The Y Code
Project Type: Produced, Commercial Work
Packaging Content: Male cosmetics
The Y Code is a new brand and product concept created by global design agency Sheridan&Co that aims to repurpose male cosmetics for the ‘everyday man’.
The aim is to offer an accessible and inclusive premium cosmetics solution not currently serviced by existing brands on the market. Freddie Sheridan, director at Sheridan&Co, commented: “The market that The Y Code is targeting is an interesting one - these men are youthful enough to not yet be set in their ways; they are open to experimentation, have a decent disposable income, may already have a well-stocked cabinet of grooming goods and have perhaps dabbled with cosmetics in some way – even if this included raiding the Mrs’ makeup bag for cover-up to conceal the shady effects of a hangover.”
The phenomenon of men wearing makeup has moved beyond the domain of drag queens, Hollywood and the stage to become an industry set to be worth in excess of $60bn by 2020 (Euromonitor, 2017).
Drawing on market analysis, trends in male cosmetics over the past two years and over 30 years expertise in the general cosmetics industry, Sheridan&Co identified an opportunity to create a concept cosmetics brand for men that, in a sense, ‘reclaimed’ the act of wearing makeup.
“Examining the historical context of men in make-up, in the modern era it’s curious as to how the act of wearing it has become almost an exclusively female pursuit,” Freddie Sheridan continued. “Ancient tribal warriors deemed it as war paint, a tool for making their demeanour more fearsome, not effeminate, to their enemies. Punk and Goth culture, likewise, saw men wear this as a means of smashing social norms set up by the establishment. Make-up, in this sense, was very much like ammunition. So, it’s interesting to see how male cosmetics today has become such a terrifying idea to the man on the street.”
The Y Code represents a new approach to branding male cosmetics. The name was specifically selected to address the very DNA of masculinity, reclaiming a stake in a female-centric market with a proposition that evokes the anthropological significance of male make-up (empowering, formidable) but presenting it in a relevant and modern way (confident, individual).
Product positioning was central to the ideation process – the view was to create a brand that was inclusive as possible to ensure that it stoked the interests of men who may not have previously experimented with make-up before to those who wear it regularly as part of their usual grooming routine. Where women’s cosmetics focuses heavily on the tenets of beautification, brand language and visual cues were used here to put The Y Code’s focus on the idea of subtle enhancement, correction and refinement – a ‘barely there’ aesthetic that complimented rather than masked the face.
The strapline “Honour what sets you apart” and other brand language including “It’s you, but better” underscores the idea of individuality and personal optimisation. The products are positioned as practical tools to be used to ‘fix’, ‘boost’, ‘energise’ and ‘rescue’ so that one may look his optimal best. This is carried further in the product design concepts where items such as tinted moisturiser and liquid foundations are presented in minimalistic monochrome ‘paint tubes’. Simple graphic icons with succinct, unfussy descriptors denote each product’s purpose.
Branding of The Y Code here is expressed simply as “Y” alongside an individual code denoting hue or product type. Linear graphics that cut through the “Y” across and diagonally give a certain scientific feel to the packaging aesthetic, while the external packaging, presented as matchboxes, label the product simply as “The Code”. The font is bold, industrial looking and bleeds off the side the edges for a utilitarian feel. Application of products was also key to ensuring that the ‘tool’ concept was maintained throughout; all purpose balms and tanning gel for example are presented in a chunky twist-and-use tube form and presented in practical and re-usable brand zip pouches. Meanwhile, on points of sale, concept shots alluding to an urban landscape – such as the grey concrete of a skateboard ramp – continues with the monochrome theme, with a diverse selection of faces – from bearded to freckled, black to white, tattooed to pierced – used to portray an aspirational but essentially realistic and diverse aesthetic.
Freddie Sheridan commented: “Terms like “guyliner” have a lot to answer for in terms of putting ordinary men off cosmetic trial and experimentation. It’s clear that functionality must sit at the forefront of brand language and identity. Brands must be authentic and transparent in their presentation. Identity must be clear and unfussy in order to be impactful. Furthermore, brands must move beyond being just a product to being lifestyle driven. Understanding the differences in purchasing drivers between men and women is key here.”
He continued: “Perhaps the time has come for men to, in a way, reclaim the act of wearing makeup but in a relevant and modern way. Not as a tool for intimidation or making a political statement as such, but as a way of ensuring they are allowed to look the best possible version of themselves, without fear of judgment or stigmatisation. Currently, the male cosmetics market is almost exclusively serviced by premium brands with a luxury price tag, targeting the independently wealthy modern man. As social norms change and there is more product diversity in the category, male cosmetics may eventually become more accessible as it becomes more widely acceptable and commonplace.”