Han Gao creates a clean, chemistry-inspired identity for a skincare product with a message

The designer reveals the details behind the “provocative” campaign which turns wastewater into a skincare product.

20 June 2023

Today, it’s widely understood how damaging the textiles industry is in terms of waste and landfill. But little is known about just how damaging the production of textiles can be. Synthetic chemicals used to dye materials in textile production are damaging to the environment, workers and wearers. Aizome is a startup that blends traditional Japanese techniques with new ways of dyeing, applying a method that uses water, medicinal plants and ultrasound.

Serviceplan Innovation is an agency that aims to accelerate innovative startups with creative communication. For Aizome, they developed a “provocative” campaign which turned the waste product from their dyeing process into a skincare product, to prove just how natural it really is. Then, they sent the product to leading figures in the textile industry to spread their message. To design the product, packaging and other elements of the campaign, Serviceplan enlisted Han Gao, a designer known for his clean and effective work.


Han Gao/Workbyworks: AIZOME WASTECARE™ (Copyright © Serviceplan Innovation, 2023)

When Serviceplan approached Han, he was instantly intrigued by the project. “What’s interesting here is that the product is actually the byproduct of another process – so called waste’”, Han says. “We wanted to challenge the preconception around waste and create a visual identity that reflects the value that it holds.” To create what he describes as “an unexpected presentation of waste”, Han says that they opted for a “luxury look” without unnecessary packaging. “Coming from a sustainable company, every material had to be thought through,” Han says. “Both qualitative and quantitative aspects were considered to ensure a compact form factor that doesn’t need additional materials for shipping.” The product comes in a single folding box of recycled cardboard that can be sealed and include addresses, leaving no need for the extra security of further packaging.

The main design system consists of dots and connecting lines. This is based on “the structural formula notation in chemistry”, a way for Han to recognise that “plant-based dyes – as is every everything around us – are chemical substances”. Han wanted to create a design system that was essentially impartial – a neutral canvas for displaying unbiased data. The colour palette is also inspired by the specifics of the dying process. Colours intensify in certain areas, reflecting how cotton changes colour with repeating dying, and the decision to keep the main box a natural cardboard colour “reinforces the idea that all things start from nature”, Han says.

In terms of fonts, three different typefaces are used throughout. Neue Haas Grotesk for English text is paired with Midashi Gothic Pro MB31 for Japanese text. For the titles, Han created his own custom type – Ultra One. Using the traditional Mincho type Hiragino Mincho Pro W6 as the base for the custom type, Han identifies it as a way of “reflecting the rich history of the ancient Japanese dyeing tradition”.

All of these stylistic elements come together to create something functional yet truly striking – a creation that compels further exploration. For Han, the way in which the system has evolved to be something that lives comfortably in the online and physical realm is an element he’s particularly proud of, as well as the cohesive nature of the project. “We started with raw data and research which turned into a story, a cool unboxing experience, a skincare routine and then a film. SP.IO put together a great team with creatives who brought their passion to different aspects of the project — copy, product design, graphic design, production, film craft, sound and more,” he ends. “I’m incredibly proud to have been a part of this collaborative effort.”

GalleryHan Gao/Workbyworks: AIZOME WASTECARE™ (Copyright © Serviceplan Innovation, 2023)

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Han Gao/Workbyworks: AIZOME WASTECARE™ (Copyright © Serviceplan Innovation, 2023)

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About the Author

Olivia Hingley

Olivia (she/her) joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English literature and history, she’s particularly interested in photography, publications and type design.

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