Article by Kayla Goggin
“Be gentle with this package, it is very shy.”
Stas Neretin’s packaging for Naked skincare products is for touching and being touched. Designed to mimic the curves of the human body, the bottles and jars beg to be caressed. With every brush of a fingertip on the ivory ‘skin,’ the packages respond, blushing bright pink. They like it.
Neretin designed this super sensual package for a Visual Communications class at the British Higher School of Art & Design in Moscow. “In our classes, we came up with packaging for happiness, wind, fear, honesty... It was necessary to introduce some packaging [evocative] of sex,” he told me through Google Translate. (English is his second language.)
The kind of sexiness Neretin employs with the Naked concept feels fresh against the uber sleek minimalism that dominates the current market. This packaging didn’t slink off he assembly line with a hard drive full of smooth moves. Naked has a much more elusive and powerful sensuality: it feels innocent, titillated. “I immediately thought that the package would be embarrassed when you touched it,” Neretin explained.
By giving the Naked containers human characteristics like the ability to ‘feel’ shame or pleasure, Neretin has made them active participants in a normally passive exchange. As consumers engage with the tubes and bottles, two things happen: an awareness of how human they seem and an awareness of how inhuman they really are.
The plastic jars and bottles look like lumps of flesh, their velvet matte texture and organic contours evoking images of the naked body. “As soon as you take it in your hand, it will timidly glow right where you touch it,” the product description explains. Watch while manufactured materials simulate a human response — it’s an approximation of intimacy that feels inviting, but also a little dubious.
Thermochromic paint coating the packaging makes them sensitive to the heat of human touch. It’s the same technology used in mood rings and Hypercolor t-shirts, adapted for a little dignity. Interactions with the packaging suddenly take on — well, ‘meaning’ would be the wrong word to describe it. Let’s call it an ‘implication.’
As much as Neretin uses words like “tender” and “emotional” when he talks about his design for ‘Naked,’ they’re definitely the kind of objects that call the uncanny valley “home.” The tubes and bottles remind me of props from a Cronenberg film - fleshy vectors that absorb life from human touch. The lumpen forms of ‘Naked’ are just anatomical enough to call up the kind of disquiet that comes from watching robots “breathe.”
That creepiness is exactly what piques our natural curiosity, though. A balanced blend of attraction and revulsion is one of the most powerful tools for provocation, and Naked appeals to those most basic drives. What excites people more than something strange or something sexy? Or both?
Neretin says he wasn’t interested in blending sex and fear when designing the Naked packaging - “I am not afraid of the human body,” he says - and seems surprised by the reactions people have to it. The design’s mimicry of the human likeness is at total odds with the product’s paralysis; his professor told him it was “scary.” For Neretin, the intent is much more about a basic emotional appeal. “To make a cool design … we have to think first of all not about beauty, but about people! About their emotions!”
The real power of Naked’s design, of course, is in the product’s ability to become yours: it reacts to your personal touch, your body’s warmth. It stirs your curiosity and it welcomes exploration. These products will sit on your bathroom countertop, silent but expectant. No doubt you’ll become more intimate with Naked than any of your other skin care products.