Cardboard+Tech: going mainstream?

In the news today, reports of IKEA’s digital cameras made of cardboard which were given to journalists at the 2012 Fuorisalone, a design expo in Milan, as part of their press kit.

The “disposable” camera runs on two AA batteries, has a USB connector and stores up to 40 images on internal memory stick. More than just a promotional stunt, the camera will be available for sale in IKEA stores soon.

We’ve been tracking the trend of cardboard usage in technology products for a while andrecently tweeted about the cardboard radio available to buy at SuckUK – not the first, but one of the more successful commercial examples – designed by Chris McNicholl.

It looks as though cardboard casing for technology products could be moving from a novelty / eco-geek audience to a wider general acceptance.

This time last year, Asus, in a reported attempt to cut down on shipping waste, announced their intention to start shipping computer components in cardboard boxes that can actually be used as cases.

The cardboard cases feature compartments for adding CD/DVD and hard drives and have air holes for ventilation.  They stated that the cartons would have a year’s lifespan: more of a noble gesture than a credible solution.

More promising: pioneers of eco-tech for the masses, Recompute announced their US-wide retail debut last November, with a special model called the A8 launched at Fry’s stores in California, Washington and Oregon and available to buy online at

Starting out in 2009 as a student project, the concept won numerous awards and received widespread praise and media coverage, spurring the inventor to form a small manufacturing company.  Sales were initially very slow but it seems they’ve maybe now reached their tipping point.


Amazingly launched way back in 2004, and still on sale now, are Muji’s cardboard speakers; a perennial best-seller, we’re hoping that the current price reduction doesn’t signal the end of a great flagship product.

This endearing ‘colour-it-yourself’ pack was sold at MOMA in New York, but is sadly no longer available.

One of our favourite concepts is Art Lebedev’s Flashkus – a cardboard ‘strip’ of 4 disposable cardboard USB drives, perforated for easy separation.

Whilst not suited for long-term data storage, these simple lightweight strips provide an appropriate, eco-friendly disposable solution for transfering data.  If produced in volume, one would hope that it would be a very low cost solution too.

You can also write on the card ‘body’ of each stick, a definite plus point for those of us with handfuls of unlabelled USB sticks in the desk drawer.  There are alternative and more durable cardboard USB stick concepts out there, but we love Flashkus for its simple and minimal design.

There are many other credible and exciting concepts out there, but so far few seem able to make it to mass-production.  Now IKEA are on the case [excuse the unintentional pun], we looking forward to seeing whether other device and personal electronics manufacturers will follow suit and make cardboard-housed technology into more of a mainstream category.