Dieline's 2022 Trend Report
by The Dieline on 12/19/2021 | 50 Minute Read
If you ask any design studio or creative agency about predicting what the latest design trends will be for the coming year, most of them will tell you that they loathe trends.
Because they don’t follow trends; they set the trends. They’re the ones determining what the conversation is and how it should look and feel.
Trying to predict the trends for the upcoming year can feel like a fool’s errand—that’s part of the deal with creativity in general, right? We want to be shocked and awed while celebrating ingenuity and innovation, feasting our eyes on something we’ve never seen before. The power of the next best thing is obvious, but as we’ve come to find in an increasingly chaotic world, so are the creature comforts of nostalgia and the sentimental.
The world is changing in dramatic and drastic ways. While some of us are still shaking our heads and googling metaverse and NFT, if 2021 showed us one thing, it’s that the future waits for no one.
What you have here is a collection of ten ideas and themes that we’ll be seeing more of in 2022. You’ll see how designers are looking to other decades for inspiration, new industries and markets, ethical consumption, and packaging trends that are a much-needed about-face from the dumpster fire that was 2020. Plus, we’ve talked to a handful of some of our favorite designers, and they’ve offered their invaluable insight into some of the creative trends you’ll be seeing in the very near future. And, yes, we’re even going to talk about the metaverse, because how can you not?
So sit back, get comfortable, and dig in—here’s the 2022 Dieline Trend Report.
Trend 1: We Love The 90s
So, a bit of a disclaimer here; I didn’t exactly love the 90s.
I spent all of my teenage years in that decade. While this makes me a cross between a geriatric millennial and card-carrying member of the Oregon Trail Generation (and no, I don’t emoji well), I can tell you that you don’t necessarily love the decade you’re a part of. If anything, I’ve always been partial to the 70s.
And I think that’s the point here.
Because as you're living through it, it feels like a regurgitation machine without much of an identity. The “kids” obsessed over the 60s and 70s back then, and those decades made it into many 90s cultural moments and fashions. Here’s a reminder: Dazed and Confused came out in 1993, and That ‘70s Show premiered in 1998. Now, as a new generation of consumers comes of age, they’re looking to another decade for comfort, and frankly, so are their parents.
So, no, it’s not much of a shocker that the 90s are back in. If anything, they arrived a few years ago, but that same nostalgia for a long-gone decade will likely stay with us for some time.
Design trends are cyclical. That goes for music, fashion, and graphic design. Trends come and go. They get accepted, they get mass acceptance, and then mass adoption. They become the norm, and then someone rebels against them.
Alex Center, founder of CENTER
“Design trends are cyclical,” says Alex Center of Brooklyn-based design agency CENTER. “That goes for music, fashion, and graphic design. Trends come and go. They get accepted, they get mass acceptance, and then mass adoption. They become the norm, and then someone rebels against them.”
Think of it as a very sudden about-face from the minimalism that’s dominated the past two decades. Last year, it was "the blanding" that designers were running away from, fully embracing the kitchen sink mentality for something more dynamic and playful. And it’s not just those neon hues, bold typography, wackadoodle patterns, and rave aesthetics making a comeback. “The truth is, the 90s, in terms of design, was more fun and complicated and experimental,” Alex says. “There were layers and gradients and shapes and funky type, and I'm excited that it's coming back.”
In 2019, we talked about the rise of fast and anti-design, a celebration of scum-bro vibes that didn’t give a solitary fuck about what came before—making things ugly, in a sense, felt like a victory over the social-first brands decked out in a sea of tired pastels. However, you can see the design world and popular culture really lean into those sentimental feels of the grunge-meets-Britney-meets-new jack swing decade. Waste-free body wash brand Plus has a website decked out in Nevermind-esque typography, while protein-packed mac and cheese brand Goodles is the ultimate forgotten skateboard logo. Even &Walsh gave salad greens a much-needed makeover with Plenty, giving the brand a rowdy color palette that screams junk food.
“It’s been almost 20 years of a slow march towards a minimalist, flat, simple, and clean aesthetic—what we might classify as ‘good design,’” Alex mentions. “Things that had shadows and gradients looked and felt dated. And then every brand went through a shift where they flattened and simplified and minimized. They replaced everything with clean sans serif typography, and they lost a lot of character.”
But what does that look like today?
“More fun and less precious,” Alex jokes.
People want to have a good time right now. That's not to say that you shouldn’t take climate change, last year’s insurrection, or new variants lightly, but people also need to decompress and take a breath. Being surrounded by some color can't hurt, right? “I think that's the 90s spirit,” Alex says, “because things were good and fun, and life didn't feel quite so scary back then.”
“Design and culture is a reflection of what's going on, and I think after the pandemic—not that it's over—but people want to feel joy, and I think design in many ways is going that way, too,” he adds. “We were all inside for a fucking year and a half, and people were sad.”
That’s why you’re seeing beloved snack staples of the 90s getting revived—Dunkaroos, Doritos 3D, and Cookie Crisp cereal. We're even witnessing collabs from classic brands from the decade, like Fila teaming up with Starbucks to make highly sought-after merch. It's no surprise, but we look to the past for solace. This past year, Pizza Hut rolled out their “newstalgia” campaign, resurrecting the beloved Book-It program while delivering an AR pizza box that allowed consumers to play Pac-Man. So, yes, you have these things steeped in nostalgia, but they’re getting presented with new technologies. They’re fun for the older crowd that vividly remember running away from arcade game ghosts while getting their kids to come along for the ride.
Brands know that millennials have an awful lot of buying power, so their interests are two-fold; remind the olds of yesteryear, and turn that nostalgia onto new generations. And it’s not just the 90s creeping their way into branding. You’re also seeing the 60s and 70s tunneled through our collective fondness for the 90s because that decade, in particular, borrowed so much from the past. Just look at Good Vibes probiotic ice cream or Block Party's hemp-infused chocolate; I don’t know if CASA candles smell like nag champa with a hint of weed, but they definitely remind me of a lot of the basements I hung out in as a teenager.
Everything comes back again eventually, and there’s always a younger generation thirsty to revive it or even just appreciate the design trends of yesterday. Just because it might have come from the 90s (or 60s or 70s) doesn’t mean it wasn’t any good, to begin with—it just needed to have its time in the sun once again.
That said, can we please keep the mothballed JNCO’s and Zubaz in the attic just this once?
