Peter Doodson and the CD 'jewel box'


This Doodson has had an enormous impact on the modern world - and nearly everyone that reads this will have something he designed in their home or car. Peter Doodson designed - among other things - the 'jewel box' case for CDs, which have been made by the billion. The Wikipedia article about CD and DVD packaging has a section about the CD case (which they call the 'jewel case'), and Peter gets the credit for the design there. A few years ago the now defunct magazine One-to-One (a journal for the media manufacturing industry) ran an article in which Peter described the gestation of the design and some of the related design work he did. Here are a few extracts from the article, with permission from the publishers. Photo above courtesy of Elizabeth Toppin.

"I am not a packaging designer in the normal sense of that word - I am a product designer, an industrial designer. I had been with the Philips design department for some 12 years before the opportunity arose to get involved with PolyGram and the CD. At the time I was busy designing dictation pocket memos and in-ear hearing aids. These were small products that needed to be packaged in luxury boxes, and so [they] felt I was the ideal man for the job!

"At that time they were not thinking of making a lot of these CDs - it
was expected to appeal to the audiophiles and sell in relatively small numbers.

"The CD was released first in Japan and about six months later in Europe. I was really excited about the launch because I always have been a bit of a record collector - I bought a CD player before the discs had even reached the shops. Record stores started off with maybe one tray of CDs. Then after a few months there were two shelves, then three shelves... then, after two or three years. the CD had virtually taken over the whole shop. It was very satisfying to see that happen, and of course I felt proud.

Photo of handmade prototype (above) courtesy of Peter Doodson


"Apart from the iewel box for the compact disc, I have designed packaging for
LaserDisc, for CD-i, and for DCC. but it is the jewel box that has been the most enduring.

"Because the cost of a iewel box is so low now, a lot of plastics companies are looking for an alternative box with unique features that they can offer to the market for a higher price. This is where Super Jewel Box has succeeded quite well, and I worked for the company on that product. When Philips were first involved with what would be DVD, but was then called HDCD, they didn't know if it could go into a box. So I first made a design based on a cartridge and then I wondered how I could improve on the jewel box. I rounded the corners, tried to make it more comfortable to hold and put information on the four spines.

"Over the years, many design students have written to me saying they, too, would like to design a new packaging and could I send them information, this I have done and I ask to be kept informed if they come up with any interesting ideas - but mostly I don't hear from them again!

"What seems to impress most people and give the most awe (especially students) is not the design as such, but the fact that it has been made in such vast quantities. Every design student seems to dream they will have something in production one day, and then to hear that someone has something that has been produced in tens of millions is quite sensational for them."

Peter is probably the Doodson who has had most direct impact on our modern everyday lives, having designed the CD jewel case back in 1981/2 for Philips in Holland. Goodness knows how many of these have been made - probably billions. Personally I've always found them a bit of a pain to open, but the design has barely changed in over 20 years, so Peter must have got it pretty much spot on! Peter's invention is explained on the web - This article was originally on the Philips site (luckily I kept a PDF version - hopefully Philips won't be cross!), the other (with a photo of Peter Doodson) is in a Dutch newspaper, de Telegraaf. It's in Dutch, but don't let that put you off! [Links checked and updated 1/5/2007]. Update November 2007: I got in touch with Peter, who still lives in Holland, but returns to England from time to time. Sadly quite a few new CDs now come in different CD cases, but I don't suppose Peter minds - his design is still the dominant one! Philips appear to have removed all references to Peter's design, but luckiliy I kept a copy of one of the pages (see above).

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