The basic design of a CD case is the ‘jewel box’. This is made from polystyrene, which is transparent, but rather brittle, which is why the ‘button’ holding the CD often breaks. It also means that the design must be made up of a number of parts because integral hinges cannot be included in polystyrene injection mouldings. So why has it persisted? The transparency means that printed booklets and cardboard sleeves can be clearly read and the standardised design helps retailers at the point of sale and distributors. If CD cases were unique to a particular CD, they would be wasted if they didn’t sell.

… and then there’s the shrink wrapping

… and the cardboard sleeve

Why are they there? All in all, it is a complex solution to the problem of delivering CDs to the customer.

Designers have thought about this problem before and there are many different designs, but it has yet to be resolved.

Some issues that the design must address

• the design must be simple to manufacture
• the design must be suitable for retailers, including issues of security
• the design must provide effective display in the home
• appropriate printing and finishing methods would need to be found
• methods of assembly which minimise the introduction of new materials and components, and avoid adhesives where possible, would need to be investigated
• the design must be suitable for manufacture in the UK


The following photographs illustrate the design problem. The first photograph shows a disassembled CD case and sleeve indicating the number of components, which have been used. Each component obviously implies a manufacturing and assembly operation. The CDs need to be sold and this imposes its own constrainrs - particularly relating to additional packaging and security. However, once sold the CDs often have a storage and ‘social display function’ to perform and sometimes users prefer to remove them from their boxes. The other photographs show CD racks and CD wallets to help students begin thinking about the whole problem. Any design solution must work for the manufacturer, distributor, retailer and customer if it is to be effective.

They can be used as an introduction to the open-ended brief “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”. or the specific recycling design context on ” Reducing parts: CD cases”

A disassembled CD case

  CD Racks  

CD Wallets

Loughborough subjects
Design Contexts
Developing design briefs
Images to stimulate students’ thinking (images still to come)
Advice on finding clients
Generic design contexts
Advice on specific design briefs
CAT specific design briefs
Loughborough University specific design briefs
ITDG specific design briefs
CAT support information
Loughborough University support information
ITDG support information