Braver design for a brighter tomorrow.

Design That Makes the Everyday Special

How to design for accessible-premium brands.

by Shaun Bowen on 24/11/2022 | 3 Minute Read

When people start to tighten their belts, it’s always logical to assume that they’ll replace more premium grocery brands with standard or budget offers that cost a little less. And certainly accessible-premium brands do need to work hard to justify their price points when grocery budgets are painfully squeezed. But it’s a noted fact of recessionary times that while people may cut back on big ticket items, they’re likely to scratch that consumerist itch by indulging in life’s little luxuries. And when they’re spending less in restaurants and bars, they’re more likely to recreate a higher quality experience at home.

So, it’s not a bad time to be an ‘everyday special’ brand. But hitting that sweet spot that cues premium quality without alienating the everyday consumer is a delicate balancing act. Of course, it all comes down to product – from cheese to chocolate, your product simply must taste, feel and perform better than the more mass brand, and it needs to have the backing of provenance or a true sustainability story.

The Goldilocks Factor
When it comes to design cues, consumers understand the difference between everyday and premium. They can decode the promise of a tube of Oreo cookies, say, versus a box of Ladurée macaroons. And so arguably, it’s easier to design at either end of the spectrum, as those guidelines exist to direct us all.
But with everyday special, we’re playing in the middle. And getting it ‘just right’ can entail a more nuanced and subtle balancing act between codes that elevate by promising craft and quality, and those that reassure through ease and familiarity. It’s potentially about carving out a whole new space in your category – and that puts the pressure on design to create a new visual language.

Challenger heartland
This is partly why challenger brands find such success in the accessible-premium space. More often than not these more entrepreneurial brands are coming to the market with an improved product, and they need design to tell that story. Neither are they confined by the handcuffs of the marketing handbook to which so many bigger brands still subscribe.
Everyday special offers a real opportunity to challenge the category at every level, reshaping the supermarket aisle and forcing sustainable improvements in product – and design – quality across the board.

Design principles
There’s no single recipe to getting everyday special design right. Every product, every brand and every brief is different. But there are a few themes we continue to see in the accessible-premium brands we admire and those we’ve designed over the years that are worth considering if you want your brand to win in this space.


Design touches that show
proof and share knowledge.

While premium brands come with an expectation of sophisticated understanding, accessible premium openly shares what makes it special to help consumers feel included. Examples such as The Fever-Tree Pairing Wheel and the Green & Black’s Tasting Collection both demonstrate how to prove product quality and increase exploration of your range, while welcoming consumers into the brand. Indeed, the latest iteration of Fever-Tree’s packaging design introduces a new tasting notes label to help deepen that understanding of what makes the brand a cut above.


Cutting through the clutter of craft.

Premium brands – and those that aspire to be seen as such – can often be overloaded with embellished detail and overworked craft codes. But what makes accessible premium work is its straightforward clarity – a confidence in its product quality that allows for colourful stand-out and simplicity of messaging. While vibrancy is often seen as the preserve of mainstream brands, when it’s delivered via thoughtful design and considered typography, it can be a great way to strike the perfect balance of premium and accessible. Border Biscuits recent redesign is a great example, challenging the existing cookie category with a standout colourful design that quite clearly captures the quality and care the brand brings to its process. Similarly, plant based and sustainable chocolate brand Raw Halo redesigned away from more traditional premium cues, towards a bold, simple identity that clearly celebrates its premium product quality with pride.


Not being afraid to break the rules.

There’s obviously a conformist approach to traditional premium design, while a desire to break the rules is implicit in accessible premium’s challenger mindset. Oatly is an obvious example of packaging design that refuses to conform to the plant-based dairy codes of its more corporate competitors – and it looks all the more premium for it. Equally, nut butter pioneer Pip & Nut was deliberately designed to challenge category convention – both in how its pure white backdrop showed up on shelf against a sea of earthy tones, to how its lifestyle focus revolutionised the whole how, where and who of eating nut butter.


Stop being so serious.

There has always been a polite reserve and quiet seriousness to premium categories, but accessible premium has shown how to break the silence with subtle wit, humour and playfulness. Clipper Tea is a lovely example of how to combine a beautifully considered illustrative design with a smile-infused tone of voice that instantly increases its accessibility and consumer connection. In Pret A Manger’s new retail design boldly placed product photography echoes the brand’s signature ‘Food Art’ posters to bring a lighthearted feel to the pack in keeping with the retail mission of bringing Pret joy to your home.

The moments that matter

What’s great about accessible premium brands is that they are there for the everyday moments that are just a little bit special, rather than the big – and often so pressurised – occasions that call for the premium tier. With a more relaxed, playful and welcoming mindset, these are often the moments that mean the most in our lives – and so they should demand brands that mean more to us too. It’s that ability to connect with consumers in the moments that matter that makes everyday special design so, well, special.

Shaun Bowen is Co-Founder and Creative Partner at B&B.
Originally published in Dieline.