Mental Models affecting OTC Packaging

Mental Models affecting OTC Packaging

When we think of medication packaging, we may assume that it’s designed to be functional, easy to use, and safe. However, the packaging of over-the-counter (OTC) medications can be influenced by various mental models that impact how they are designed and marketed. Mental models are deeply ingrained assumptions and beliefs that shape how we perceive and interact with the world around us. In the case of OTC packaging, mental model can affect the design and usability of medication packaging, which can have an impact on patient safety.

Mental Models and OTC Packaging Design

Mental models play a significant role in the design of OTC medication packaging. Here are some ways mental models can influence OTC packaging design:

Visual Design Elements

  • Assumption: Consumers prefer brightly colored packaging
  • Impact: Use of bright, eye-catching colors that may not be suitable for all users
  • Assumption: Bigger is better
  • Impact: Creation of larger packaging, even if it’s not necessary

Assumption “More is Better in OTC Medication Marketing”

The assumption that more is better in OTC medication marketing can have negative consequences for patient safety. The use of terms like “extra strength” or “maximum relief” can imply that more medication will lead to better results, potentially leading to overdosing or improper use of the medication.

  • The assumption that more medication is better is common in OTC medication marketing.
  • Terms like “extra strength” or “maximum relief” can imply that more medication will lead to better results.
  • This assumption can lead to overdosing or improper use of the medication.
  • Patients may take more than the recommended dosage or use the medication for longer than recommended, leading to potential harm.
  • Clear and accurate dosing instructions, along with educational materials, can help patients use OTC medications safely and effectively.

Implications for Designers

  • Designers should be aware of their own mental models and biases that can impact packaging design.
  • Designers should also conduct user research and usability testing to ensure that packaging design meets the needs and preferences of users.
  • Clear and easy-to-understand language should be used on medication packaging to help prevent errors and promote proper use.
  • Consideration should be given to the size, shape, and color of medication packaging to ensure that it is suitable for all users.

Mental Models in Medication Safety

Mental models can significantly impact medication packaging design and patient safety. This is because mental models influence how patients perceive the safety and efficacy of medication and how they interact with medication packaging.

  • Mental models can make packaging difficult to open for patients with physical limitations.
  • The use of child-resistant packaging is based on a mental model that assumes the need for protection from children, but this can make it challenging for some patients to access their medication.
  • Certain aesthetic features in packaging, such as natural or herbal designs, can create a false sense of safety, even if the product is not adequately under regulation or testing.
  • Understanding the impact of mental models on medication safety can help improve the design of medication packaging. This, in turn, can prevent potential harm to patients.

Overcoming Mental Models in OTC Packaging Design

Overcoming mental models is crucial for OTC medication packaging design to improve patient safety. Designers and manufacturers can use several approaches to achieve this goal.

  • Conducting user research is an effective way to understand how different types of users interact with medication packaging.
  • User research can help identify what works and what doesn’t work in packaging design, enabling designers to create more user-friendly packaging.
  • Providing clear and simple instructions that are easy to understand and follow can help ensure that patients take medication safely and correctly.
  • Instructions that use plain language and avoid medical jargon can make it easier for patients to understand how to take their medication.
  • Avoiding reliance on mental models that may not be relevant to all users can help improve packaging design.
  • Instead of assuming that all consumers prefer bright and bold packaging, designers can create packaging that is visually appealing. They can achieve this without relying solely on eye-catching colors.


Mental models can have a significant impact on the design and usability of OTC medication packaging. Which can in turn affect patient safety. By understanding and overcoming these mental model, designers and manufacturers can create medication packaging. That is safer, more effective, and easier to use. User research, clear instructions, and avoiding assumptions based on mental models are just a few ways that designers can create packaging that works for everyone. Ultimately, the goal should be to design medication packaging that prioritizes patient safety. Which helps ensure that patients take medication safely and correctly.