November 28, 2019
As a child growing up with a frugal mother, I watched her purchase the generic version of basically every item we bought during our trips to the store. I did so with such resentment, thinking why did we have to get the ugly Meijer brand of cheerios in the gross tan box when all my friends’ parents bought them the lovely original? I dreamt of the days when we might purchase Sargento instead of “cheese snack sticks.”
Recently, I was shopping at the brand new Target on Grand River and had a wondrous experience. I was in the shaving aisle looking at the regular Gillette supply and something caught my eye. Sleek and beautiful, it was two perfect rows of shaving cream cans. This was no standard shaving cream; the color schemes of both were understated and modern. Simple, yet still unexpected. One can was a delightful pale peach color with a clean white flower outline. The blue Helvetica text read, “Smells like a blossom.”
“Perfect!” I exclaimed!
It got even better. The next can was a subtle tangerine with a white circle on it, echoing the sun. It read, “Smells like summertime.”
“Wow!” I began to tear up.
I was overjoyed when I saw the price, only $1.19 for the most beautiful piece of modern art I’ve ever seen?! I shoveled an armful of cans into my cart. My shopping high was interrupted all too soon when my friend reminded me that we needed to get dish soap. We walked down a few aisles, and soon, my heart was set ablaze again. Dish soap! In lovely light green and white packaging! I could recognize that minimalist aesthetic anywhere. It must be the people who made the shaving cream. I wondered what this wonderful new brand was, and noticed the packages read “Smartly.”
I continued to look around and realized that Smartly must be Target’s new in-store brand! This was a revelation. All these beautiful products, for such good deals and so much better looking than the name brands! Could this be the dawn of an era in which store brand is cooler than name brand? Will kids whose parents buy generic be the envy of their peers?
Reflecting back on an earlier time in Target store brand history, one might remember its once not-quite-beloved “up and up” line. Always reliable, but just not that cute, purchasing this brand brought the same scourge that purchasing “Great value” from Walmart or the Meijer’s store brand did. Target has jumped miles ahead of the competition with its Smartly brand, all due to the effectiveness of its graphic design. No longer must people cringe as they put generic brands into their carts. Now they can say, “Look at this cool shaving cream I got!”
This is the most effective graphic design revamp in recent history, and Target’s graphic designer, at least for the Smartly brand, deserves infinite credit! I will be spending even more time in Target than usual, and will be admiring the work of this fantastic designer.
Emily Hobrla @emilyhobrla is a Senior studying professional writing with a focus in editing and publishing. She loves making new friends in the PW major and beyond, and is excited to contribute to The Current with writing and editing work. Outside of school, her interests include fashion, tennis, and squirrel watching.