(Words: Bill McCool)
Trend 2: All-Inclusive Design Isn’t a Trend; It’s the Norm
Historically, if you’re not a white, able-bodied, conventionally good-looking model type, you probably haven’t felt very well-represented in media, branding, or, well, just about anywhere. BIPOC and Latinx individuals have only had incredibly narrow roles to fill and aren’t given the space to exist outside of that. Products come divided amongst men and women, boys and girls from infancy, forcing those of other genders to conform or be ignored. The default individual splashed in magazine ads or gracing our favorite websites is straight, skinny, and young.
Thankfully, this past year we’ve seen more and more branding and packaging products that leave these harmful, antiquated views in the design dust.
We don’t want to call inclusivity a trend—trends come and go, and this is here to stay. After all, this is people’s gender identity, sexual orientation, age, and size we’re talking about, and these individuals have existed even when a safe place hasn’t been allowed for them. Still, it only feels right to recognize the increase in designs we saw this year that celebrate all people and heartily welcome more projects, products, and experiences that embrace everyone.
All-inclusive design might seem a little counterintuitive at first. After all, designers are led to believe that if you design for everyone, you design for no one. So how can you successfully create packaging and branding that speaks to the masses?
The products themselves really need to be inclusive. There’s a disconnect to try and design all-inclusive packaging for a brand that never intended to be, say, gender-inclusive in the first place. The design is really about the positioning of the product and services, though. What type of brand are you? Are you more celebratory, more playful? Are you a more serious brand? All these creative directions are a way to respond to inclusion. They’re all possible, meaning that there isn’t a single creative or visual answer.
Natasha Jen, Partner at Pentagram
“The products themselves really need to be inclusive,” said Natasha Jen, partner at Pentagram. “There’s a disconnect to try and design all-inclusive packaging for a brand that never intended to be, say, gender-inclusive in the first place. The design is really about the positioning of the product and services, though. What type of brand are you? Are you more celebratory, more playful? Are you a more serious brand? All these creative directions are a way to respond to inclusion. They’re all possible, meaning that there isn’t a single creative or visual answer.”
Ultimately, inclusivity isn’t something to be slapped on at the end of the design process; instead, it should exist in the framework of the product or service.
So why did 2021 see so much all-inclusive branding and packaging? We likely have Gen Z to thank for some of that. Born between 1997 and 2012, this group of young people has a spending power of $143 billion—so it’s no wonder brands are taking notice. In particular, it’s Gen Z’s attitudes towards sexuality and how they define their sexual orientation that’s pushing all-inclusive design to the forefront. A study showed that 1 in 6 Gen Z adults in the United States identified as LGBTQIA, while another recent global survey revealed that “those who identify as transgender, non-binary, non-conforming, gender-fluid, or other than male or female make up 4% of Gen Z...compared to 1% among all adults.” Results also indicated that younger adults are much more likely to not identify as heterosexual.
That’s not to say that hyper-feminine or ultra-masculine designs are bad—but thinking that only women want something hyper-feminine and only men desire something ultra-masculine and nothing could possibly exist outside of this is missing the bigger picture. Brands should recognize that unnecessarily leaning heavily into traditional gender roles and assuming consumers are cisgender can inevitably come off as behind the times or just plain weird. BIC Pens for Her, anyone?
Beauty products have been gendered for so long, so it’s refreshing to see brands embrace every body. Good Light is a line of ethereal-looking skincare items designed by Center. The packaging combines collages, gradients, and an impactful serif font against a white background. The result is strikingly beautiful—and people of any gender can want to feel beautiful, can’t they?
Sexual wellness brands also showed promise and moved forward with inclusivity. Wild Flower, designed by SMAKK, was created as “a safe space for every racial and gender identity, body type, sexual experience level, and ability—to feel good.” Along with their educational posts and videos, the packaging for their products and website conveys an open, honest, and sex-positive approach relatable to anyone. August, a period care brand, recognizes that it’s not just women who menstruate, so it ditches the stereotypical pastel pinks and purples. This packaging has a bold, unapologetic font and a cool, modern look that aligns with their mission to bring dignified periods to anyone who menstruates.
Inclusivity also means taking into consideration the size or age of consumers. Sure, Gen Z might be the hot young ~things~ right now, but Millennials, Gen X-ers, and Boomers have been around the block and have plenty of spending power themselves (in the trillions). Unsurprisingly, a skinny, bright-eyed 21-year-old supermodel won’t really speak to these generations—people that have faced an adulthood of economic depressions, astronomical student debt, a global pandemic, and more. They want products for real people that have seen some shit.
A prime example comes from our king, Harry Styles. His recently launched beauty brand, Pleasing, features models that didn’t just walk off of a runway but instead represent a variety of shapes, sizes, and ages. In doing so, the brand emphasizes how wanting to throw on some nail polish or put on a little lip balm is a small joy anyone can crave.
You might also have noticed that all of the examples mentioned above feature plenty of non-white individuals. In the United States, those who identify as multiracial increased by 276% from 2010 to 2020, according to the US Census. More and more companies have established diversity pledges, too. Brands cannot and should not carelessly omit BIPOC and Latinx individuals from their branding or packaging—or worse, include one non-white person and mark diversity off their design checklist.
An area of all-inclusive design that seems to have the furthest to go yet is packaging and branding for differently-abled individuals. Unilever revealed Degree Inclusive deodorant, which is a significant help to the millions of people who have a disability that affects their ability to self-bathe or dress. Olay’s new lid design has braille on it along with an easy grip-cap, making it easy for those with vision impairment, limb differences, or joint problems to access. We’re thrilled to see a wider variety of people represented, especially by companies as large as Unilever and Olay, and it highlights how all-inclusive design can become the norm.
Natasha also said social media (used by over 70% of surveyed US adults) would likely impact how all-inclusive designs look in the future. “We’re all very immersed in this social media landscape,” she said. “You see a lot of designs that feel very meme-oriented or kind of like a collage. It’s got very different elements that wouldn’t have been put together ten years ago, but now they all come together and become viable design solutions.” People are used to seeing a grid of images or scrolling quickly through their feed, so a combination of varying styles makes visual sense. We’ve already seen plenty of collage-inspired examples popping up in alcohol and beverages—United By Design’s work on Founders, Flying Embers kombucha designed by Dewey Saunders, or the design for Vocation Brewery’s core range from Robot Food—so it will be interesting to see how all-inclusive designs can use this to their advantage.
Wherever all-inclusive design heads in 2022 and beyond, we’re excited about the journey. People of all genders, sexual orientations, races, ages, and abilities have always been here, and we’re finally seeing how design can help them feel safe and seen.
(Words: Theresa Christine)
Trend 3: The World Is Flat, But For How Much Longer?
The design world seems flat these days. Major redesigns and new brands have embraced two-dimensional design; ironing out gradients and simplifying graphics appears to be the playbook when going for a modern or contemporary feel.
