The Science and Beauty in Living Proof Hair Care Packaging

If you’re looking for your perfect hair day, then Living Proof can help. No, really—they’ve actually got a line of products called Perfect Hair Day, aimed at keeping hair looking and feeling healthy. But whether you’re looking to breathe life into hair as you age, add volume, or control the frizz, Living Proof has an extensive line of gorgeous products that will also make you feel gorgeous, too. We spoke with Barbara Spakowski, Vice President, Package Development, Living Proof, to learn more about how she develops the packaging for each product, designing with the details in mind, and creating a consistent brand with a big range of products.

Living Proof is a bath and beauty brand, but it relies heavily on science. How did you try to communicate this through the packaging?

Barbara Spakowski: At the brand’s inception, we decided that we did not want to have an overtly scientific look—we wanted to be inspired by science and the work coming out of our labs, but not be gimmicky. We take our packaging seriously. We strive for a clean, spare look with a soft muted palette of colors punctuated by clean crisp white closures. There are no gimmicks, just a cool functionality enhanced by our soft touch tactile “feel.”

We use elements of metal which is unique. We use a metallic element on some of our products—in the collar for example. A lot of people in our business don’t do that because it adds cost, but it certainly gives you a more premium look. 

Let’s imagine that Living Proof has just approached you about designing the packaging for a new line of products. What does this brief usually entail?

Barbara Spakowski: A packaging brief will always include the basics, such as how many SKU’s, what the sizes are, and a benchmark for Cost of Goods so you know before you begin what the brand can afford to spend on packaging. A key driver is functionality. Are the new products going to pour out of a bottle, be scooped out of a jar or sprayed out of an aerosol can? I always start with the assumption that any new line has to fit seamlessly with our existing franchises on-shelf so as to be recognizable as “Living Proof” and yet have a distinct personality of their own. We know the consumer makes their decision in a few seconds so designing a package that they want to reach for and pick up is key. We sell packaged products but the customer will not come back if the product itself is not amazing.

We do a lot of testing—both models and prototype tools. We’ll pass them around for people to evaluate, and we use that feedback to fine tune the designs even further.

Approximately how long does it take to design the packaging for a new line of Living Proof products?

Barbara Spakowski: If we are starting with a blank slate and doing a totally custom design, it requires at least 6 months of creative and development work to land on a final design we want to build and produce. If we are working with a range of stock packaging, then the focus is mainly on color and graphics choices and this can be done in a shorter time frame.

The bottle shapes are definitely memorable, as it seems that each product division (No Frizz, Restore, etc.) has its own personality. How do you decide on the containers for each product?

Barbara Spakowski: No Frizz was our first launch, and the idea was that it would be vaguely reminiscent of a test tube—it’s a subtle and sophisticated nod to science. Full came next, and since it’s a line for people who want bigger, fuller hair, we created bottles that were round, full, and had a wide presence. Restore is meant to invoke health—it’s inspired by the shape of a milk bottle. Curl is designed to look like the curvature of curly hair. PhD packaging gives a nod toward Erlenmeyer flasks.

At the same time, every product is clearly consistent under the Living Proof brand. How do you achieve that?

Barbara Spakowski: It’s an iterative process and a give and take between marketing, packaging, product development. We make proposals, we modify, and we evolve. I’ll bring in a few different suppliers to get their ideas, then we modify those until it’s the one that we want. It’s a lot of back and forth.

Living Proof is certainly a higher end range of hair care. How do you express this through the packaging?

Barbara Spakowski: It’s all in the details! Caps that fit flush to the bottle and have no gaps. Use of Multi Color Silk Screen Decoration instead of labels. Our trademark soft touch finishes on the both primary and secondary packaging. We use elements of metal which is unique. We use a metallic element on some of our products—in the collar for example. A lot of people in our business don’t do that because it adds cost, but it certainly gives you a more premium look.

When faced with packaging a new product in the Living Proof line, what are your biggest concerns?

Barbara Spakowski: Two of our biggest concerns are package compatibility and package functionality. Can the materials chosen for the packaging components stand up the product formulation maintaining product integrity and freshness? Does the method of dispensing the product from the package (lotion pump, flip top cap, aerosol valve) all the product to be evacuated consistently from the first use to the last use. That’s why we do so much testing.

What do you find is the biggest challenge with designing the packaging for Living Proof Products? How do you overcome it?

Barbara Spakowski: We are perfectionists at Living Proof. We test and evaluate every aspect of the packaging and the package design. Convincing ourselves that we have the best package shape, color, graphics and functional system is our constant challenge. Do we have a holistic look with the rest of the Brand? Will the graphics be easy to read and help the consumer to make the best product choice for her hair? Do we look like “Living Proof”? Do we look like a Prestige Brand that commands the prices we charge?