Walk down the “feminine products” aisle in any pharmacy and you’re likely to come across a lot of soft pastels. Packaging design from many of the biggest companies in the tampon industry rely on what some might call gender stereotypes—such as the color pink—to both vaguely communicate the product’s purpose (it’s a period product, but shh let’s be discreet about that normal physiological process!) and explicitly communicate who the product is designed for (ladies, all the pink in this aisle means you!). In fact, try searching the word “euphemism” and the first image that comes up is a sign for a “feminine hygiene” aisle. Sigh.
Some new companies have reinvented tampon branding to be less vague or gendered (e.g., Thinx, Cora, Flex, and Lola, to name a few). None use pink as a primary part of the color palette—or feature imagery of a woman in action—even though they were all founded by women. You might say it’s period packaging without the male gaze. Still, these are all much smaller, direct-to-consumer, digital brands in comparison to Kimberly-Clark, which owns Kotex; Edgewell Personal Care, which owns Playtex; and Procter & Gamble, which owns Tampax.
Graphic designer and YouTuber Kelly Lauren, who has previously redesigned well-known logos from major coffee brands such as Starbucks and Folgers, is taking on the period packaging of a big brand—and redesigning it to include those who might not self-identify as women but still get their period. In Lauren’s most recent video, she redesigns the packaging for Playtex Sport tampons and divests the box of its hyperfeminine visual crutches (soft pinks and greens! The profile of a slender woman with her hair in a ponytail) to create a look that she hopes is both a welcoming arm of inclusion to trans men and nonbinary people, and a challenge to designers to move beyond the use of overtly feminine cliches. Women are going to buy the product anyway, she posits, so why are companies leaning so hard into advertising to them?
Lauren frames the redesign as an effort to modernize and minimize. She made a short list of design elements she wanted to keep: the main brand name and subbrand (that would be “Playtex” and “Sport”), and the copy leading down the box, from “unscented” to tampon sizing. She replaced the original Playtex logo typeface with Champion HTF heavyweight—a blocky font that dropped some of the feminine curvature of the original but maintained a sport sensibility, which she also thought would be a draw for first-time buyers. “Sport” was placed below the main brand name and italicized to give the word a sense of movement associated with being active.
The original color palette didn’t make the short list of design elements to keep, so the pink and green were replaced with a palette of bright colors, anchored by a soft blue. It’s called Playtex, so, thought Lauren, why not emphasize the play? The new color palette also gave Lauren the opportunity to convey other positive emotions about the product to consumers. In this case, Lauren wanted to emphasize a feeling of cleanliness and comfort. She also dropped in a few wavy shapes in the new colors on the front of the box (“a little national park-esque if you ask me,” she says in the video) to further a sense of movement and give it a kind of retro-Alpine ski vacation sort of feel. “I wanted it to feel organic and approachable with movement through the shapes with a slight retro twist,” Lauren told me via email. A few more details, like a “360 protection” illustration and UPC code, and the Playtex design makeover was complete.
“It goes to show that you can still have effective packaging and marketing without having it be overtly feminine,” says Lauren in the video. No feminine symbols or silhouettes of women anywhere on it. Just abstract shapes and an approachable color palette. There was another element that Lauren kept: the Playtex Sport tagline “It’s a product for people who have periods.” And that’s really the key element to translate to consumers—no matter how one self-identifies, female, trans male, non-binary, this is a product that works for anyone who needs it.