8.10.2008

Green Product Design : Dish Soap

Greening your home is a process. But that process can be fun. Particularly if you're into design! For my purposes here, I'm focusing on dish soap. An easy switch to make and a significant one. Who wants to be eating / absorbing all of the bleach and other toxic chemicals found in conventional dish soaps? Not I!

In looking at green cleaning products, I've noticed that a lot of the designs tend to look a bit more high-end, simple and modern. And often, they are more "green" in the color choices as well.

Seventh Generation, for instance, has made a large green leaf, simple type and a white plastic bottle the staple of their product design. Immediately, this stands out as a green product. The leaf says "eco-friendly" and the white bottle says "pure", "toxic-free". Many companies tend to use transparent bottles which show off the bright pink or blue liquid inside. Here, SG has gone opaque, and treated the bottle so that it matches the cap, creating a unit that looks "whole". The shape of the bottle itself is basic. It's recognizable and functional. Even the design of the label is simple. The font / typography choices also support these messages. There are no big starbursts, outlines on the type, or manipulating done to the shape. It's straight-up. The designer has worked with a select few typefaces and used them carefully.

Now compare Seventh Generation to shelves full of this and I think you'll see what I mean:

These products are overly expressive. They're selling POWER and SHINE and supposedly, CLEAN. But when you look at these next to the Seventh Generation product, suddenly they don't look so "clean" anymore, do they? To me it looks like a big TOXIC mess that says "run away!". Really, it's painful. There are probably 10 different typefaces used on the label, the shape of which is all over the place. You've got splashes and banners and hands and glasses and starbursts and swirls. It's all there.

Although Seventh Generation is one of the more popular "green" product lines out there, it's not my favorite in terms of design. There are some other green products that speak to the designer in me a bit more in that they didn't immediately go for the obvious with leaves and earthy colors.

Method is one of those. It might have something to do with the funky package designs—by Karim Rashid—or the savvy marketing which features a movement "People Against Dirty". But design aside, Method is a great, natural product. It's also accessible—you can find Method at your local Stop & Shop, Target, Home Depot and many more. But back to the design. I admire that Method did not take the easy way out by literally going green with the color scheme. At the same time, you might consider it "safe" that they chose to stay a bit closer to the conventional products in using transparent bottles that allow the color of the product to show through. Either way, it works much better here because rather than pairing the colored product with over-the-top typography and imagery, they have gone extremely minimal. Compared to other designs, the type size and logo can be considered small. Very small. But it works because the whole thing is uncluttered. There are no blazing claims to the power of the product or images depicting clean glasses—it's just "dish soap". Straight-forward and to the point. They're not trying to prove anything with the design. In terms of the actual bottles ... well I've read a few opinions on the one pictured to the left. Imagine picking that sucker up with a soapy hand. The one on the right, however, is a bit more user-friendly.


Another favorite of mine in the green aisle, is the Mrs. Meyers products. Looks like something straight out of a Vermont General Store ... homegrown and honest with a touch of lightheartedness. A product and company that you can trust and that has a history that you can actually read about on the website. The design of the packaging is appealing to me because it says all of these things, and it's got that retro-modern look that I just can't walk away from. I would seriously buy this just because it looks nice, but lucky for me it's actually also a great product. As the website puts it, Mrs. Meyer's products are hardworking cleaners that work like the dickens on dirt. Gotta love it.

So again here, there is a simplicity to the design. We can see there is a limited color palette, which changes according to the scent. That helps to keep things neat while still allowing for variation within the brand. The designer has kept to 2-3 fonts { I don't have the package in front of me so I can't confirm for sure! }, and force-justified the type design which goes with the "retro" look and keeps things from jumping out all over the place. And I can't leave out mention of the smiling Mrs. Meyer illustration on each product. How much more simple can you get than a stick figure?

Lastly, my personal favorite is a discovery I made this past weekend while buying toilet paper at Target (disappointed to find they didn't have any recycled toilet paper). J.R. Watkins products. I almost bought the whole line ... but all I really needed was dish soap. This stuff is so "pretty, " you could give it as gifts. Again, looks like a really quality product from an honest company. There are so many layers to this design, but here they all work. Many aspects of the design were inspired by vintage elements - apothecary labels are just one of those elements.

Ok, I have to be honest. The problem with writing a post this long is that it takes DAYS to write and by the time you get to the climax, you're OVER IT . at least for me.

The whole reason why I started this post was because I wanted to talk about the design of this product - J.R. Watkins - but now I'm just burnt out!

1 comment:

Lilah said...

Interesting to know.