Responses by Chris Garvey, executive creative director, Turner Duckworth.
Background: Our task was to simplify direct-to-consumer shaving care brand Dollar Shave Club (DSC) for retail while elevating it to reinforce the “club” feel.
Design thinking: The brand’s name is its biggest equity. We embraced it as the primary design element and had it inform a type-based secondary system that balances sophistication with the brand’s signature wit. From there, whenever we played with a design element, our question was always: “If DSC had a physical club, would this be something you would hang on the wall?” This is most evident with the artful approach to scent and product photography.
Visual influences: We spent a lot of time discussing what the physical “club” would be like. It wouldn’t lean into antiquity like an explorers’ club, juvenile tendencies of a fraternity or exclusivity of elite membership. Many of these design codes had to be discarded to ensure this felt like a space for more than a “traditional” man. This was a new space where you could arrive as your best self. Everything had to be approachable but dialed up enough to be inspiring. We drew a lot of inspiration from abstract art and typographic posters; they showed us how we could elevate messages and imagery but also remain open to interpretation by the viewer.
Favorite details: Honestly, it’s the details that consumers will never notice. This is a system that sings rather than shouts. All the small details add up to something truly impressive: well-set type, beautifully arranged products, dialed-in color and clean layouts. I’m proud that we were able to add a level of elegance into a category of severely outdated, overly aggressive, “masculine” design cues. I hope consumers feel as confident as this brand identity.
Challenges: Dollar Shave Club is a long name to fit on a tube of lip balm. We attempted many symbols, but at the end of the day, anything we designed was competing for attention and space. Ironically, adding three letters to the existing fifteen was the key to the solution: the DSC monogram. Locked up with the full name, the monogram plays a secondary role as the shorthand for the brand—i.e., the element I see from a distance on shelf to quickly identify DSC. Where space is ultralimited, like on favicons or lip balm packaging, the monogram can work independently of the full name. A nice plus has been the monogram becoming a character that occasionally animates.
New lessons: Clients can be design partners. Increasingly, some clients want “collaboration” as a way of micromanaging creative—check-ins, prereads, pre-prereads, etc. This adds stress to the creative team, and as a result, there is a risk that you are using design to assuage anxiety versus using design to encourage bravery and solve bigger challenges.
Dollar Shave Club demonstrated the ingredients for a true partnership. First off, the DSC team is very clever and talented: check out their YouTube channel. Second, this is a team that values connection and culture. We spent time getting to know each other before deciding to work together. Based off those interactions, we could tell this was a team that respected individual strengths and would welcome critical discussion. We could argue the finer points of an x-height and then ask to see baby pictures. Finally, they understood that collaboration means work on behalf of both parties. They were not there to simply provide feedback; they knew they had to champion design internally and help set us up for success.
Specific project demands: The collaboration request was tricky at first because it was nebulous. We learned that we need to be really formal about collaboration. Once we could get really specific about how and when we engaged, as well as get clear on what could be actioned upon coming out of discussions, everything was smooth sailing.