Building a More Sustainable Hang Tag System for Patagonia
Championing values of sustainability and integrating the physical and digital during COVID
Design Consultant
May - August '22
Erin Rairdan
Aaron Wu
Kelly Liu
Sreya Cherukuri
Product Thinking
Design Systems
Visual Design
User Interface
User Research


Patagonia is an American clothing company known for their strong stance on environmentalism, sustainability, and ethics.

Their original hang tag system consists of 453 unique types of hang tags--all of which focus on sharing important details ranging from high level information such as sizing and color to the nitty gritty, such as the activities the item is tailored for and the functionality of materials used.
The goal of this project was to streamline Patagonia's hang tag system to accurately reflect their dedication towards sustainability and provide a more succinct and cohesive experience for their customers.
My team went one step further and challenged ourselves to integrate both the digital and physical consumer experiences, especially since this project was during the height of COVID.
A simplified hang tag, featuring a QR code that leads to different interactive digital pages based on locational context.
Parts of our design went on to be implemented by Patagonia, leading to the simplification of Patagonia's hang tag system from 453 unique types of hang tags to just 20, and the reduction of 170,000 pounds of waste after just one season of adoption.

From our research, we identified two main user flows from which customers would seek out/need information from Patagonia: in-store, a more exploratory route, and delivered, a route characterized by customers seeking more in depth and niche information. Within these two flows, our solution was divided into two parts: the physical solution, e.g the hang tags, and the digital solution, e.g the corresponding landing pages.


In-Store Hang Tag

Patagonia customers looking at products in-store can find basic information such as size, price, and color on the tag itself, while additional information about the brand and product can be found by scanning the QR code on the back. The same QR code can be found on the item's clothing tags for future reference.

Shipping Packaging

Customers with purchased items can scan the QR code on their shipping packaging to directly access information on return/exchange policies, their order details, and interact with immersive content created by Patagonia to share their values and how their products are made.


In-Store Landing Page

Scanning a QR code in-store leads the customer to the online listing for that item, featuring detailed information such as in-store/online availability, customer reviews, and product material details. The customer can also continue to explore Patagonia as a brand through their activism tag or featured stories on the website.

Delivered Landing Page

For customers with already purchased items, scanning QR codes on their shipping packaging will lead them to more curated pages centered around their orders, returns/exchanges, and product care details.

Additionally, the banner at the top of the landing page leads to an immersive video where customers can watch and learn how and where the materials for their items are sourced, sustainability measures Patagonia uses, and see how others use their Patagonia items to explore the world.

Research & Key Insights

Before we got to our solution, my team conducted surveys, secondary research, interviews with Patagonia customers, and contextual inquiries outside the San Francisco Patagonia store to find trends and understand how customers interact with hang tags.

By focusing our research on the consumer, we ensured that our intentions were to design both for Patagonia and design for their customers.
Trust and transparency are key to the adoption and usage of QR codes.

All respondents, many of which were older in age and identified themselves as being less savvy with technology, were familiar with QR codes and knew how to use them, commonly associating touchless interactions such as QR code restaurant menus and COVID testing sites with their introduction to QR codes.

However, users had concerns about trust when using QR codes. They wanted to know: who was putting the QR code out there, and where did it lead? In order to address these concerns, we added two simple details to our hang tag design.

Patagonia Logo

By including Patagonia's logo at the center of the QR code, even when taken out of the context of a hang tag, users immediately understand where the QR code is coming from, giving them a better idea of what to expect if they scan it.

Call to Action

Adding a detailed call to let's users know exactly where scanning the QR code will lead them, increasing trust and transparency.

Patagonia customers resonate strongly with the brand's values

A large percentage of Patagonia's loyal customers are staunch supporters of the brand largely in part because of their values of sustainability, equality, and humanitarian efforts. We aimed to reflect and emphasize these values and efforts through a banner on the order page that can be changed to display any kind of media Patagonia wants to share, from interviews with rock climbers to short documentaries on how certain materials are sourced.


This project hinged on attention to detail and the power of intentionality to push design choices, demonstrating that even the smallest changes--for example, adding a QR code to a hang tag--can have monumental effects, like eliminating at least 170,000 pounds of waste annually or starting a chain reaction of sustainability.

I want to thank my team and our client Jennifer Patrick, Patagonia's Global Packaging and Branding Director, for making this project not only impactful and fun but also a growing and learning experience. Their mentorship, ability to lead by example, and efforts create an inclusive, positive space is something I will continue to learn from and forever be grateful for.

Check out the Forbes article that talks about this project here↗︎
Improving the world, one design at a time.