XM Satellite Radio

XM Satellite Radio Package Process
“Brainstorm's astute form factor design raised our brand value while their turnkey processes shortened our development turn times and reduced costs.”

Doug Goodner
VP Industrial Design, Product Development
XM Satellite Radio

Brainstorm was approached by XM to design and develop a co-branded consumer package for satellite radio provider XM and equipment manufacturer, Delphi. This case study provides an overview of Brainstorm's process and insights into the development of that package.


In this case, we’ll skip the research, diagnostic and technical methodology phases and concentrate on the basic iterative process steps.

XM required that the package design be unique in form and flexible enough to house a variety of product configurations. In addition the package had to meet the physical and graphical specifications of multiple retailers.


XM package design sketch (above: click for larger view)

The first stage of the package design process is broad idea generation with an eye toward reasonable possibility through the use of quick sketches called thumbnails—essentially a Brainstorm session on paper.

Even in this early ideation phase, function and manufacturing objectives established in earlier logistic explorations are at the forefront of the design rationale.

A plump and friendly ovate design—suitable for both pegged and stand-alone shelf display—captured the team’s attention. It features an interchangeable outer shroud designed to accommodate variable messaging and XM product differentiation.

Rough Refinements

XM Satellite radio package concepts (above: click for larger view)

Of the 32 initial thumbnails, five are selected for tighter “rough”? conceptual sketches. The rough design stage serves several purposes. Roughs allow the customer to collaborate in a conceptual dialog with both Brainstorm and their own internal team.

In addition, roughs allow the design team to further reconcile a host of issues—from substrate selection to detail and aesthetic considerations. Increasingly the form is discussed with a heightened sensitivity to relative manufacturing requirements and capabilities.

Although computer-generated designs are great for visualization, introducing them too early in the development process can consume allotted resources and generate fewer options. Furthermore, their finished look can ignite concerns about exhausting budgets without the benefit of conceptual buy-in.

Design Control Drawings (DCD)

XM Design Control Drawings - DCD (above: click for larger view)

DCD drawings are to final fit and finish what roughs are to concepts. In this case, the forms are expressed as orthographic projections, i.e., front, right side and plan (top) views.

The primary intent of this phase is to convey relative proportions and relationships between forms within the package, i.e., to “control” the design. A rough and wispy hand drawn line could mean anything to a packaging engineer. Conversely, detailed and dimensioned schematics begin to define a working reality.

Of course, many issues were addressed during the XM DCD phase: Drop test considerations, proper cavity allowance for nested accessories, marrying the outer shroud with the stand-alone clamshell, substrate selection and opacity levels, inherent multi-part clamshell tooling considerations, etc.

Rapid Prototyped 3D Model


Project participants hailed from several continents. So, to help bridge geographic and language-based barriers, we produced a quick 3D model based on data and dimensioning extrapolated from the vector-based DCD drawings. The model proved a useful discussion tool in describing general functions of the package.

Aesthetic and Messaging

XM design graphics example (above: click for more initial design examples)

Although this article primarily explores the physical form development of a package, the aesthetic process is important enough to warrant an article of its own.

Some aspects of messaging development begin as early as the thumbnail stage. However, on many levels, full graphic exploration doesn’t begin until a form factor direction is set. At retail, messaging and brand continuity are crucial.

A Finished Package

Finished XM radio package on black (above: click for larger view)

Although concessions were made along the way, the completed two-part package is remarkably similar to the original concept design in form and function.


  • Key Benefits
  • Reduced material costs and added sustainability through material specification
  • Flexible design allows for freestanding shelf placement or pegged merchandising
  • Cost-effective, interchangeable messaging for in-category differentiation

  • Project Scope Included
  • Integrated, multi-component, form factor design
  • Design Control Drawings
  • Rapid prototype
    3D Modeling
  • Graphic and
    Brand Design Development