You wake up in the morning, stretch, yawn. You remove your nightcap courtesy SleepTite, the Pajama subscription box service. You do your necessaries: brushing your teeth with a Boka Box-supplied toothbrush, shaving with razors and gel from Dollar Shave Club, the subscription box service that (you guessed it) sends you razors and shaving gel in the mail. You apply an array of indulgent, pleasant-smelling balms to your face, reminding yourself that this isn’t sissy stuff: after all, it’s direct from Birchbox MAN, the subscription box for MEN. So: all good there. Similar routine with haircare (Manpacks), socks (Foot Cardigan), and underwear (Briefd).
You proceed to your kitchen, unpacking breakfast ingredients and curating your countertop mise en place via meal-kit service BlueApron—careful to follow every step of the beautifully designed recipe card. Unsatisfied with the particular spice blend called for in the recipe, you pop open your package from Raw Spice Bar, the subscription box for spices, and prepare a custom seasoned omelette to share with your Instagram squad. Your belly full, you don your impeccably tailored button-up, selvedge denim, and skinny tie from Bombfell and try on several pairs of glasses from Warby Parker (remember now: you’ve only got three more days before you need to send ‘em back), before settling on the perfect look. Satisfied, you head out the door for the day, grabbing a NatureBox snack and a drip coffee from Bean Box as you go.
Seem a bit tedious for you?
Okay. Well, maybe you’d feel more at home with French Box, which will deliver every month, direct to your door… wait for it… stuff from France. Do you need a new phone case every month? You’re in luck—sign up for the aptly named “Phone Case of the Month.” If you’re a runner, there’s StrideBox. If you’re into horror movie esoterica, there’s the Box of Dread. Feeling outdoorsy? Cairn is your safe bet. Huge fan of the military industrial complex? BATTLBOX, reporting for duty. Then there’s cryptic offering “The Cosmic Box,” which promises to supply you with, among other things, carefully curated “copper bells, adornments, incense, and more.”
Do you have a penchant for candles? Flicker Box. Prepping for the end times? Apocabox. Weight lifter? Jacked Pack. Into weird sex? Boink Box. Proud brony? My Little Pony Box. Vegan? Purple Carrot. That time of the month? PMS Package. Doing yoga and need everyone to know about it? Yogi Surprise. For the spiritual set, you can “get right” with Faithbox, the Christian subscription box service. If you’re of a polytheistic bent, there’s the Pagan alternative, Sabbat Box. And at the time of this writing, there’s no Satanic subscription box service, so if you came to our blog in search of a million dollar idea: you’re welcome.
Maybe you now have too much stuff—because you’ve signed up for all these subscription boxes—and you’d like to pare back. No worries. Just sign up for ‘Minimalism & Co.,’ the subscription box that promises to help you to have less stuff by sending you more stuff to have. What a time to be alive.
Look—devil’s advocate here. We like stuff. Everyone does: especially when the stuff in question means something to you, or when there’s a cool story behind it, or when it addresses a need. Bonus points are awarded for beautifully designed stuff; more on this later. But let’s stop and take some time out for a sanity check. Where does this end? Getting stuff in the mail is cool and all, but where is the satisfaction in getting a bunch of junk you don’t need from a total stranger? Must we feverishly craft niche, precious identities for ourselves, only to be pampered and reaffirmed in these identities each month via a litany of consumer goods?
We often joke that there should be an aggregating subscription service that packs a dozen or so different subscription boxes into a comically large crate and delivers the whole thing to your front porch via forklift—we call it “EveryBox®.” We’ll be accepting first round investors in the parking lot behind the abandoned mattress store if you’re interested. Small bills only; please arrive alone.
Needless to say, we have our personal baggage when it comes to conspicuous consumerism and the rise of the subscription box. This cynicism gave us a stringent perspective: If we are ever to work with a subscription box service, it had better be a pretty damned good one. Oddly enough (and luckily for us) just such a company reached out to hire CODO to execute a branding and package design project. Alright!
Kat Rudberg is the founder and CEO of Crafted Taste, a subscription box service that provides everything you’ll need to make cocktails at home, including liquor, garnishes, and tools. Since 2013, she’s developed her company into one of the more stylish and formidable offerings on the market. Kat bootstrapped Crafted Taste to get things running—all while planning to hire a design firm when it made sense financially. Enter CODO. We have our reservations with the whole subscription box thing, but Crafted Taste is actually really great, and we say this exclusive of the fact that we were gracious to have the gig. So sit back, relax, and watch us eat our own hats for the rest of this article!
“Consumers are starting to value their time more than ever before. Why spend a bunch of time searching for products, scouring reviews, learning tips and purchasing from different stores when you can easily have someone else do the work for you? Subscription box businesses are making it their priority to be the best in curation, so it makes sense to trust a professional. No matter what you want—to find new dinner recipes you’ll love, great clothes that fit, or your new favorite whiskey cocktail—there’s a business specializing in curating the best products, creating an experience you’ll enjoy every month, and delivering it straight to your door.”
– KAT EXPLAINS THE GROWTH OF THE SUBSCRIPTION BOX INDUSTRY
Good cocktails are an art, and there are no shortcuts to making ‘em right. There are similar kits that offer small, pre-portioned liquor and garnishes. You can even buy pre-mixed “craft” cocktails, if you wanna cut to the chase and drink as fast as possible. In our research, though, these experiences leave something to be desired.