2021 started with an example of doing it right from Pearlfisher’s major refresh of McDonald’s. The flattening and streamlining of McDonald’s takes advantage of the fact that its packaging doesn’t have to sell the product. Still, it does play a role in the consumer experience, and attractive packaging can reinforce your purchasing decisions. The bright and straightforward look is contemporary, but most importantly, it’s quickly processed and understood, particularly for the back-of-house employees.
Burger King’s refresh manages to be both full of depth and flat. Going for a retro-inspired look, the BK logo from JKR goes from a planet-like 3D affair to something stripped-down and funky that focuses on the ingredients. The agency successfully manages to visually capture a cheeseburger's dynamic nature, instantly recalling the fresh and crispy lettuce, juicy tomatoes, and chargrilled patties that make up a Whopper.
There are critical reasons why flat branding, or flanding, appeals to brands, especially legacy QSRs like Burger King and the golden arches. Creating vectorized, scalable logos is much easier when the design is flat, and it is an important consideration when so much consumer engagement happens now on screens of varying sizes. Shrunken down to a social media avatar on an iPhone, the finer details of a brand’s logo get lost or muddled.
Warner Bros. recently enlisted the services of Pentagram to redesign the logo as part of its 100th anniversary. The new branding comes as digital streaming and over-the-top (OTT) internet media distribution continue to eat into cable. According to research by Pew, 61% of adults 18-29 primarily watch TV via internet streaming. While its portfolio includes everything from DC and Looney Tunes to theme parks and video games, Pentagram’s flat design serves as a sturdy base that can be built upon as needed. The WB shield can be left flat for mobile, but textures, gradients, additional colors, and graphics can be incorporated when plastered on a wall.
Another media brand that underwent flanding is the network ABC. The broadcaster has used a variation of the same logo for the last 60 years. However, the new iteration bears a striking resemblance to the original, round 1962 iteration, ever-so-slightly tweaking the typography and bringing in the letters farther away from the edges.
According to internal documents obtained by NewscastStudio, ABC cited BMW, Starbucks, and Apple as examples they followed in reworking its own logo. ABC also noted that a flat design is perceived as more sophisticated and is optimal for digital.
Volvo follows other automotive companies such as Audi, Nissan, BMW, MINI, and Volkswagen in simplifying as well, embracing flat logos for similar reasons other brands cite; to look better on digital and across different kinds of media and “modernize.”
In some instances, such as BMW, the flat logo doesn’t do a better job at representing the marquee on the actual car. The loss of shadows and black band intended to signal BMW’s transition to becoming a “relationship brand,” and the flanding of the iconic logo represents transparency and clarity, inviting customers into the world of BMW. Cadillac’s new monochromatic and flat logo first debuted on digital channels, but the luxury automaker has now applied the new marquee to its vehicles. While the crest might look boring on a website, it shines—literally—on cars, adding a touch of high-tech and the future to the new electric path the brand is now on.
Automobile manufacturer and Cadillac’s parent company General Motors also refreshed its brand this year. Unlike the other recent auto logo refreshes, they didn’t go completely flat. The automaker was motivated to signal a new era for the firm, where zero-emission vehicles will play a significant role in its future. Gone is the cool blue background, with a lowercase “gm” in the center surrounded by a bordered negative space. The underline no longer goes across the initials but is kept under them to tie the new logo to GM’s legacy. The entire piece gets treated with an electrifying blue gradient, and the brand says that the lowercase "m" is a nod to power plugs.
While design trends are cyclical, flat logos are a natural extension of the “blanding” fad, as it solves a lot of modern problems for brands, principally having a singular logo that works well digitally and physically. But as trends get comfortable, it opens an opportunity for more ingenious designers to go against the grain while still addressing brand needs such as extensible and adaptable logos.
Graphics platform Canva also changed up its logo recently. Already flat and monochromatic, Canva dropped the background, made some adjustments to the wordmark, and added a gradient. The change to the lettering, such as connecting the “a” and adjusting the stroke widths within each character, makes it all the more striking. There's also Dropbox's 2017 makeover. Aimed at corporate users, Dropbox’s previous logos clearly communicated what the service is—a box for your files. The new logo drops the gradient and moves away from a literal box to a more abstract arrangement of surfaces, which the brand explained was inspired by its evolution from file storage to a platform where creatives and teams create together.
While flat design serves a purpose on small digital screens, it may succumb to more elaborate and intricate designs in immersive, metaverse-like experiences. Such spaces open the possibility for interactive and responsive logo designs, something alive that changes as it engages in meta spaces with other objects and people.
Until we get sucked into the inevitable meta hole, branding, including logos, will probably be lying flat for now.
(Words: Rudy Sanchez)
Trend 4: Travel Through Packaging
How does wandering the streets of Rome, lounging on a secluded beach in Thailand, or dancing in the streets of Rio sound? As borders slowly re-open and countries ease up travel restrictions, people are now dreaming of their next trip abroad after a long and necessary period of staying home. And while nothing can quite compare to visiting these destinations in person, 2021 brought us plenty of packaging and branding to whisk us away.
To absolutely no one’s surprise, COVID is the culprit. People are itching to get away—60% of those surveyed plan to travel more than they did pre-pandemic in 2019. In the meantime, the demand for engaging experiences like virtual events could grow by over 20% by 2028. With a worldwide COVID death toll in the millions, something, anything that can transport us out of here is welcomed.
Escaping the real world through design isn’t a new concept. Take the Nature Illustrated trend of last year—consumers have always found it ideal to go out and explore, even if it’s from the comfort of their pj’s and sofa. And illustration is such a compelling way to transport people, so it’s no surprise it showed up consistently with this trend.
There’s a real acknowledgment now of the storytelling power and the visual beauty that illustrations can bring, with products and services that have to do with cultures behind different locations, illustrations actually convey that a lot more directly than other design elements. Illustrations have that direct kind of storytelling power.
Natasha Jen, partner at Pentagram
“There’s a real acknowledgment now of the storytelling power and the visual beauty that illustrations can bring,” said Natasha Jen, partner at Pentagram. “With products and services that have to do with cultures behind different locations, illustrations actually convey that a lot more directly than other design elements. Illustrations have that direct kind of storytelling power.”
In some travel-inspired designs, designers wanted to take consumers on a trip because they, too, wanted so badly to go there. Lilia Quinaud at JKR was missing her native Brazil and unable to visit due to Covid, so she developed a concept for—what else?—coffee. The vibrant design is simple yet impactful. The design celebrates the diverse flora and fauna found in the country, and a custom typeface makes it unique. This personal tie to a destination is also present in Chuza. Danny Schwarz created the brand as he tried to package up some of the snacks he ate growing up in Monterrey, Mexico. A colorful design by Parámetro Studio takes consumers on a journey before they even open the pack, working in shapes derived from Mayan structures and bright, bold hues.
