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Words matter, as do visuals, in packaging design

A sustainable skincare startup from the U.K. enlists a wordsmith and a brand design studio to improve the branding and packaging of its products.

The result of the rebrand is a consistent look and feel that unifies the company’s products.
The result of the rebrand is a consistent look and feel that unifies the company’s products.

In August 2018, siblings William and Anna Brightman, founders of sustainable skincare startup Optiat, appeared on the BBC program Dragons’ Den (the U.K. version of Shark Tank), where two dragons offered them funding of £50,000 (US$63,000) for 30% of the business. But the Dragons had one condition: The founders had to improve the branding and packaging of their products, which were seen as inconsistent and confusing.

Optiat had already identified this point, and a rebranding project was underway with their creative partner Studio More. Says Nikita Yan, Managing Partner at the agency, “Our analysis suggested that the brand needed to focus on its positive impact in the world, standing for something bigger to fulfill its growth potential.”

Studio More’s strategy provided the perfect platform and category insight for writing agency Reed Words to build the tone of voice and the new name. The brand’s original name, Optiat, is an acronym for “one person’s trash is another’s treasure,” but as Orlaith Wood of Reed Words explains, it just wasn’t working. “It’s an interesting name but only once you’ve learned what it means,” she says. “It needs explaining, which makes it too forgettable to anyone who doesn’t understand it.”

To find the new name, the Reed Words team worked with Optiat’s founders, carefully considering the brand’s focus on sustainability and promoting a circular economy before settling on the new name. Says Wood, “The word UpCircle captured the idea of positively reusing old things, with the ‘up’ element suggesting an elevated, uplifting purpose.”

Reed Words produced a messaging toolkit, containing guidance on everything from the UpCircle elevator pitch to the wording on the company’s business cards. It introduced the key tagline, “All round better skincare,” as well as packaging guidance templates, focused on boosting the shelf appeal of UpCircle’s products in the crowded skincare sector, and it offered guidance on the brand’s social media tone of voice.

“It’s so important to strike a consistent tone across every channel, from packaging to social media posts and even company stationery,” says Wood. “Copy must work as hard for a brand as any visual design element, flexing across mediums to build something that feels coherent and integrated. This kind of holistic solution is only possible when you take a strategic approach, really considering the big picture and collaborating closely with the brand’s visual designers.”

From Studio More’s perspective, the core idea behind its design was to transform “All round better skincare” and circular economy into the visual identity, creating a unified and consistent brand message.” Studio More worked as brand guardian throughout the rebrand project, creating everything from brand identity, to packaging, to digital, including coordinating help from creative collaborators such as Reed Words, to ensure a holistic brand experience on- and offline.

The result is a consistent look and feel that unifies the company’s products, and a well-defined in-depth brand story and values that improve the brand’s focus. The clear and simple design approach for UpCircle ensures the brand sits comfortably among the new generation of beauty brands that are aesthetically tuned to stand out.

Says UpCircle’s William Brightman, “It’s incredibly hard to stand out in a sector as crowded as skincare. You must have a compelling and consistent brand, and it’s vital to really nail the tone—visually and verbally. That requires brilliant creativity and close collaboration between the teams responsible for copy and visual design.

“Studio More and Reed Words helped us to find exactly the right look, feel, and tone for our brand, giving us a solid platform on which to build future success. More than this, they made it look easy.”

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