Have you ever noticed how many indie brands have similar black and white labels, as well as an only slight variation in containers and their lid closures?
It starts with how they were founded. Many indie brands start grassroots, like us, with no funding and just a passionate person with an idea doing everything on a bootstrapped budget all on their own.
Ali, founder of Earth Harbor (pictured above), started by going to farmers’ markets, for instance, with only a dream that Earth Harbor would organically become what it is today in just two short years!
In order to make labels for cherished formulas at the beginning, indie founders find what’s most accessible— small quantities of white sheet labels that you can print at home! Then, since you wear all the hats, you are also the designer! So what’s next is pulling up basic software to design your labels + logo. Since fancy designer software isn’t in the picture, your options are limited— so a legible open-source font it is, along with anything special you can possibly summon with text-based software while still applying good design principles (especially Gestalt Principles) while following specific FDA rules.
Next is sourcing the packaging! As newbs, you’ve never sold anything before and are starting on a tiny budget so you have to start at super low quantities where there are only a few stock options, and if you care about sustainability (specifically if you deny plastics and want glass containers) then your options boil down to about two looks— clear glass or amber glass with either black or white closures— all with same styles and sizes.
So there you have where the visual identities of so many truly indie brands come from! As us indies progress and grow, more options become available to us since we are able to buy in more bulk (which is the reason Earth Harbor was able to start switching to upcycled ocean resins and post-consumer glass, for instance!) but to stay close to our roots, a lot of us indies choose to stick closely to our original looks even though we no longer have the same extreme packaging limitations.
Below is a list we put together of our fellow indies that share similar grassroots development! This isn’t a comprehensive list by any means, but we included both big brands that have taken on major funding all the way to little brands that still go to markets for a living. Some have evolved packaging further from their original looks, and others have stayed very similar, but we all started in a kindred, if not the same exact way. This list is far from comprehensive and is in no particular order, but it’s a tribute to all!
And a special shoutout to the oldest of these brands: FrenchGirl Organics! A Seattle-based company founded in 2010 by botanist and activist Kristen Griffin-Grimes out of her kitchen.
Any other self-starters out there in a similar or different industry that can relate to the early days!?