Simply Swiss

The idea of clean, readable, objective design has been around for quite some time now. The style hit its stride in the 1950’s when Swiss graphic designers pioneered a minimalist look to their designs, most often characterized by sans serif typefaces and asymmetric grids where the typography was the artwork. Although this style has been utilized for quite some time now, it seems that the use of the approach in packaging design has been growing — particularly in the beauty and premium beverage industries.

But why the simple look if the whole point of branding is to stand out from your competitors? The theme of purity of ingredients seems to be one of the sources for the idea of packaging products in a deliberately clean, almost generic way. Antipodes Sparkling Water uses simple black typography with a clean all-justified grid to communicate a pure look for their water. In the beauty industry, MOP (Modern Organic Products) also uses black copy on a clean, white background to communicate the simplicity of their formulas and commitment to using pure, organic ingredients.

Although many of the products are mostly black and white, color systems are often used to help the consumer to distinguish one product from another on the shelf — many utilizing bright, clean palettes. Glaceau Vitamin Water uses a simple band of a bright accent color inspired by the hue of the corresponding beverage, creating an eye-catching rainbow of labels. Color can also be used as a coding system — Malin + Goatz uses it to identify product categories such as Face and Hair.

When it comes to communicating the brand personality, one of the staples of pulling off this clean look while maintaining a strong brand is copywriting. When design “bells and whistles” are stripped away, it makes sense that the copy should carry more of the personality. Philosophy has always done a great job with clever naming such as “Hope in a Jar” and inspirational, “philosophical” copy that reinforces the meaning of the brand name. Glaceau Vitamin Water also has clever, conversational copywriting that brings an edgier tone to the clean look and feel of the packaging identity.

Even though the Swiss aesthetic has taken on the form of a prominent trend in these categories, the underlying style itself will never go away. With all the visual noise that has become so easy to create since the introduction of the computer, it is no surprise that designers are reverting back to clarity and strong design. So as long as the look is an authentic expression of the product it is portraying, Swiss will be in — for good.