerations to graphic design, and a unique lens for sustainability.”  

Award slide for Foodservice Category from the AmeriStar Packaging Awards

Winners of Foodservice Category: Tiffany Quach, Prudence Villaneuva, Amand Arone

Winning the award encouraged Beane to see the full potential in her designs and motivated her to think big when it comes to her packaging projects. 

“It feels amazing to win this award. After late nights, and some stressful moments, it feels great that our hard work paid off,” she said. “I would like to thank my fellow teammates and the GCM program for supporting our design. As well I would like to say a big thank you to Dr. Park and TA's for allowing us to have this opportunity, for seeing potential in our package and for their help and guidance throughout our journey.”

Sustainability at the forefront

GCM student Afrah Usman shares the same perspective on the skills learned during GCM808. Her team’s design project, called the Ensemble package, marries the food preserving and resealable properties of bagged oats with the structure and functionality of traditional milk cartons. The Ensemble package is a paperboard box that replaces the use of plastic with a water-based barrier coating, a fully recyclable layer that maintains the freshness of the oats. The package’s neat structure along with its opening and resealing functions, allow for easier transportation, storage, handling, and usage. The beige and green colour palette take inspiration from nature to reflect on what is packaged inside: 100% organic Australian oats.

Award slide for Food, Shelf Stable Category from the AmeriStar Packaging Awards

Winners of the Food, Shelf Stable Category: Afrah Usman, Anoosha Munawar, Jarif Yasar, Emma Scott

“It is an honour to be receiving this award and I would not be receiving it without the support of our amazing faculty at GCM,” she said. “As a student who is passionate about sustainable packaging, winning this award encourages and inspires me to tackle new challenges and make a difference in the packaging industry.”

Team breakdowns

Team 1: Winnie Than, Tiffany Hu, Vittoria Casale, Brooke Jones

Winning Category: Electronics

Team 2: Afrah Usman, Anoosha Munawar, Jarif Yasar, Emma Scott

Winning Category: Food, Shelf 

Team 3: Mackenzie Beane, Rachel Ng, Wanting Li

Winning Category: Other

Team 4: Tiffany Quach, Prudence Villanueva, Amanda Arone

Winning Category: Foodservice

To read more about the IoPP AmeriStar Packaging Awards and see the full list of winners, visit their website (external link, opens in new window) 

About The Creative School at Toronto Metropolitan University 

The Creative School is a dynamic faculty at Toronto Metropolitan University making a difference in new, unexplored ways. Comprised of Canada’s top professional schools and transdisciplinary hubs in media, communication, design and cultural industries, The Creative School offers students an unparalleled global experience in the heart of downtown Toronto.