05 July 2024

The growing role of science and minimalism in a wave of ‘everyday’ luxury

Nick Ford-Young

‘Less is more’ has always been the stronghold of luxury brand design.

The beautiful lack of a need to say too much. The impression and privilege of space and time.

For a long time, brand minimalism has been exactly that: the privilege of brands that toil and craft to command the right to hold high price tags and status to match.

But has this desirable approach to aesthetic now well and truly invaded the expectation of our ‘everyday’?

The very concept of ‘minimalism’ has certainly evolved, creeping into the mainstream of customer experience and product design for decades, particularly since Steve Jobs started tinkering.

The striving to build and design in a way that feels ‘clean’ – in both brand and CX. The beauty of only needing one button. An accessible luxury for all of us.

To build effective brands with the impression of complete simplicity has always been to some extent the goal of the very best design and ‘in vogue’ at the top end of the market.

Yet things started to change in the UK when the ‘minimalist’ design wave hit startups from the Silicon Roundabout to Manchester Piccadilly – and well over a decade of bold simplicity has graced everything from challenger insurance brands to eco bikes.

Today, a category that seems to be intriguingly taking this further still is the ever evolving landscape of everyday luxury goods. Now alongside a common partner in crime: science.

A trend spanning industries from skincare to wellness beverages is one rooted in a ‘formula’ – ultimately grounded in science, paired with a clinical and precise aesthetic – conveying brand effectiveness and brand beauty in one potent package.

Here are some examples of how minimalism and science have taken hold of everyday luxury.

Minimalism in design: a symbol of potency

Minimalistic, clinical design has become a powerful indicator of potency and efficacy.

With Aesop perhaps setting the initial bar for intelligent sustainable design, luxury everyday skincare brands like The Ordinary, Grown Alchemist and The Nue Co. have adopted minimalist packaging to highlight their scientific credentials, followed by a wave of others.

These brands use clinical-looking bottles and straightforward labels to convey a sense of purity and effectiveness. The unspoken promise is that the product’s power lies within, needing no embellishment. The Ordinary’s recent ‘stripped back’, science-inspired OOH campaign is a stark example of this.


Scientific formulas: a new benchmark for luxury

The allure of a scientifically-backed formula has transcended skincare and reached many other product categories.

Perhaps not unexpected at the ‘top end’ of traditional luxury category is progressions within the fragrance industry.

Brands like Le Labo and Escentric Molecules emphasise the science behind their scents. These brands present their perfumes in simple, laboratory-inspired bottles, suggesting that their formulas are precise and potent. A new, embellished angle – even for fragrance.

Le Labo ‘believes the future of luxury (hence of perfumery) lies in craftsmanship – in the soulful power of thoughtful hands: hand-picked roses, hand-poured candles, hand-formulated perfumes and handshake agreements’ – its belief system is built to make you believe.

Meanwhile, the Nue Co product range, which covers both skincare and fragrance, has sold itself by looking and feeling like it’s arrived from the lab, not the factory.


And now this strategy is further extending into the truly ‘every day’ product ranges.

In the food and beverage sector, products like Soylent and Huel are marketed not just as meal replacements but as scientifically-formulated nutrition solutions.

Soylent is both ‘science-backed and delicious’.

Their minimalist packaging and clinical branding reinforce the message that they offer more than just sustenance; they provide optimised, scientifically-backed nutrition – and a potency that implies effectiveness.

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In a post-pandemic world where average consumers have learnt the language of human biology and chemistry, the impact of this is significant.

Yet in some senses, the tactic of minimalism and potency to build belief in a mainstream product is nothing new.

Back in 2001 when Dietrich Mateschitz adapted a cheap Bangkok tonic in a brown bottle packed with caffeine, vitamins, carbohydrates and taurine that helped people stay awake called Krating Daeng; even he wasn’t to know the extent that the compact can that packed a concentrated energy punch was going to give the world wings.

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The fact it was banned in France, only in pharmacies in Japan and classified as medicine in Norway would only go to add to the Red Bull effect. Dietrich was perhaps the original master of this approach.

And we believed in it.

Daily rituals transformed: from mundane to luxurious

The trend of transforming everyday routines into luxurious experiences is gaining momentum.

This is evident in the oral care market, where brands are introducing products that elevate the simple act of brushing teeth. These products often feature minimalist designs and promise clinical efficacy, turning a daily habit into an indulgent ritual.

Cocofloss, for example, was founded by ‘a dentist and an artist’ sister duo to elevate flossing, ‘Presented in the wildest flavors that energize and aliven beyond standard mint’, their new scientifically-formulated toothpaste is sustainable, refillable, minimalist and clinical.

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Other notable players are Suri (‘sustainable rituals’), Boka (‘mindful oral care’), and Marvis (a premium brushing experience) has a website that feels more like an interactive art experience than a toothpaste site, and ‘blends flavours with Fragrance Houses in Italy’.

A similar shift is occurring in household cleaning products.

Brands like Method have reimagined cleaning supplies with chic, minimalist packaging and natural, scientifically-proven ingredients.

These products aim to elevate mundane chores through the power of brand, aligning with the broader trend of infusing luxury into everyday activities.

It works.

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Potency as a luxury: efficiency and effectiveness

A core aspect of this trend is the idea that luxury products should be potent and efficient, requiring minimal use for maximum effect.

In the beauty industry, this is well trodden ground, as high-end serums and treatments exemplify this principle.

Products like La Mer’s The Concentrate and Estée Lauder’s Advanced Night Repair are designed to deliver significant results with just a few drops, underscoring their value and effectiveness.

The same principle is applied in the realm of supplements and wellness products.

For example, brands like Moon Juice offer concentrated formulas that promise powerful benefits with minimal usage, and bold brands in the emerging adaptogens space like Spacegoods take this further mainstream – with science and distinctive minimalism at its core.

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These products appeal to consumers who value both efficacy and efficiency, bringing a new level of luxury to the everyday expectation – it lies in high performance.

Sustainability and sophistication: redefining modern luxury

Modern luxury consumers are increasingly prioritising sustainability alongside sophistication.

Minimalist design and messaging around scientific efficacy align well with these values, as they often lead to reduced waste and more responsible consumption.

In the fashion industry, brands like Everlane and Stella McCartney are leading the charge by combining minimalist, chic designs with sustainable practices.

In the beauty industry, meanwhile, brands such as Biossance and Tata Harper emphasise both scientific formulations and eco-friendly packaging.

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Their commitment to sustainability and clinical efficacy appeals to consumers who seek high-quality products that also reflect their environmental values.

Towards a scientific, minimalistic future?

The trend of combining minimalism with scientific potency is reshaping the ‘everyday luxury’ landscape across various industries, and it’s now firmly in the mainstream.

This approach not only appeals to consumers’ aesthetic sensibilities but also their desire for products that deliver high performance and align with their values.

Whether in skincare, nutrition, wellness, or beyond, the intersection of minimalism and science is setting a new standard for luxury, transforming everyday routines into sophisticated experiences.

With these trends in mind, whilst it is a bold move for an everyday brand to embrace design minimalism; perhaps it’s time to challenge the wonderful phrase I stumbled across whilst researching this piece:

‘Aesthetic minimalism is for the rich. Functional minimalism is for the rest of us.’

Perhaps we can have it all.