The trend sometimes appeared in a straightforward way, yet other times not. METAXA Grande Fine goes a more abstract route, blending graphics inspired by the famous Paraportiani Church, the Leo of Delos island, and the windmills of Mykonos. The color palette is white for the Cycladic architecture, blue for the Aegean Sea, and gold for the sun. Pearlfisher’s redesign of Takamaka Rum, on the other hand, transports buyers straight to the Seychelles with illustrations (done by local artists) that showcase the lovely, lush landscape of this East African archipelago. Personal stories from the founders’ grandfather on the packs add a personal touch, and the color palette informed by the nation’s flag gives it an overall vibe that’s beachy and beautiful.
It’s not just packaging and branding that can take us there—technology can, too. UK-based BrewDog launched an online bar in the wake of COVID, giving folks an alternative (and safe) Friday night out when heading to a local watering hole wasn’t possible. It gave people a bit of that connection with others they were so deeply yearning for—a chance to fail miserably at trivia night. And it was all hosted by their friendly neighborhood BrewDog bartender.
A QR code is also a convenient tool for brands to consider—any consumer with a cell phone scans the code and dives into the world of augmented reality (AR). These can take the consumers to acquire more information about a product or act purely as entertainment, but they can also serve a transportive purpose. Almond Breeze, for instance, debuted an AR experience to take its consumers to the orchard where the almonds are grown. It’s not only an opportunity to indulge in those cottagecore dreams by visiting a farm, but it wraps up consumers even more into the brand story.
Natasha predicted that technology could also give us more and more kinds of illustrations in the future. “It starts from more traditional, classic tools, like watercolor pen and pencil, which are super cool,” she said. “But there is a current that runs from that to computer-generated pieces, and a lot of them are in the domain of 3D illustrations. Those can range from abstract to something that’s really pictorial."
“We’re seeing 3D as kind of a new artistic domain," she added. "It’s really coming up in a very big way.”
Be it through in-home experiences brought to life, AR, or illustrations of any variety, people will always have that deep-down desire to explore. And if the Travel Through Packaging trend shows us anything, it’s that designers have the power to take us there.
(Words: Theresa Christne)
Trend 5: Psychedelics - The Next Frontier?
The United States, along with other countries and organizations like the UN, have been waging the “War on Drugs” for over fifty years now, and by most measures, it appears that drugs are winning.
Consumption of widely prohibited substances like cocaine, and opiates hasn’t stopped, with demand only rising. What's more, a softening of attitudes towards criminalized substances such as cannabis has ushered in an age of legal weed worldwide. Some early decriminalization markets like Colorado and California have been operating for years without the sky falling (though not completely issue-free), showing critics and skeptics that grownups can generally be trusted to use some substances responsibly.
Now, a new frontier in potential legalization and decriminalization is just around the corner—psychedelics.
Limited research into the therapeutic properties of psychedelics like psilocybin, the psychoactive compound found in so-called “magic mushrooms,” has already shown great promise under clinical conditions. Moreover, many are experimenting on their own with microdosing, taking small, non-psychoactive amounts of psilocybin, and reporting positive results as well. Combined with a public growing weary of the war on drugs, there’s been substantial progress lately towards legalizing some psychedelics. With that also comes questions surrounding how it will be branded and packaged or even how legal markets will work.
The progress has been exponential, now dozens of jurisdictions have initiatives to decriminalize psychedelics at the local level. What we're looking at right now is the legalization of psilocybin and MDMA, through the FDA, as federally approved prescription medications in the next five years or so.
Shelby Hartman, co-founder and CEO of DoubleBlind
“The progress has been exponential,” said Shelby Hartman, co-founder and CEO of DoubleBlind, a media company devoted to covering the burgeoning psychedelic movement. In May of 2019, Denver got the ball rolling, becoming the first US city to decriminalize psilocybin. Oakland decriminalized magic mushrooms less than a month later, followed by Santa Cruz in February 2020. “Now dozens of jurisdictions have initiatives to decriminalize psychedelics at the local level. What we're looking at right now is the legalization of psilocybin and MDMA, through the FDA, as federally approved prescription medications in the next five years or so.”?
“There's an alternative legalization model that has been put forth and has gained some traction, which is the Oregon psilocybin therapy initiative legalized at the ballot box in November,” Hartman added. “Oregon has already legalized psilocybin therapy for all adults, and you don't even need an indication like depression or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). And we may see some more states follow in the footsteps of Oregon."
Conditions like depression are currently treated by a wide variety of medications, many of which carry side effects; some of those same patients find those same side effects worse than the antidepressants. Psychedelic treatments, however, are showing efficacy in treating folks with deep depression without needing to take otherwise deleterious medications long-term.
The growing interest in psychedelics is partially due to more media around the subject. Netflix’s Have a Good Tip, for example, features folks like Nick Offerman, Ben Stiller, and Sting discussing the benefits of plant medicine. Podcaster and comedian Joe Rogan sang the praises of psychedelics for years before telling people to cure their COVID with horse paste and sunshine. “There's growing acceptance [for psychedelics]. How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan was really kind of one of the biggest contributors to the ‘mainstream’ acceptance of psychedelics,” Hartman said. “That was, I think, a catalyst for people outside of the psychedelic industry to really become more curious.”
Psychedelics like psilocybin, DMT, and LSD remain federally illegal, but that hasn’t stopped grey markets from flourishing in cities like Oakland. Branding and packaging in this grey area run the gamut, some sticking to the underground, “drugs” aesthetic, while other products have the fit and finish of legal goods.
As in the early days of cannabis decriminalization, this new category is too tiny to know how things will ultimately shake out. Some of the same marketing strategies found in the mainstream exist in this unregulated and ambiguous legal space, like social media, websites, and market segmentation. Some grey market producers in cities like Denver, where psychedelics are decriminalized, are combining, or stacking, different types of mushrooms or supplements, such as a lion’s mane or niacin. Products get packaged and formulated based on function or desired effects like elevation or increased creativity, similar to cannabis-based products marketed as functional or for wellness.
Many within the space are also taking the time to have serious discussions on creating a socially equitable market before they hit the mainstream. There remains an opportunity to make a psychedelics industry that respects the source of these therapeutic compounds, especially the indigenous people who have long been stewards of these sacred plants and put mechanisms in place to ensure access for patients, regardless of finances.
