Structural Innovation

Transparency of purpose and benefit communicated through simple shape and structure drive some of today’s most appealing personal care packages.

From a brand design and packaging point of view, we tend to focus on graphics, color and copy, while structure does not always get the airtime it deserves. We should not underestimate the power and significance of an innovative and powerful structural design solution, an iconic form or silhouette—from the sensual curves of Marilyn Monroe to the recognizable curves of the Coke bottle.

Beauty is probably a better-placed sector than most to marry product and packaging by indulging in sensual, structural design. Many iconic structures—from the powder compact to the introduction of the mascara wand, from the square Chanel No 5 bottle to the Jean Paul Gaultier tin—have punctuated the beauty journey throughout the years. And now, once again, exciting and truly innovative structural innovation is coming to the fore as brands look not just for ways to create significant difference, but connect in new ways with the target consumer as they view and buy beauty in a myriad of ways.

Sign Language

Shape, structure and symbols can, of course, convey just as much personality as chatty copy or quirky graphics. And now with our digital retail habit growing—along with ever-increasing demands on our time—we are not so readily buying into clever naming, chatty copy or reams of information, but are looking to more bold, immediate and significant ways for brands to stand out and give us their key message. Information overload is leading us back to the power of good information design, and while many other sectors have been readily embracing this approach, we are now also seeing the beauty sector harnessing its power as a way to work with and tap into technology—not the other way around.

Award-winning newcomer Dizao Organic has created a contemporary, yet somehow retro-inspired, fashionable cosmetic line. The brand mission has been to find new ways to connect with the target audience and, to this end, it is reportedly focusing its efforts on the Internet for brand recognition and promotion. This approach was obviously front-of-mind and the basis of the identity and design development. The design is based on a system of clear black-and-white symbols that illustrate the use and purpose of the product. Each product has its particular symbol, but the style of motif maintains a clear and unified logic for the entire range and also maximizes a pertinent use of pattern and choice of monochrome—both hugely desirable trends across the industry.

In a similar vein to Dizao is Indian brand Spikes by Set Wet. Spikes is a hair styling gel but unlike the traditional and uniform. Brightly colored and graphically enhanced tubes and pots of gels focus on keeping the benefit and application of the product as the fundamental of the design with a simple, effective and modern packaging approach that is very much about shape and symbol alone.

Brand Transparency

For a while now, consumer demand has been focused on transparency and honesty when, for example, it comes to the packaging promotion of ingredients or the sustainable offer. But, it’s great to see brands taking this one step further with transparency of purpose and benefit communicated through shape and structure. A focus on transparency—in the truly literal sense—is the case with s.he stylezone. The brand identity uses a transparent cube as the basic building block of the new modular design and packaging system; the different packaging elements can be inserted into each other and flexibly combined, which inspires individual combinations. The modular system allows every girl to create her own personal s.he stylezone makeup kit that ties into the brand ethos of young, fun, modern, individual and mobile. A back to basics with structure and stacking but freshened up for a new audience.

Trompe L’Oeil?

Another innovative brand looking to use transparency on all levels is new soap brand Morfoze.

Morfoze is another brand not afraid to boldly veer away from what has always gone before and change perception and expectation through a new shape sensation. Morfoze uses a fairly ordinary square and transparent box—primarily as protection—but also aesthetically, and more notably, as a “glass” showcase with which to put the focus on the innovative structure and shape of the soap.

Morfoze is a polygonal, brightly colored, but odor-free, hard soap concept and one which will surely appeal to consumers who like the out of the ordinary. On top of this, it is hopefully a novel way of attracting people to use hard soap for washing, rather than liquid, which is more harmful to the environment.

Its creator is quoted as saying, “At the moment of designing this product I had an idea of a suitable soap dish for this soap in the form of a splash of water. The contrast between the polygonal object and the smooth form of “water” reveals even more of an unusual combination of shapes in the real world, and such inherent in the virtual one.” (Source: The Dieline)

True, it’s not a necessary or space-saving creation or one that may influence the mass production and future development of the soap category, but the brains behind it have succeeded in creating a design, shopping and using experience, which is totally disproportionate to expectation.

Geometric Gems

Following hot on Morfoze’s heels, Pulsazione, a European company, features both transparency and geometry.

One of the brand’s core values is that its products and services are priced in a completely honest way, with no hidden costs and the brand has carried this through to the packaging with simple, clear shapes and language.

The packaging also had to reflect that the products are targeted toward both male and female markets. Softer, curvilinear patterns were used on one side of the box to represent female consumers, and a harsher, geometric pattern on the other side is meant to appeal to Pulsazione’s male audience. A numbering system differentiates the product families but keeps the packaging visually unified, cleverly creating the sensation of touch through sight. While beauty—and beauty packaging—has always been about finding the best way to tap into the senses, we are, once again, seeing texture and multisensorial offers tap into the defining sociological needs of our time.

How Touching…

It has often been cited, but the packaging concept for Chanel’s Egoiste fragrance is what we would hope to see from one of the continuously most forward-facing sectors of this industry.

The package is made out of steel to underline the masculinity and sophistication. The design itself is clean and explicit and the Braille text, along with being inclusive to the blind, works as a decorative element in the design.

Design devices such as embossing and die cutting are now adding visual and textural interest in a way not seen before. Check out the packaging for Shine nail varnish— very different from anything else in the nail sector.

Maximizing Experience

Of course we are looking for attention to detail for both look and feel, and this is where structure really comes into its own. The experience of opening a package and the bond that this can forge with the consumer to heighten the holistic brand experience should never be underestimated. We are looking for this clever sense of reveal and anticipation (combined with superb functionality) and, in nearly every case, structure is what’s now making the most significant difference.

Tissues are a more basic personal care item than a perceived beauty/lifestyle accessory, but Kleenex turned this positioning right on its head with their pictorial and colorful Dessert Wedges detailing a 3D cornucopia of sweet treats such as cakes and pies.

This is also a very good example of just how important subliminal structural cues are to the consumer. By and large, tissues are housed in square or rectangular boxes with a top slot. Putting tissues in a wedge not only disrupts the look of the category and makes you take notice, but also makes you question the quality and composition of the product, firmly placing it as a desirable daily accompaniment rather than a day-to-day necessity.

The Shape of Things to Come

We don’t know the exact shape of things to come but, suffice to say, structural brand design is the foundation for all the other brand design components, and we need to think about just how we now make our mark on this space—and whether and how we should change. There is, of course, no hard and fast rule, as you can’t take a brand out of its context, in terms of what the market and its competitors are doing and, to a degree, this will always dictate change and the pace of it. But ultimately, the question that will decide when change is vital will always be: How desirable is your brand and how is it touching its consumer at that moment in time? Only then can degrees of change be explored and within this structure there must always be a conscious consideration.

Jonathan Ford is a designer and Creative Partner of Pearlfisher -