Gen Z perspective: Instagrammable design strategy

Glossier. Cha-Cha Matcha. Pietro Nolita. Three very pink, very posted, very profitable businesses in NYC who have commandeered Instagram feeds at one point or another. A combination of package, product, and interior design have set these and other companies apart as the 2018 version of the “it” brand.

In a digital age where trending items can be circulated rapidly, it can be difficult for the “it” item to still exist. A new product can quickly be adapted en masse, and oversaturation is the death of any new trend.

Just look at how big of a market specialty ice cream has become. The age of froyo is over. Now we have everything from low calorie pints to decadent stir-fried ice cream at 10Below, custom bars at Magnum, and boozy dishes at Tipsy Scoop. But it’s not just the product that is picture perfect.

Here we look at the three fronts of major branding efforts, and how the harmony of all three together can create great success for your brand or client.


Package Design

Herbivore Botanicals Instagram

No industry has become a bigger powerhouse of visually appealing packaging than the beauty industry. When everybody has a mascara, body scrub, or serum, it’s understandable that package design can help to cut through the noise. And with the ‘shelfie’, a picture of one’s beauty shelf/vanity becoming increasingly common on social media, the power of packaging can’t be underestimated. 

Herbivore Botanicals is a strong example. A brand that originally launched on Etsy in 2011, it is now a definite staple in many skin care and shelfie lover’s lives. Key products include their Coco Rose coconut oil body polish and Pink Cloud rosewater moisture cream. Each is in clear, glass packaging, with minimal labeling. 

The simplicity of the packaging reflects the all-natural ingredients, reflecting the company’s value from the offset. We all know how crucial it is for Gen Z’s products to reflect what they care about (note rises in veganism, cruelty free products, and distaste for single use plastics).

Brands OUAI and Glow Recipe have similar packaging and positioning, focusing on natural and simple, yet effective, products. If they are filling up their shelfie, you can bet the products they are displaying are going to be both appealing and effective.

Product Design


However, it’s not just the outside that counts. One of the earlier examples of the importance of #aesthetic product design was the Fuji Instax Mini, an instant camera on the tail end of the Williamsburg hipster trend that bridged such seriousness with the fun of 90’s pop revival. The cameras were small, portable, and most importantly, available in bright pastels, as were the actual film slides the pictures printed on.

More recently, product design has become most important for food and beverages. While on-the-shelf products have to focus on packaging, restaurants, cafés and bars are able to pull consumers back into the bricks and mortar atmosphere with artful offerings. Countering the rise of food delivery services with experiences you can only get by booking a table, the plating and serving of these dishes, even in a fast service environment, have become key,

Look to Supermoon Bakehouse, a tiny store on the Lower East Side whose impeccably stylised croissants, cruffins (croissant/muffin hybrids), and doughnuts launched them into a internet frenzy. Perfectly perched chocolate shards and artful snaps of halved pastries are just a few ways they make sure their product is picture perfect.

Another prime user of these tactics is Bluestone Lane coffee shop and cafe. Inspired by the coffee scene of Melbourne, Australia, the basics are quality, but spins they do on the classics set them apart. See their classic Maverick espresso drinks served in a chocolate lined waffle cone or their Instagram-ready turmeric and beet lattes. Doing both function and form, it’s important to note that trend-led ingredients make for a beautiful picture, whilr the implied health benefits of drinking a beet or turmeric latte definitely doesn’t hurt.


Interior Design



Finally, we look at where houses these products. With the rise of online shopping, more specifically mobile shopping in recent years, retail is having to constantly increase its efforts in order to lure in the ever evasive consumer. In an effort to keep bricks and mortar retail locations open, pop ups and interactive experiences have become the new norm.

But what about place like restaurants and hotels, where you have to experience your purchase in-house? The Instagram explore page are riddled with only the best of the best places to eat, sleep, and even play, and there truly couldn’t be better unpaid referrals in today’s day and age.

Refer to Media Noche cuban counter in San Francisco. Every aspect of the space is designed with a photograph and influencer in mind. Multi-tiled floors, hanging plants and an outdoor art mural all feature. They’ve got enough content to keep your grid filled with their restaurant for days. 

With features in Bon Appetit, Buzzfeed, and Zagat, the methods seem to be working pretty well for them. This fun, kitsch aesthetic is both accessible and aspirational. Anybody can attend without bookings months out, but it’ll still sit well on any Instagram feed – and feel exciting to post. 

The balance of money spent vs. experiences received is important here. Millennials spending power may be increasing, but Gen-Z, another Instagram heavyweight, is still tight on funds and consumer insight data has shown they place value on experiences rather than tangible items. So selling the overall experience  a key strategy here.




Ticking all the boxes

The brands discussed in this article could have been applied to each section of design. And that, in itself, is the point.

Brands and companies can increase success by implementing one of these efforts effectively. However, we recommend combining the lot. 

Firstly, align your values. Not only do they need to match the consumer behavior and psychographics of your target consumer, but they should align with your own business’s perceived values, and should be reflected through things such as packaging, material sourcing, tone of voice and campaign messages.

Next, make sure your product development team, if applicable, is constantly creating new products, especially within the restaurant/bar industry (frosé is very two summers ago). Always be on top of new, visually appealing but monetarily worthwhile products in order to appeal to all of your consumer’s values.

Finally, make it pretty. Today’s consumers have the world at their fingertips. Enter the make or break question: why should they choose your business? You have the product, you have the message, now coat it in Instagram gold. 


Want to read more on how these factors influence the success of your business? Download our complimentary report, Persuasive Packaging: Marketing With Your Product” here.


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