“DoubleBlind published a piece by attorney Nicole Howell, which puts forth innovative business models for ensuring equity within the psychedelic space,” Hartman says. “These models include things like requiring all companies to be benefit corporations, if they operate for-profit, and can only do business with other benefit corporations. There's also talk about providing a percentage of ownership to Indigenous communities.”
Journey Colabs, which is currently developing a synthetic version of mescaline, the psychedelic compound found in peyote cacti, sets aside a percentage of equity in what it calls the Journey Reciprocity Trust. Journey aims to provide a platform for stakeholders such as clinicians, ecologists, and Indigenous communities, departing from the traditional pharmaceutical business practices.
This shift in mindset and respect for psychedelics is a welcome change from the “pharma bros” that profit from a health care industry that copies molecules found in nature, then turns around and seeks to maximize profit from them with little regard to patients or anyone else, really.
That’s not to say that a psychedelic Shkreli, Musk, or Zuckerberg isn’t possible, or even likely. But at least there’s a discussion about the ethics surrounding plant medicine currently happening on the ground floor.
This ethical and equitable mindset may ultimately be the most significant factor in how legally accessible psychedelics brands are designed. But it appears, at least from the impression that Hartman gives, that we are still a few years away from seeing legal psychedelic branding, with underground products being progenitor examples, vanguards of what appears to be an inevitable though still vaguely defined industry.
Based on the promising research into psychedelic therapy, pharmaceutical interest, and decriminalization underway, it’s clear that a legal market for plant medicines like psilocybin is coming soon, though exactly when is still a little further away.
(Words: Rudy Sanchez)
Trend 6: All Things Dreamy and Magical
If there’s one type of design this year that is guaranteed to give you a healthy dose of serotonin, it’s the dreamy and magical trend. And with a year like 2021, which followed a year like 2020, we get it.
What makes a design dreamy and magical, you ask? If you could take fairies, unicorns, rainbows, whimsy, and joy and distill it all into a vibe, then you've got it. Stylistically, you’ll encounter a bright, uplifting color palette, the occasional gradients, and potentially some foil or holographic elements. Emotionally, you’ll feel a little like you unearthed some little utopia in packaging form. You might not be able to put your finger on why the pack is so enticing or what makes the branding effortlessly alluring, but it is.
Simply put, this trend is pretty. Both Natasha Jen, partner at Pentagram, and Zipeng Zu, creative director and founder of Dazzle Studio, said that one of the big reasons we’re seeing all things dreamy and magical in branding and packaging more often is because it’s just so darn nice to look at.
“These designs look pretty irresistible,” said Natasha. “They radiate a kind of optimism, and they’re just beautiful and tempting to look at.”
It’s a form of escapism, the past few years have been rough, in many ways. Creating a surreal, dreamy environment to let people escape into is a very understandable solution. In some ways, it’s a natural progression from what was trendy a few years back, it was a lot of brutalism, harsh typography, and black and white. It’s a cycle. When you go to one extreme, the pendulum definitely swings the other way. And right now, we're in this cotton candy, dreamy heaven.
Zipeng Zu, creative director and founder of Dazzle Studio
Beyond how they look, these designs also evoke emotions. Color psychology is a very real thing, and something that looks a bit like an ethereal Barbie wonderland made for all ages feels good. Zipeng mentioned that after the couple of years we’ve all had, we’ll welcome anything that will take our focus off our reality. “It’s a form of escapism,” he said. “The past few years have been rough, in many ways. Creating a surreal, dreamy environment to let people escape into is a very understandable solution.”
“I feel like we’re still in a kind of not-entirely-post-Covid period,” Natasha said. “We’re coming out of a very dark time, and people naturally crave something that feels and looks very positive.”
She also pointed out that designs of this nature perform well on social media. In a study of more than 30 million Instagram images, bright photographs function 24% better than darker ones. Gaining recognition on a platform such as Instagram means something since a social media presence is meaningful, if not vital, for many modern brands. Posts of dreamy and magical packaging and branding pop, encouraging consumers to stop with the endless scrolling and take a closer look.
“In some ways, it’s a natural progression from what was trendy a few years back,” added Zipeng. “It was a lot of brutalism, harsh typography, and black and white. It’s a cycle. When you go to one extreme, the pendulum definitely swings the other way. And right now, we're in this cotton candy, dreamy heaven.”
The whimsical influence appeared in several categories this year. Suculenta Repostería, designed by Caracter, makes the dream of healthy, holistic sweets a reality, leaning into this dessert heaven on earth with gorgeous gradients, delicate pinks and purples, and a hint of shimmer with gold foil. Maria Romero designed Get Down condoms with a slightly more saturated color palette that’s well-suited for a product associated with passion and the heat of the moment. Alejandro Gavancho worked with Amare The Label to create swimsuit packaging, and the result is something like summer in a box with subtle gradients and sunset hues.
This trend works well for CBD brands, too. Products that take us to a supremely satisfying state of mind deserve packaging that can do the same. Zero designed Enjjoy, a mood-targeted product line for those wanting a little more Focus, Energy, Chill, or Sleep in their lives. The feelings that dreamy and magical branding and packaging evoke align perfectly with what Enjjoy offers. Dabrand’s approach for Dalma has a more subtle, toned-down appearance that, again, speaks to the feels this trend brings up—a smooth blend of colors that reflects the kind of emotions each product can assist with.
The most popular category, by far, in this mystical wonderland of a trend is beauty. Zipeng’s own project, Love Is In The Air, is essentially love in a bottle. He was inspired to create a fragrance that represented his experience of Pride—one full of courage, community, and a celebration of uniqueness.
Or take a look at Alejandro Magno Gavancho’s work for Starrytale, the design for Marinical from Too Gallus, Center’s design for Good Light, or The Branding People’s packaging for Plump. Hell, this trend even makes hand sanitizer look good, as Interact’s design for Cleanli proves. It’s what’s on the inside that counts—and because all things enchanting stir up emotions inside of us, it makes consumers feel as beautiful as the packaging looks.
Zipeng admitted he’s excited to see how the trend continues to evolve. He loves what he’s seeing designers do with gradients and feels the concept has reached a whole new level with oil-spill-looking iridescents, organic and fluid mixtures, or grainy, fuzzy ones. We may witness designers lean further into this and explore gradients more, or instead take a step back and resort to solid colors instead, or perhaps a bit of both.
“I also feel like, in the next few years, we’re going to have an even more fantastical approach to design,” he added. “Maybe instead of going dreamy, it might be a little bit super-realism. Things would look very sharp but also very surreal. I think that could be fascinating.”