When you subscribe to Crafted Taste, you’re not just buying the ability to enjoy a few cocktails from the comfort of your own home, you’re learning how to actually make them. You’re getting the tools, ingredients, and recipes to do this. The cost of each month’s box includes all the high quality tools and bartending ephemera you need to make 5-star drinks.
“With other cocktail-in-a-box programs, you receive just enough product to create 2–4 cocktails. In my opinion, that’s hardly enough. Crafted Taste’s customers don’t just taste but learn, master and share these great cocktails. That’s why we provide full-sized product.
Our customers get to taste the cocktail, try each ingredient on its own to learn the flavor profile, master the preparation to recreate it with confidence, and continue to make cocktails for friends way into the night. They also get to play around and experiment with new ingredient combinations, while growing their home bar at the same time.”
– KAT, ON HOW CRAFTED TASTE STANDS OUT FROM COMPETITORS
With Crafted Taste, you won’t be getting the same rehashed Old Fashioned recipe (although she has that, too). Instead, Kat travels far and wide, trying new cocktails prepared by elite mixologists. Then she assembles step-by-step instructions so you can make each drink yourself. On one hand, it’s a Portlandia skit that writes itself. On the other hand: it’s delicious, and it gets you drunk.
Depending on the kit, you receive nifty high-quality implements, small batch bitters, proper drinkware, and detailed visual recipe guides. Beyond this, you’re getting your hands dirty making these drinks, just the way a real bartender would (tailored vest optional). You’ll receive plenty of raw material to practice, to screw up, and to “taste test,” before having a couple friends over and proceeding to knock their socks off. Unlike the throw-away tchotchkes all too common in subscription boxes, what you’re actually gaining is an invaluable skill: the ability to make delicious things that will get you (and your friends) drunk.
Without a brick and mortar location for customers to experience, package design becomes your most crucial branding consideration. You could argue it’s as important as the service offered itself. We’ve already demonstrated that the subscription box market is as crowded as they come, and if your positioning, branding and packaging isn’t top-notch, there are several competitors poised to take your spot.
We’ve always looked at package design, or rather, the act of opening a package, as a bit like burlesque. Bear with us here. Great packaging is satisfying to look at and enticing all at once. There are many textures to feel and different areas to explore. If done right, each step can add further excitement, leading you feverishly to the next reveal. Mmmm. Sorry. Suffice to say: this sort of package design should be sensory and fun, like a gift. A delicious, sexy gift that gets you drunk.
With all of this
weird stuff in mind, we set out to redesign Crafted Taste’s brand identity from the ground up. We explored a couple different avenues—each building on the minimal-yet-luxurious visual equity Kat had already established. One proposed direction focused on the core service of simply having cocktails delivered to your door; while the other highlighted all the fun tools and recipes you’ll use throughout the process. After a bit of refinement (chiefly, transitioning from an angular martini glass to a curvier coupe glass), Kat selected the first option as the main identity and applied the icons from the second direction as supporting elements on packaging, recipe cards, and more.
With the identity locked in, we shifted our focus to the broader packaging system. Beyond the goal of pushing Crafted Taste’s luxurious angle, we were (perhaps less sexily) able to address the learning curve involved with both fulfilling orders and making the cocktails themselves.
If you take a look at the Crafted Taste website, there’re a lot of different kits to browse. This is great for the customer, but also creates a substantial back-of-house fulfillment challenge. We helped to simplify this process by designing icon stickers that demarcate bitters, tools, and glassware for easy packing. All of these elements are wrapped with tissue paper, washi tape, and packed neatly within each custom printed corrugated shipping box. These stickers have the added benefit of helping customers unpack and identify each ingredient when it comes time to actually dive in and make the drinks.
Remaining mindful of Kat’s production budget, we were able to tackle every physical touchpoint in the Crafted Taste identity system, including recipe cards, thank-you notes and stationery, packing tape, and even custom swizzle sticks(!!!).
And perhaps our favorite part of this entire process: with all of the work printed and updated fulfillment processes put in place, Kat debuted the new system from one month to the next with minimal fanfare. This was a bit of a risk when you consider the potential for confusion, but her business acumen proved spot-on as customers began receiving (and raving about) the beautiful new branding and package design.
“Our curation of high quality ingredients is unmatched in the industry. I see a new competitor pop up practically every week, yet no one can match the style and substance of our kits.
Our customers appreciate how we highlight accessible yet unique modern cocktails and find the best ingredients. Our kits expand their palates while also sparking their creativity. They truly benefit in the relationships we’ve built in the industry and trust in the knowledge we share. Bottom line, we have great taste and consumers agree.”
— KAT TELLS US WHAT SHE IS MOST PROUD OF, REGARDING CRAFTED TASTE
Are there a few too many subscription box services whizzing around this brave new world of ours? Absolutely. Are most of them pretentious, frivolous, or down-right bizarre? You betcha. Are we occasionally just a tad too cynical for our own good? No doubt about it. For what it’s worth, we’re super glad that Kat and Crafted Taste exist. If nothing else, she’s offering something legitimately cool and valuable, and as an added bonus, she hired us! We couldn’t be more proud of how it all turned out.