The Rise of Quiet Design

In an increasingly busy world, quiet design is on the rise. From minimalist design styles to paired back ingredients and simplified messaging, new brands are beginning to favour the revered Bauhaus ethos of 'form follows function'. New product ranges are appearing that are innovatively subverting our traditional value systems, selling quality products at an increasingly affordable price, thereby revolutionising industries that have long enjoyed huge mark-ups, from eyewear to beauty and fragrance.

The movement is increasingly apparent in the design field, from branding to packaging and product. Here we look at a few key examples of the emerging trends:

Wise Men's Care is a new personal care range that combines stripped back branding with eco credentials. Design studio Ethos has created a range that offers innovation on many levels: their products are made from natural and healthy ingredients, whilst their paired-back packaging limits the amount of plastic used.

Each product is available in two different refillable containers - a reusable glass bottle, designed for the traveller, and a more robust cardboard container for the intrepid outdoorsman.

British designer Jasper Morrison has developed a soap product in a similar vein. His 'Soap' product, for Brooklyn-based design brand Good Thing, is a simple, translucent glycerin soap, sold in a mould of four, that can be snapped and arranged around the house at various locations.

The soap itself is similarly stripped back; it is made from only a few materials and is fragrance-free, hypoallergenic and gentle on the skin.

A.N. Other is a Miami-based fragrance company that creates limited edition fine fragrances at an affordable price. Socio Design was tasked to communicate this ethos, via brand strategy, name, identity, packaging and e-commerce.

As a result of their 'direct to consumer' model - no retail overheads here - the brand can instead afford to work with innovative perfumers. The brand creates collections of four simple limited edition fragrances every year - woody, oriental, fresh and floral.

Socio Design uses the term 'default design' to explain their visual language for the brand, communicating the concepts of modern luxury and staple goods through the design cues of 'utility'.

The new American company Brandless are on a mission to reinvent the staid consumer packaged goods marketsw with products offering 'better stuff, fewer dollars'. The company aim to highlight the unseen 'BrandTax' each consumer pays when buying traditional national brands. Their one-price-fits-all approach applies to everyday food and household products.

Their mission is to focus on 'just what matters', translating to standards such as fair-trade and gluten-free, whilst also being kind to the environment through packaging design and materials used. The brand partners with the Feeding America charity, donating a meal each time a consumer places an order.


Brandless founders Tina Sharkey and Ido Leffler state:

“With Brandless, we wanted to invent something completely fresh and new. Something that puts purpose into every product and message shared, and models a new kind of relationship between people and the companies built to serve them–directly, with integrity, transparency, authenticity, and democratized access.”

Topline Tools has similarly revolutionized the hardware and DIY marketplace with clear, concise packaging that stands out from a traditionally 'visually manic hardware environment'.

Parsons Branding have created a minimal range of packaging that uses simple linear product illustrations to communicate clearly to an often time-poor consumer. The range is simple and uncluttered, communicating top quality at an affordable price range. The redesign includes product-specific illustrations, and re-written product instructions which aim to take the confusion out of DIY.

Quiet branding's rise across many different industries offers key points to consider for any brand:

  • Do Good: Consider the environment in packaging design choices. Consider refillable or biodegradable packaging, and the use of less printing ink and materials. Ethical considerations could include fair-trade and charitable partnerships, which further enhance brand values

  • Simplify: Your consumer is likely to be time-poor and visually over-stimulated. Consider ways in which your packaging can effectively communicate what it is, how it functions, and core brand values. For example, natural materials could communicate a product rich in natural ingredients

  • Luxury Quality: Many brands are moving into the 'luxury quality' space, disrupting traditional business models by offering quality ingredients and luxury branding at an affordable price. Consider how your branding could communicate this ethos, through luxury yet utilitarian design