Yes, trends come and go, and in a few years, we may be back with all that dark, moody branding and packaging again. But considering the current state of the world, we’ll undoubtedly have designers delivering Lisa Frank vibes a little longer for the ultimate escapist experience—and consumers will be happy to go along for a ride as nice as this.
(Words: Theresa Christine)
Trend 7: The Age Of The Microbrand
There’s a product for everyone now—literally.
Launching a new product is by no means easy, but it’s never been easier to launch a hyper-focused brand serving consumers with specific needs. Reaching out via the web to a niche audience is perhaps the easiest part; processing payment, customer service, order fulfillment, returns, and the other operational bits are costly and require expensive experts. All you really need to is the idea to begin with.
As a consequence, a viable startup required enough of a potential pool of customers to justify the investment. No code platforms like Shopify, payment processors like Stripe, and third-party logistics (3PL) firms like ShipBob let founders spin-up a brand with a smaller base of customers. Most of these services are more expensive long-term, but the pay-as-you-go model lowers the barrier for entry, allowing entrepreneurs to viably launch their microbrand.
A microbrand, simply put, is one that narrowly focuses on serving a specific need overlooked by large brands that require a broader commercial appeal. Microbrands can be passionate about solving a very particular problem or benefiting neglected consumers.
Some of these previously ignored demographics have grown large enough to have micro-markets of their own. Telemedicine company FOLX, for example, provides medical services specifically for trans and queer patients remotely and without stigma. By leveraging mobile and web technology, FOLX provides discreet and convenient Queer and trans-focused medical treatments such as hormone therapy, PrEP, STI testing, hair loss, skincare, and erectile dysfunction.
Cannabis, obviously, is legal for adult use in even more US states now. With so many more able to buy cannabis legally, a niche for low-THC flower, or “session weed,” has quietly emerged. The legal cannabis market has been so focused on pushing the percentage of THC that’s made weed too strong for many casual or infrequent tokers that don’t need their faces melted at the moment but would still like a mellow buzz. Country Cannabis is a brand focused on providing low-THC flower strains and products. These casual tokers also get a resealable jar with a vacuum pump to keep joints fresher in between sessions, showing some consideration to this micro-market within the cannabis space.
Dad Grass is a CBD flower brand that isn’t aiming for the hip crowd on TikTok. As the name and packaging imply, Dad Grass is weed that doesn’t get you high but is an easygoing smoke, kind of like the session beers dads used to drink before they got into IPAs. The packaging is a parody of everyday household items found around the house, like cans of sardines or boxes of screws—you know, things your kids have zero interest in.
The personal care market is rife with new brands, too. Greying as we age has been chiefly an all-or-nothing proposition. People facing the fading of their hair color either had to walk around letting nature take its course or mask it with harmful dyes. Arey has found a third path and makes a supplement to slow the greying process rather than hide it. Arey sits in a cozy niche of consumers that don’t mind greying but aren’t in such a hurry and follows a similar value proposition to anti-aging skincare products.
Most razors get marketed towards either men or women. ROUT's signature product, Adios Peach Fuzz, is positioned by use, not gender. Adios removes peach fuzz or fine facial hair and is inclusive in design, branding, and packaging.
Eadem is a skincare product focused on a specific use, in this case, hyperpigmentation. The skincare industry has always treated melanin, the source of skin color, as an enemy. Eadem takes a different approach, focusing on lightening dark spots for the BIPOC community, a community historically overlooked and underserved in the beauty space. Another hyperpigmentation product focused on the same demo is Hyper!, with its celebratory branding (it has an exclamation point in the name).
Even your grandmother has a tattoo now, but even sustainably-minded vegans need tattoo-care products. German skincare brand Manik saw an opportunity to create vegan-friendly tattoo care soaps packaged in biodegradable materials with a visual look that’s more yoga studio than biker bar. Crude, however, is a line of soap-free skincare products that nourish our skin's natural flora aimed at folks with conditions worsened by synthetic soaps like eczema, psoriasis, and rosacea.
Plant-based products are everywhere, as the category isn’t just popular with herbivores; many consumers are so-called flexitarians, occasionally eating animal-derived food as well as vegan meals. For some flexitarians, avoiding meat is in response to climate change, but they might indulge themselves with a nice steak on rare occasions. According to food and beverage consulting firm Mattson, 48% percent of consumers choose to eat plant-based foods because it’s better for the environment.
Yogurt that uses plant-based probiotics and milk-like oat, cashew, and coconut is a burgeoning vegan food category, with brands like Vegurt jumping in to provide non-dairy alternatives to traditional offerings. Nowadays, however, set out to capture everyone, not just the vegans and vegetarians, but compete against meat while also eyeing flexitarians. Nowadays’ packaging and branding dazzlingly reflect that mission. For today’s consumers concerned about the environment that still vibes on flesh, some great packaging might be all a flexy needs to try plant-based chicky nuggies.
Some animal-based foods are tough to replicate with a satisfying degree of fidelity with plant-based ingredients, like hard-boiled eggs. Craft Counter, however, did just that recently with the launch of WunderEggs. The packaging communicates the egginess of the plant-based food but still boldly demands shelf attention.
Barcode, co-founded by NBA star Kyle Kuzma, fills a gap in the sports drinks space with a plant-based recovery beverage in RTD form. Developed and conceived with former NY Knicks performance director Bar Malik, Barcode became a hit among basketball players and is now the official performance beverage of the NBA Player’s Association.
Identifying and serving underrepresented groups is a trend that will continue strong in 2022. Entrepreneurs, many driven by a personal passion for a particular community, will take advantage of web services and 3rd party fulfillment, along with social media, to reach out and find their niche and thrive as a microbrand. Opportunities in beauty, health, food, and cannabis abound, and entrepreneurs will continue to find overlooked consumers and specialize in serving them.
(Words: Rudy Sanchez)
Trend 8: Have It Their Way - The Fast Food Celeb Meals Just Won’t Stop
Would you order the same meal at McDonald's that your favorite celebrity or pop star eats?
As it turns out, the answer is a resounding yes. McDonald’s recently revived a version of the celebrity endorsement by offering customized orders inspired by the wildly famous; now you can get it their way, right away.
These celeb meals have proven immensely profitable. Same-store sales during a BTS promotion were up 25.9% in the quarter for the Golden Arches, for example, while the Travis Scott and J. Balvin famous orders broke records, according to Chris Kempczinsk, McDonald's CEO.
Of course, the copycat star meal is nothing new. The Clown Prince of McDonaldland ran a “McJordan” meal promotion in 1991 featuring a modified quarter pounder similar to the 2020 feast that kicked off the current fad—the Travis Scott meal. Since then, the brand has extended the idea, collaborating with other stars like hip hop artist Saweetie. Each meal had varying degrees of customization; in BTS and Saweetie, the promotion also included unique sauces or ingredients, and the Travis Scott meal featured special promotional packaging.
