Online Exclusive: Designing to Define Beauty
The best brand definitions start from within.

When you think of beauty, how do you define it? What comes to mind first? Color, curl and spritz?

Innisfree Forest (AmorePacific)

Nourish, cleanse and smooth? So much of what we do in the world of design is about helping brands define themselves.

The best brand definitions start from within. It’s a simple equation, really.

Step 1: Celebrate the product. Where did it come from? How was it made? Who made it? It’s about revealing the culture and belief system of the organization behind the brand.

Step 2: Consider your position in the category. How do you stack up vis-à-vis the competition? What’s your point of difference—tangible or intangible? How do you fit into people’s lives? At work? In the store? In their homes? On the go? On the web? Answering these kinds of questions helps you recognize and highlight what makes your brand special.

Step 3: Add design to the mix. Design direction is grounded by insight from the above. It’s created with inspiration from art, technology, fashion, and nature, and is presented in the context of a keen understanding of the culture and where it’s heading.

As you look across the broader health and beauty category, it’s striking that many products are presented as scientific formulas or even commodities. Opportunity is lost when the reasons people are using products—to feel better, to look better, to enhance self-image and confidence—are overlooked. Really, these products are the bridges to beauty. Of course, formulation and efficacy are critically important. But if that’s all you make it about, you risk the danger of people feeling badly that they have to use the products in the first place. And you lose the opportunity to make clear the full reasons your products are made.

Make the Connection
Good design can connect a product's clinical value with its beautifying qualities. Why should people with

AmLactin (Upsher-Smith)

severely dry skin have to settle for comfort that disallows the idea of being more beautiful? After all, feeling good is literal and perceptual at the same time.

And shouldn’t the remedies we use everyday be designed with the care to help us feel good and look good, too?

As you reach into your cupboard to pull out your daily supplements, don’t you want a design that lets you feel the sense of vitality they claim they’ll deliver? The imagery of modern, new-age graphics in a brown bottle containing anything and everything else you might take leaves a lot to be desired.

The world of beauty is continually being redefined and design is playing a key role. The opportunity to

Immune Health Basics (Biothera)

define (or redefine, as the case may be) brands and to influence category movement is really what design—at its most powerful and effective—is about. It’s truly a fascinating business to practice.

As is often the case, I find that my work positions me at the crossroads of industry, expertise, and trend. So, too, it seems to be happening in the world of beauty. We’re beginning to see design used to create and fortify the bridge between beauty and health and wellness. It makes sense. Therein lies the beauty of good design.

Joe Duffy is creative director and founder of Duffy & Partners.
His work includes brand and corporate identity development for some of the world's most admired brands, from Aveda to Coca-Cola to Sony to Jack in the Box to Susan G. Komen for the Cure. For more information see