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Pack of the Month: Two Times Elliott Gets Plastic-Free With Stunning Packaging For AKT

by Bill McCool on 01/31/2020 | 5 Minute Read

Think about the piles and piles of deodorant tubes you’ve used over the years. Now, think about all of those tubes sitting around in a landfill with all of the other tubes nobody else bothered to recycle-you’d probably kill for a halfway decent underarm fixer that wasn’t full of plastic.

Lucky for us, we have a few options now, and one of our latest favorites comes in the form of AKT. We love it so much that we had to make it our first Pack of the Month for 2020. Beautifully minimalist with simple type and one color across the packaging, London’s Two Times Elliott helped AKT create a natural, unisex deodorant that finds inspiration in the West End theater scene.

We talked to Two Times Elliott’s creative director James Horwitz and designer Noemie Courtois about their stunning packaging and branding for AKT, and how they even keep a few tubes handy across the office.

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Walk us through the design process that you went through for this project.

James & Noemie: The name and the brand identity found inspiration in the vibrant world of theater. Using playful typography, we created a system inspired by traditional theater messaging boards and performative expressions. By championing the product and putting the customer under a metaphorical spotlight, the visual language is confident, adaptive, and emphasizes movement in all collateral. Highlighting nature’s true colors and being transparent in the messaging, AKT breaks away from the conventional expectations of natural deodorant.

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The co-founders—both actors—conceived this natural deodorant balm in their kitchen after being frustrated with traditional products during their time performing. After pressure testing with other actors, they realized the success of the product, fundraised, and engaged the Two Times Elliott team to get the brand messaging and aesthetic ready for the market.

The underlying vision of the product was based on the typographic datum that underlies marquee signage at the theater’s entrance. Typically found on broadway, an analog signage system that could be manually swapped out, either with a horizontal sliding or press-stud system.

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You took inspiration from London's West End and the theatre in general. What was it about traditional theatre messaging boards and performative expressions that inspired the packaging?

James & Noemie: A product that’s vegan, cruelty-free, and 100% recyclable often lends itself to a softer, more natural, and raw aesthetic. It doesn’t necessarily have strong and bold visuals. We wanted to do something unexpected. So, we opted to still draw from nature, but instead of neutrals, we looked at florals and fruits that were full of vibrant pop colors. 

Typographically, we explored monospace fonts, as the marquee signage system relies on the usability of single-width blocks. The staggering of the text alludes to the human result of manually constructing kerning. For usability, we also paired an additional font that could be used centrally in two different sizes. 

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What was one of the biggest goals you set out to achieve with AKT packaging, and how did you accomplish it? 

James & Noemie: The biggest challenge we had was more commercially grounded; our client was entering a market with a noticeably more expensive product than other mainstream deodorants.

Therefore, we set out to design an outcome that communicated not only how they would apply deodorant, but the benefits of investing in something different from (in some cases) a balm that they’d never used. It meant that there was a fair amount of work done with copywriting and tone to ensure that it reflected the price point and the elevated quality of the product. 

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What was the most challenging part of this project?

James & Noemie: Sometimes copywriting can be overlooked as an integral craft within the overall design process. Our team regularly works with writers who complement the tonality of the aesthetic outcome and the sensibility of the identified target market. We place immense value on shaping a unique tone of voice. Therefore, it was necessary for us to communicate this with the client—and we do so with almost all clients requiring outcomes with a written component.

Aside from copy, our challenges lay more on the production and the packaging rather than the design. In cosmetics, there are so many health and safety regulations—we had to be careful with how we produced it.

While the balm itself is aluminum-free, the packaging comes from aluminum, which is a fully recyclable material. The founders could only find plastic caps on the market, so to meet the sustainability promises and OH&S regulations, there was a proprietary seal and cap produced out of aluminum specifically for AKT. 

We were surprised at how difficult it was to source a sustainable tube cap!

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Share one lesson that you learned while developing the finished product.

James & Noemie: Some of the team hadn’t considered the effects of a traditional deodorant on our bodies. It’s now a studio staple, and it really does last the whole day.

Also, we further learned about the design constraints of producing sustainably—which we had to work through to creatively problem solve.

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If you could pick one aspect of the finished design that you like the most or feel especially proud of, what would it be, and why?

James & Noemie: We’re proud that it stands out from the other organic and natural brands. 

The design outcome doesn’t feel like it’s aesthetically stylized to tick the boxes of other eco-friendly products—it stands with its own strong concept independently without shouting that it’s cruelty-free, organic, and sustainable.

Also, we defined the naming, the tone of voice, and the positioning—it ticks a lot of boxes to stand up as a credible brand beyond the confines of just being another natural product. We're targeting unisex consumers, both lower and higher spenders, to treat themselves with a product that’s good for them, the environment, and an enjoyable piece of product design.

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