But these promotional meals also highlight a stronger sense of authenticity on a celebrity’s part. It isn’t just BTS in a commercial promoting McDonald’s, and fans get the boy band’s favorite McDonald’s food. How big a deal was it for the BTS Army? Some carefully washed and dried the packaging to save as keepsakes.
Now, you can even find upsized versions of it on steroids. For instance, it wouldn’t be Christmas without Mariah Carey. McDonald’s is capping a year of celebrity meals with a Carey-themed 12 day promotion giving away a different menu item, with purchase, starting December 13th. Of course, Mariah’s favorite, a cheeseburger with extra pickles, will be part of the giveaway.
And, yes, there's merch—there's always merch.
Since many artists and celebrities share more with fans over social media than their antecedents, discovering that one’s favorite rapper likes the same fast food and has their own head-scratching way of customizing their order is an extension of that personal engagement and relatability that works on Instagram.
Other QSRs have taken notice of McDonald's success and have launched their celebrity meal promotions as well. Rival Burger King used celebrity orders to highlight its banning of over 120 artificial ingredients, calling it “Keeping it Real” meals. The trio of custom orders belongs to Nelly, Anitta, and Lil Huddy, but BK uses the artists’ given names of Cornell Haynes Jr, Larissa Machado, and Chase Hudson, respectively.
The marketing tactic can get tailored to almost any QSR brand, something fried chicken player Popeyes did with its Megan Thee Stallion collab. Popeyes needed a follow-up to the viral menu item that launched the chicken sandwich wars, and Stallion’s TikTok popularity proved to be a natural fit. Also, who doesn't want to try "Hottie Sauce?"
The idea of a celeb custom order is a natural fit for coffee chains, where part of the experience is specifically tailored drinks. Timed along with the release of Red (Taylor’s Version), pop star Taylor Swift partnered with Starbucks. Of course, this promotional campaign included a “Taylor’s Way” latte, which is an unsurprisingly basic grande nonfat caramel latte.
Not far behind Starbucks, Canadian chain Tim Horton’s turned to an internationally renowned Canuck Justin Bieber to be its celebrity collaborator this holiday season. The donut maven launched “TimBiebs,” a play on their beloved Timbits, which began a relationship culminating in three unique flavors, cobranded merch, and new packaging bearing the name.”
And speaking of merch, the FOMO around getting the limited edition drop is now part of the successful celebrity meal promotion. The hype around the celeb-led releases powered by social media brings a level of engagement that was impossible for the McJordan promotion of the past. Despite everyone wanting to be like Mike, social media connects brands directly with fans (and fans with each other).
On the flip side, the QSR space faces widespread employee recruitment and retention issues, and A&W uses the trend to create a hiring campaign with its “Anti-Celebrity Meal” promotion. Rather than pay a lot of money to the likes of Travis Scott or BTS, the smaller burger chain is using “locally sourced celebs,” or employees, to feature in the campaign. A&W’s images for the campaign even mimic recent McDonald’s campaigns, playfully parodying the Saweetie and J Balvin photography with its employees.
McDonald’s is showing no signs of slowing down with its “Famous Orders” strategy, and other brands are taking the concept and finding their own success. Social media and its ability to turn kids into “influencers” with audiences in the millions is constantly making new celebrities as well. So long as there is an appetite for ordering what the famous nosh on, there won't be any shortage of celeb meal promotions.
(Words: Rudy Sanchez)
Trend 9: Enter the Metaverse
Last October, Facebook CEO and likely replicant Mark Zuckerberg publicly announced his firm’s rebranding to Meta, indicating that Facebook, which also owns Instagram, WhatsApp, and Oculus, intends to build out its vision of the metaverse.
And now, the metaverse is as hot a Google search as NFT.
Simply put, a metaverse platform blends digital and physical layers to create new, integrated experiences. Metaverses incorporate virtual, augmented reality, the internet, connected devices and sensors, and In Real Life (IRL) data to create new venues and user experiences greater than the sum of their parts.
Now, it’s about to get all kinds of meta up in here, and every brand wants in.
Despite recent headlines screaming that the metaverse is coming, examples have existed for many years. Linden Labs’ Second Life, a virtual reality role-playing platform launched in 2003, while Nintendo’s Wii brought a new home gaming console experience with wireless, motion-sensing controllers. Millions worldwide will remember the summer of 2017 for Pokémon GO, where users caught Pokemon IRL using AR and mapping technology on their smartphones.
But there are plenty of other brands making a play for this new brand of virtual reality as you read this. Fitness brand Peloton’s workout equipment comes integrated with remote trainers and workouts in real-time with other Peloton users. Thanks to the pandemic, the firm signed on an additional 2.49 million subscribers, tripling over six quarters. Peloton is also set to launch Peloton Guide, a strength training platform that includes a heart monitor, camera, and classes. Without knowing it, many of Peloton’s customers have been getting their sweat on in a fitness metaverse.
Nike has also created a fitness-centered experience called Nikeland with the gaming platform Roblox. Fashioned after Nike’s headquarters, Nikeland features multi-players games like the floor is lava, dodgeball, and tag at launch. Users can also create their own games with the Nikeland toolkit. Moreover, special moves within Nikeland are powered by offline IRL movements, thanks to mobile phone accelerometers. The outlet also features a digital showroom to showcase digital versions of sneaker classics.
Roblox also sees a lot of promise for immersive educational experiences and has set a goal of having 100 million students served in the metaverse. Their program already has a long list of educators signed up, online and around the world. Should another pandemic necessitate virtual classrooms, students might end up with something akin to Roblox meets Zoom.
Oh, and do you want to dress your Roblox avatars up in Ralph Lauren? Because you can do that now, too.
And they're hardly alone. Last September, Balenciaga teamed with Fortnite to create digital fashions. Of course, they sold the actual outfits inside physical stores, but they also opened their own virtual boutique hawking the "clothes." There's also a pretty good chance you already saw the Fortnite x Balenciaga campaign that popped up on digital billboards across the globe promoting it, too, with a Hypebeast-looking dog virtually crawling out of the advertisement.
But if we already have instances of metaverse applications and platforms, then why is it now a thing that brands should care about?
For starters, the pandemic upended all aspects of modern life, most notably work and school. Teachers, bosses, students, and coworkers worked from home but met online. While Zoom calls aren’t the immersive experience promised by the likes of Zuckerberg, in many ways, remote work and learning was the taste of the metaverse that many consumers needed to get accustomed with a blended reality.
