A Brief History of the CD Jewel Case

By · Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

A Brief History of the CD Jewel CaseThe classic CD jewel case is perhaps the most famous design in the world of CD/DVD packaging. The story of how it came to be is actually quite interesting. Grab a drink and get comfortable while I explain the history of the CD jewel case.

In 1981, Sony and Philips had formed a partnership to create a new media storage format, which at the time was called “Digital Audio Disc.” They had just completed the “Red Book” standard which defined the physical properties of audio discs among manufacturers. Sony was hard at work making a compact disc player for consumers, but in the meantime the companies still needed a way to package the new discs for retail sale.

The packaging for the new “compact disc” had to hold the discs flat and protect them from scratches. The new case would also need a high-tech appearance to help convince consumers that the new format was superior to the cassette tape.

The task of designing the new package was given to PolyGram, which at the time was a record label owned by Philips. Peter Doodson was a designer working for PolyGram in Eindhoven, Holland when he came up with the design for the original jewel case. His design was finalized in 1982.

What Doodson came up with was a three-piece plastic case that consisted of a rectangular back, a disc-shaped tray, and a transparent cover that had tabs for holding printed artwork. The disc shaped tray did an excellent job of protecting the disc from sctaches. The slim design was very lightweight, and the polished ribs of the case reflected lots of light which gave it a very high-tech appearance.

Upon seeing his case produced for the first time in polypropylene plastic, Doodson is said to have called it “virtually perfect.” This crown jewel of packaging design would come to be known as the “jewel” case. The industry now had everything but a player.

Later that year in October of 1982, Sony released its first commercial CD player, the CDP-101. The first album ever released on a compact disc was “52nd Street” by Billy Joel. Consumers loved the new format’s quality and by 1988 an estimated 400 million CDs had been produced. A 2007 estimate puts the global production of CD discs at approximately 200 billion pieces. That’s a lot of discs!

In August 2007, Philips celebrated the 25th Anniversary of the compact disc. No doubt that Peter Doodson was also celebrating, for it is his jewel case that has been produced billions of times around the world for the last three decades.

There are many variations of the original jewel case available today. Consumers can now purchase jewel cases with black or clear trays depending on their preferences. Slim CD jewel cases are available in standard clear or in a variety of colors. Multi-disc jewel cases can store two discs in the same space as a regular jewel case.

Based on the variety and popularity of jewel cases available now, it is certain that the jewel case will remain the standard for CD packaging for years to come.

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