How the design language of tech and clean eating made natural supplements alluring
In the past, herbal pills came in flowery or bland packaging that used green or brown as a signifier of safety, emphasising ‘calm, benevolent nature’ almost to the point of being boring. Now bright colours, jovial language, and happy graphics are injecting life into the natural supplements category. Beyond just the world of nature, newer brands adopt the design language of tech, the visual information language of apps, and the colour palette of clean eating to entice a more youthful audience.
These brands have captured and capitalised on a key cultural shift: young people are ever more concerned with both longer term health goals and making themselves ‘better than well’ in the here and now. These people aren’t exclusively yogis or vegans or those with low immune systems, but are regular millennials who are making connections between their health today and their body and wellbeing in the future. They seek not to fix a medical problem, but to optimise their lives by making themselves even “better than healthy” – faster, stronger, more alert, more intelligent, and more resilient. The standard nature-conscious and basic medical language of the existing category is unlikely to appeal to this generation used to intuitive tracking apps, minimalist lifestyles, mindfulness, clean living and personalisation. If the industry wanted to grow and get younger generations excited about spirulina and magnesium, a radical change was needed from the outset.
So how did they do it?
Companies such as Ritual and Vitl have embraced intuitive cues from the latest technology brands and products and the clean eating movement. They’ve moved away from the uninspiring imagery of flowers and green-brown colour schemes to cleaner graphic designs, sans serif types, bold brand statements, colour blocking, even incorporating cute or kitsch colour schemes.
It’s not just supplements picking up this design approach. Rising disruptive brands like Thinx period underwear, Casper mattresses, and Venmo banking feature a similarly bold and fresh look. We can see it everywhere on Instagram, from shades of ‘millennial pink’ to bright opaque backgrounds in fashion photography. It’s a clean, pared-down visual language that conveys clarity and openness—a brand that has nothing to hide, that can therefore be trusted, inviting embrace.
This sense of clarity is key. Rather than claiming to fix a very specific, tangible problem, a cure drawn from a reassuringly ‘safe’ source, this bright, happy design and language hints at a wider impact on one’s life, taking you to a state of elevated holistic wellbeing, refreshing your body and mind together. Brands use optimistic words, e.g. Nootrobox’s “Rise’ variant, or Hum’s ‘Here Comes The Sun’ vitamins, to promise a kind of accessible vitality, easily achieved and wholly positive.
Gender neutrality is another key aspect of these products’ appeal, in line with major fashion and beauty trends of the past few years. Where protein and sports supplements often feel hyper-masculine and alienating, and beauty supplements feel overtly feminine, with their gender neutral designs, these clean living supplements come across as connected, relevant, and inclusive.
For brands to truly connect to the millennial lifestyle, they have to go beyond design and also look at where they show up. The transformation of delivery systems—moving to subscriptions and personalisation-based business models that create long-time, potentially lifetime buyers was a necessary shift for supplements. Health supplements are now something anyone can craft to perfectly fit their needs and lifestyles, thus effectively becoming a trusted ally that looks after you intuitively and effortlessly.
What does this mean for medicine?
Whilst in pharma there will always be a need for a certain standardisation and integrity of clinical information to be communicated, there is much to be learnt from the contemporisation of the supplement category. Capsule Pharmacy for example, has already adopted this minimalist design and conversational tone to create an innovative online pharmacy offer that feels personal and desirable whilst still remaining rigorously informative and medical. Their paper bags have lively designs on the inside, giving consumers the feeling of opening up something exciting. Capsule’s in-app language is very human, and warm. It’s an entirely fresh approach in the staid pharma category.
Other pharmacies, over-the-counter medicine, and even prescriptions should be considering these important cultural shifts. With consumers changing approaches to health, the rise of private label and generics, they also struggle to connect with consumers and keep them interested amidst other alternatives. What kinds of changes can they make in their design and language on packs and in communications? How can they rethink where they show up and how consumers can access them? Tapping into tech and clean eating design and language has brought new audiences to the natural supplements category, making previously irrelevant products an intuitive fit into younger generations’ approach to health and lifestyle. We may anticipate early adopters like Capsule Pharmacy will spark a communication revolution in the pharmacy and medicine one day soon, just like in supplements before it.
— Rebecca Collins