Brands could dismiss meta concepts as novelties, but in the competition for attention, wouldn’t a brand want to engage where its target consumers spend time, physically and digitally? If users are leaving web 2.0 platforms like Facebook and Instagram and are instead converging within a Roblox application or some other future platform, it only makes sense that brands would follow.
Need proof that's where brands and design futurists are heading? Look no further than Pantone selecting “Very Peri” for its 2022 Color of the Year, a hue selected for its future-forward underpinnings and represented through Pixar-esque fuzzy images not of this world. Adobe is also creating a metaverse where design can seemingly come to life, integrating VR into its Substance 3D modeling software. Designers will soon be able to seamlessly jump between desktop and virtual reality to shape and mold 3D models. The software is in beta, but it is a sign that Adobe is thinking about its userbase getting tasked with designing for meta spaces.
If a brand isn’t already playing around with future metaverse concepts, they're already late to the party. When General Mills brought back 90s snack Dunkaroos, it also released virtual streetwear as part of the launch, leveraging NFT technology because we're clearly going to need new digital skins for this blossoming universe.
Facebook may have also inadvertently started the conversation about building these metaverses responsibly and who we should follow into this new space (spoiler alert: probably not Meta). Facebook’s negative impact on society has many users asking if it’s a good idea to follow the pied piper of Menlo Park. More seriously, Facebook—or if Zuckerberg insists, Meta—has had a demonstrable effect on the mental health of teenage girls. And that’s not to mention all the disinformation, helping insurrectionists, and the nagging fact that Facebook has quite literally facilitated genocide.
Discussion of metaverse products and concepts will be an ongoing topic in the coming year. But most of the discussion and products will revolve around applications like VR gaming, sharing IRL events virtually, and the toolkits and services that will support meta-apps. A pitch deck with slides about social responsibility, accessibility, anti-hate mechanisms, and the fighting of misinformation will not get venture capital bros excited enough to cut a fat check. Rushing to make quick money on whatever meta-app gains traction, with no sincere regard to the consequences on its users and their communities, is how we get a meta-version of the current state of social media.
As we're tasked with designing and creating for the metaverse, let’s first stop and think of all the possible ramifications of our decisions. We need to ponder the impressions left on these real people in our metauniverses instead of the number of total impressions. There’s an opportunity to avoid making a worse version of the cyber existence we have now, or at least stop digital robber barons like Mark Zuckerberg from defining it for us.
We’d do well to take advantage of having time on our side to define our meta-destiny, lest the obnoxious tech bros with a terrible track record do it for us.
(Words: Rudy Sanchez)
Trend 10: Buy Better
Countless publications have written in some form or another about the great supply chain debacle of 2021, to which we’ll only add it wasn’t that great! Nearly every industry dealt with the persistent, nagging headache of a pandemic that derailed the economy, not to mention all of the consumers instructed to ship their holiday gifts in September. Even the brands and design agencies delayed projects because of setbacks stemming from the hold-up.
But maybe—just maybe—-there’s a silver lining to that.
In some ways, people want quieter lives, one where they work a little less with a little more time for family and friends—hell, we just got to hug grandma for the time in a year. And no, we might not be able to hug grandma again next year because who knows how many other variants lie ahead of us, but there was a genuine desire to slow down. Sure, American consumers are buying more than ever, partly because of COVID hoarding, but also because we’re spending more on goods for the home.
But there’s also something to be said for buying better, and it’s something we might see consumers doing very shortly as they continue to vote with their wallets.
No, we’re not just talking about buying local—though that’s always a great idea, and so is supporting the non-big box store down the road. But what if there was more of a conscientious consumerism, one where we support brands that are both sustainable, ethically made, and better for the planet?
As it turns out, this has been something in the works for years. It’s no secret that consumers want to purchase sustainable products or support brands that align with their values. It’s increasingly important to younger generations of the non-Boomer variety, too, especially as more of Gen Z gets out from under their parents' thumb and joins the rank and file of the consumer class.
Yes, in the end, it’s just stuff. But more and more, we want stuff that doesn’t come at a detrimental cost, either to the environment or the worker getting exploited to manufacture it. The fashion industry is notorious for the amount of waste and destruction it creates—whether it’s in the form of wastewater, microplastics from textiles, or nearly 10% of the globe’s carbon emissions. That’s why many shoppers are turning to stylish secondhand sellers like The RealReal and Poshmark, avoiding fast-fashion altogether.
Three hundred million pairs of shoes get tossed in the trash every year, some of which get made with copious amounts of plastic that will take several hundred years to biodegrade. Kengos uses minimal components to construct its sneakers and will be entirely plant-based by the end of 2022. What’s more, when you’re done wearing them, you can send them back to the company where they get disassembled, so they can get recycled and used in other pairs of shoes or get composted. The beloved Allbirds is another shoe brand trying to eliminate synthetic materials from fossil fuels, utilizing plant-based leathers and even developing their own proprietary carbon-negative shoe sole material, SweetFoam.
But it’s not just the fashion world looking to give ethically-minded consumers an alternative to some of the harmful products they use. The beauty and personal care industry are also full of better options. Plus is a waster-free body wash that comes in dissolvable packaging—you can literally throw it down the drain when you’re done opening it. Axiology is a beauty brand selling lips balms that use just nine ingredients, plus they're cruelty, animal, and plastic-free; peel them like a crayon as you go, and recycle and compost the paper. You can also forget the packaging waste entirely—particularly the plastic—and shop beauty brand Lush’s “naked” products. Lush even turned their back on social media recently, leaving platforms like Facebook and Instagram, citing the toxic atmosphere they have fostered.
The fact of the matter is, there’s a Google-able solution for most everything. It’s also true that many of these products often come at a higher price point, and, obviously, consumers should only do what they can afford. But in some cases, your dollar goes a long way when you choose the sustainable option. For instance, using a shampoo or conditioner bar from the likes of Object, Good Juju, or Lush will last longer than tier liquid counterparts.
You know when someone tells you they don’t make them like they use to? Well, typically someone made it using plastic, and it’s crap. Or it’s a piece of clothing that falls apart in a few months. Why buy a t-shirt that will shrink and fall apart not long after you purchase when you could have something that lasts for years? When you buy quality goods, they last longer.
How you choose to spend your money matters, and consumers care very deeply about the brands they support and how their values line up with theirs. We’re certainly not going to buy our way out of climate change or disinformation—no one really believes that. But opting for a more sustainable and ethical option might inspire someone else to do so, and that’s a good thing no matter how you square it.
But remember—please remember—it’s just stuff.
(Words: Bill McCool)