Soylent’s ‘extreme minimalism’ goes as far as bottle reduced to a white silhouette, stamped with a company logo and calorie count. But is it really fair to call this type of aesthetic ‘brandfree?’
The reality is that the design of packaging is still an important part of our decision-making process and part of the way we relate to brands on an emotional level. If every brand ‘debranded’ the shopping aisle would become a very stressful place.
One of the flaws of debranded products which put a focus on the transparency of ingredients is that it leaves the consumer to have to scrutinize ingredient lists. ‘The logic behind Brandless isn’t wrong,’ Katie Ewer, creative strategist at Jones Knowles Ritchie, tells FastCo. ‘But now imagine every company applies that insight. Unbranded goods don’t resolve the issues of choice fatigue. In fact, they could make it worse.’
Debranding only makes sense when it’s designed with a clear purpose and a commitment to saving customers time.
That’s not to say that there isn’t a future for debranded goods. With increasing numbers of high-turnover household essentials sold directly to consumers through online portals, or even more obliquely through voice commerce platforms, the need to design for shelf appeal could change how we relate to branding in the future. If I’m reordering coffee that I already know I like, the reality is that it might as well just show up in a debraded jar.
Right now we need to make sure that we don’t confuse generic design with simplicity. Unbranding still requires good design, no matter how simple it may seem. As Steve Jobs famously said: ‘It takes a lot of hard work to make something simple.’
For more on the current zeitgeist for post-brand brands, read our Accessible Premium microtrend.