Originally Published NO January/February 2010
With phenomenal growth that shows no signs of abating, the organic and natural sector is fast becoming one of the most competitive-and consumer expectations are high. For instance, consumers now expect any new organic product to be free of parabens and sulfates. Also, consumers no longer expect or want these omissions to be writ large on the packaging. Many organic and natural brands are realizing that to succeed, they need to focus their attention on overall brand design to not only secure the edge over their competitors but also to stand out against the whole of the beauty-shelf competition.
The Dr. Hauschka skin care brand initially blazed a trail by positioning organics as an everyday luxury. However, although the brand's packaging is simple and classic, it takes its white and gold design cues from the rest of the luxury sector, instead of creating new ones. And Dr. Hauschka is not the only natural or organic brand that does this. Lavanila and Bare Escentuals are two wonderful brands that have truly revolutionized bringing naturals to the mass market. However, if we look at their packaging, Lavanila's is very similar to Miller Harris fragrance packaging, while Bare Escentuals' resembles Nars cosmetic packaging.
Designing for a natural brand is not about denying the brand's natural/organic roots and blatantly following mainstream design. Rather, it's about finding the best way to represent the heart of the brand. We don't want to lose out on the glamour stakes. A new breed of organic and natural brands is starting to show just how design for this category should be done, by packaging must-have products with simplicity, style, and glamour.
The visual presentation of Nude Cosmetics, for example, features rounded, pebblelike packaging that is organic looking and unique. To minimize environmental impact, the packaging is entirely recyclable, and 40% of the bottles are made using postindustrial-recycled plastic. Because of a desire to reduce packaging, products are not sold in boxes; instead, biodegradable starch sleeves wrap around the bottles. What I like about Nude's look is that it is not dictated by a typical category look.
Another favorite in this vein is the much admired and applauded Cargo Cosmetics PlantLove lipstick packaging. The lipstick tube is totally recyclable and was the first to use polylactic acid plastic. Totally original, distinctive, and premium-and the celebrity-designed shades by people such as Courteney Cox never goes amiss in adding some must-have glamour.
Other brands whose youthful and personality-busting packaging I admire is Rich Hippie perfume and Nature Girl cosmetics. These brands show that a Galliano-esque, fashionably irreverent look works wonders in stirring up a category that has by and large been designed with a stereotypical homespun look.
The best natural or organic product in the world can't stand up on the shelf without the packaging to sell it. By creating and presenting beautiful, effective, premium, all-natural products in sustainable packaging, a huge market will continue to grow.
Jonathan Ford is a designer and creative partner at Pearlfisher (www.pearlfisher.com) in London and New York.