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Beauty for All: Behind Center’s Inclusive Design for Non-Binary Skincare Line Good Light

by Theresa Christine Johnson on 07/12/2021 | 4 Minute Read

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Walk down any beauty or skin care aisle, and you’ll notice a trend. Women’s products are branded and designed to look delicate, dainty, and oh-so-pretty with all the pinks and purples, while men’s products are Manly with a capital M—all gray and black to exude strength. But the characteristics we attribute to gender have been created by humans. Who says women can’t be aggressive or that men can’t be pretty? Why does gender identity have to only fall into two categories in the first place?

Good Light, founded by David Yi and Michael Engert, provides the nonbinary beauty products we need right now. Their line of cleansers, serums, and lotions push beauty beyond the binary, shedding gendered design cues and focusing instead on incredible products for all.

Good Light already had quite a following from its blog readers (the blog is aptly named Very Good Light), so David and Michael reached out to Alex Center, founder of design agency Center, to see if he wanted to build a beauty brand with them.

“My background is Coca-Cola, Vitamin Water, and Smart Water,” Alex said. “So, as you can imagine, a lot of the projects that were coming into Center in the earliest days of our business were food and beverage projects. We get lots of consumer packaged goods and food and beverage inquiries, and my desire is to be a diversified branding company. We want to build brands that champion ideas which are meaningful for people.”

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This was an opportunity to expand Center’s portfolio, but more than that, Alex was drawn to Good Light’s ethos. David’s previous writing discussed the intersection of masculinity and beauty and the way society perceives men and personal care—all ideas that resonated with Alex.

“The way that products are gendered in a store hasn’t really changed,” Alex said. “It’s comically outdated. Dove for men comes in a gray steel shampoo container, and women’s comes in pink. It’s very divided. In the same way that people are disgusted by the pink tax, the same thing is sort of happening in representing guys as strong and tough and in a stereotypical, one-dimensional way.”

Center’s approach for Good Light shifted throughout the project. At first, the goal was to change ideas of what beauty means for people who identify as men. As Center and the co-founders dug deeper into the brand, though, they wanted it to open up the spectrum completely and highlight how beauty is universal—something we can all feel and achieve, regardless of gender identity.

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“We went in initially with two developed ideas in the beginning, and David felt like neither one of them was right,” Alex confessed. The Center team then brought about twelve more proposals to the table, all slightly less fleshed out than the previous two but hopefully closer to what David and Michael had in mind. From there, they pieced together Good Light’s design. “We created this world that was sort of a utopia, a future that was cosmic and natural and filled with light sources and elements of art.”

The brand is inclusive, but creating something universal isn’t an easy task. Alex mentioned the old adage that if you design something for everybody, you design it for nobody—they needed to design packaging that could appeal to a wide enough audience and let beauty rest in the eye of the beholder. They also wanted Good Light to be something you could easily see sitting on the shelves in a store like Target, making it easily accessible to consumers.

“It was a collaborative process in that we had an idea for how our brand could differentiate itself and what it could surround itself with, but to say that the Center team gave it life would be an understatement,” said Michael Engert, co-founder and president of Good Light. “Their design just felt so fresh and unique compared to what's on shelves that we knew instantly it was right, and it was us.”

The team incorporated some of the more familiar beauty and skincare cues that have been popular in recent years—a dash of stripped-down minimalism with elegant fonts (including the main font, Sometimes)—but other aspects of the packaging are unexpected and refreshing. The illustration style has a celestial vibe, a rune-inspired icon system quickly identifies products, and the collages fit together as smaller parts of a whole.

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“The products are wonderful, but it’s not about the super hydrating nature of the skincare for me,” said Alex. “It’s about building a brand that has a voice and a point of view and can shift an industry.”

Michael said that the most critical thing to him and David is how consumers feel when they see the brand and experience the product. For the beauty industry to reconsider how it genders its products is the cherry on top.

“Our hope for the future is that we can be a force for positive change, and we'll try and do that through product and purpose,” Michael said. “In the near term, that means continuing to develop digital and physical products that help inspire confidence from within, as well as shine a light on underrepresented communities and voices.”

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