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Self-expiring label wins design award

Published on 30/08/13 at 04:06pm
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A pharma label that automatically displays when a product is out of date has won a prestigious Red Dot design award.

The concept - a collaboration between Kanupriya Goel and biologist Gautam Goel - could solve the problem of patients being exposed to expired product at a stroke.

The team came up with the idea of adding a membrane layer to the standard packaging on a product - which could be the blister pack, cardboard carton or the adhesive label on a bottle or vial - that reacts over time to reveal a hidden message.

The mock-ups designed by the duo reveal a 'not fit for consumption’ message - using universally accepted danger signs in regional languages - when a medicine passes it expiration date.

The effect is achieved by making a triple layered label. The layer is a traditional medicine label, which is separated by a layer sporting the expiration warning by multiple sheets of diffusible material.

The ink contained in the expiry message seeps through over time, starting when the medication is first packaged, and the number of sheets used in the middle layer determines the amount of time before the underlying message becomes visible.

The FDA notes that expired medical products can be less effective or risky due to a change in chemical composition or decrease in potency, which can be a significant issue if, for example, the drug in question is an antibiotic or a life-saving product such as epinephrine.

Some drugs - such as biologics and vaccines - are also particularly prone to loss of potency after they reach their expiry dates.

"Consumption of expired medications can lead to prolonged illness, increased healthcare costs, and life-threatening situations," according to the designers, who note that the current approach of simply printing an expiration date is no guarantee against accidental consumption. 

"With this solution, the users would not have to struggle with reading fine print in a language they do not understand, or search for a printed expiration date around the packaging with limited visual capabilities and/or dexterity," they add.

It could also be used as a tool to help to prevent retailers from illegally selling expired medications, a perennial problem in some parts of the world with a number of cases reported in recent months in India, Pakistan, Vietnam and Afghanistan, amongst others.

Phil Taylor


I have to say that I think the best thing about this award is that it was given to a label design, not to a person or company. The fact that there were no other criteria than the design itself means that the winning entry is actually a great example of how well-done labels can be. The design is very simple and elegant, I love the way it looks like a pill container. One of my friends has suggested me try source for downloading premium templates. The use of color is also very good, black and white are always classic choices for designs. 

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