Another year is coming to an end. 2022 has been nothing but eventful, and we hope you and your loved ones haven’t been affected by the growing economic pressure and the recent turn of events in Europe and other parts of the world.
However, this year has also been marked by great innovators and cultural movements, and also, of course, great products that show how our priorities have shifted.
For instance, every year more people start to prioritize mental and physical health over other aspects of their life, and that’s reflected in the way they consume products and media. A small example might be the recent explosion of beverages like kombucha for the more health-conscious population; also coffee culture has shown signs of shifting from the specialty coffee shops to the home in what’s been called a “fourth wave” of this phenomenon: TikTok creators have been embracing cold coffee and consumers now demand quality products to create home-sourced coffee drinks.
Additionally, physical gatherings and events are having a huge comeback after these past few years: product experiences have become a coveted commodity for a lot of people. And, at the same time, local communities have been trying to leverage technology to work towards a better future. Two examples of this: there’s been attempts at creating Community Inclusion Currencies to help local communities gain autonomy and ways to generate business without interference from external parties; there’s also been an uptick among the elderly to connect online more and create digital tribes through services like GetSetUp, which now has over 4 million people gathering around their shared interests. The metaverse craze might show signs of slowing down, but people are trying to get around the limitations and frustrations of the social media landscape to foster learning, connecting and critical thinking.
But here we want to focus on products and experiences that connect people, disrupt industries and spark the imagination of the consumers. We’re sure you’ll see a lot of product roundups at the end of the year. This one is going to be a little bit different, as we don’t want to focus just on packaging but on how different industries are aiming not only to foster a sustainable future, but also to make it look pretty cool. And thus the “Cool (and random) product highlights of 2022” list was born.
Shall we begin?
1 – Coolest (and sustainable) new category creation
Sustainable and eco-friendly products bring the opportunity to generate whole new categories. By reinventing what was thought immutable, companies are taking the opportunity to aim innovation at the greater good. Here’s some examples:
Cool 0-waste body wash
90% of what you’ll find in your typical body wash product is, actually, water. On top of that, most of those products are packaged in a single-use plastic. So Plus decided to solve those two problems at the same time by putting that soap into a foaming dehydrated sheet that starts to dissolve by applying water. The packaging is also compostable and made from FSC-certified wood pulp. But it also looks great: minimal, powerful and youthful.
Cool 0-waste packaging
Cosmetic, medical and food products have always been traditionally related to single-use materials, some of them really expensive. Soluble Solution tries to solve that problem without sacrificing aesthetics with a sustainable, bio-degradable plastic developed from a natural and renewable raw material. The package decomposes after contact with water and can also be used as a face-mask, body soap and shampoo, since all the ingredients have beneficial nutrients for the human body. You could also eat it or throw it away at your organic trashcan. Feeling better, physically and aesthetically, doesn’t mean waste anymore.
Making fitness supplements cool again
Who would have thought nutritional supplements could look (and feel) this good? Athletic Greens reinvented their packaging and branding to reflect their philosophy. Their packages are 100% made from recycled content, they’re certified by the TGA and DFA, are totally traceable and contain all the minerals and vitamins your body needs to perform. They also clearly drew inspiration from old-school advertising, mimicking the move made by the famous American Apparel campaigns from a decade ago. In a world where every supplement looks like they were made in the 90s, this company seems to prove there’s a lot of room for innovation in this industry.
2. Coolest Packaging Design
Now let’s dive directly into packaging. Here too we find the conversation moves around sustainability, with a focus on everyday products that need to be reinvented and modernised. One of the primary goals for designers and manufacturers are daily beverages. Here’s where specialty coffee and kombucha make an appearence. If you make a product that’s healthier for the consumer, but also doesn’t make a lasting impact on the planet, you’re in a win-win situation.
Let’s check some of the highlights for this year.
Plastic-free, reusable deodorant
Bite have also declared war to single-use plastics, creating a reusable deodorant using plant-based materials. The dispenser is metallic, also taking cues from Apple’s designs, with a mirror-like finish that turns an everyday product into a desirable object to have in your bathroom shelf. The important thing to note here is how, first, all deodorants are gender neutral; and second, the refills can be used and applied without any hassle.
Kombucha is here to stay
If you’ve been living under a rock for the past ten years, we want you to get out of there and see the light. Kombucha, a fermented natural drink based on tea, has become a recent craze as a healthy daily beverage. It has vitamin B, improves our skin, hair, nail, and gut health, and serves as a general-purpose detox. It comes in a many different flavours, achieved by mixing in different fruits while fermenting.
That’s why local companies have been developing different brands of kombucha, knowing there’s a whole new market for it. And since they also environmentally conscientious , products like this K’Bios Kombucha, developed in Marratxi, Mallorca (Spain) make the case for a healthy and sustainable daily life without sacrificing any of the flavours. The design carries associations with classic, timeless drinks.
Repurposing everything to make a new kind of beer
Only a forward-looking artist could imagine blending tea and toast to create a new type of beer. Hai-Hsin Huan saw the enormous local waste in his local Taiwan scene and decided to create a lager. The designs are whimsical and playful, showcasing the culture of the taiwanese breakfast (even though you can drink it at any time of the day).
3. Best of Storytelling
In a globalised culture, it’s easy to overlook the importance of preserving local cultures and communities. There’s also an ever-growing list of new products every year competing for your attention. It’s not surprising, then, how designers have been focusing lately on different ways to create storytelling-based product design, turning transaction into values and consuming into an experience.
Here’s some of the standouts we’ve seen make the rounds in 2022:
How wine packaging can look both at the past and to the future
Bordeaux is one of the classic wine denominations in the world. But tradition can wear down a brand’s reputation amongst the younger consumers, and, at the same time, strict regulations don’t allow for products to deviate from it. For Château Picoron, this was a challenge worth tackling. They joined forces with the french artist Jochen Gerner and their agency, OlssonBarbieri, to tell a more relatable, inclusive story with a loss of constraints.
Constraints define the playground, and in turn the artist becomes free thanks to them. Using very specific iconography (with a blackbird as their new mascot, representing the local animals that gave Merlot wine their name) along a very distinct typography (Bourrasque), they use symmetry in both the playful wording and the final shape of the label to point both to the past and the future, challenging conventions.
Promoting perfection by showing mistakes
Whenever we read about a recipe being “perfect”, “unique” or “special” we almost always reduce it to marketing lingo. However, what if you could experience a highly curated process by tasting how it could’ve gone wrong? This genius campaign by Giles Watson, “Rejected Ales”, takes us on a trip across history through the lens of the modern outcast.
It’s genius because by using minimalist, retro-futurist aesthetics, the campaign conveys the feeling it isn’t made to be seen by the customer. It’s also a luxury product for collectionists that want to track down all the 27 attempts it took to get to that perfect recipe. But most importantly, it tells a story of trial and failure that can become relatable to anyone feeling an outcast, a “rejected”. Those stories of rejection are told literally on the back of each can. Truly special… and cool.
Poetic technology through the art of Kintsugi
The beauty of imperfection, or Kintsugi, is represented here in a sculpture, called Teno, that hides a very powerful bluetooth speaker inside. As sound “cracks us open” and can connect with us in a way no other medium can, this speaker becomes a poetic device and a very useful gadget at the same time. Minimal, organic, beautiful design.
4. Best Picture of the year
This picture captured by the James Webb Space Telescope reveals galaxies from 13 billion years ago, making it the deepest we’ve looked into the universe.
If you got this far, thank you for your time. We hope you’ve enjoyed our standouts selection for the year. And, of course, we wish you the best for you and your close circle as we’re getting closer to the new year. Happy holidays!