It’s justifiable to have seltzer fatigue these days, with every beverage brand under the sun seemingly releasing their spin on the drink and new fledgling offerings cropping up left and right with their take too.
However, Something & Nothing has broken through the fizz thanks to a branding system as fresh and thirst-quenching as their drinks. Clean. Soothing. Refreshing. Basically everything you want out of bubbled water. We had to speak to whoever was responsible for capturing these vibes so masterfully in the cans, copy, and, well, everything else that makes up Something & Nothing. That would be Oliver Dixon and Rupert Pugsley, the brand’s co-founders and visionaries, who first conceived of Something & Nothing together back in 2017.
The duo collaborated with designers Adam Spink and Calum Crease of the creative agency Studio AS-CC for the branding, who have since morphed into S&N in-house designers.
Oliver was kind enough to field a few of our questions below.
How would you describe the Something & Nothing brand ethos?
We dedicate ourselves to the cultivation of curiosity and creativity. And we want to be the band Talking Heads. I don’t really know anything about drinks or the FMCG category and what you should do as a “drink.” I like to look elsewhere for inspiration, and for me, the Talking Heads are our north star; experimental, challenging, innovative, but also loads of fun and loved by the cool kids and the mainstream.
I haven’t quite figured out how we do this yet, but the intention is there.
In response to an analysis of S&N by Chris Arning, you mention the idea of “modern contradiction” as a concept your team identified as central to the S&N brand. Can you explain a bit more?
The “better-for-you” movement seemed unrealistic. You can’t spend all of your time meditating, doing breathwork, journaling, yoga, self-inquiry, and raw diets. Brands seemed to be leaning into a space that could make you feel guilty if you’re not leading this perfect life. Doing all of these things is, of course, valuable, but so is watching the new Curb Your Enthusiasm on the sofa, meeting friends for a drink, or going to a club.
We wanted to be realistic about how people spend their time and became interested in the tension point between health and hedonism. We called this the modern contradiction; yoga in the morning, raving at night.
From a semiotics stance, this informed the name—the scales logo and the tone—but our distribution and product development as well.
Where and whom do you look to for inspiration for S&N’s look, feel, and tone?
Alain de Botton, David Hockney, Grace Jones, Bill Murray, Jean-Luc Godard, George Costanza, It’s Nice That, Apartamento Magazine, Patti Smith, Yayoi Kusama. The list is probably endless, but two key influences are travel on the liquid and the concept of art in the every day on the brand.
We wanted to make really, really tasty drinks using only natural ingredients. We had both traveled a lot and eaten and drank a lot of interesting dishes and flavors. So instead of generic soft drink flavors, we looked to our travel experiences. Our Hibiscus & Rose Seltzer is inspired by a drink I had in Sri Lanka, which was way too sweet but seemed interesting. Yuzu was a flavor that Rupert had tried a lot of in Japan and was getting used by chefs in London.
We liked the idea explored in Alan de Botton’s book, How To Reform Capitalism, of art being more valuable in our every day than in galleries. We believe in the power of creativity to charm and inspire, so we started to think: what if we put art into people’s fridges?
The copywriting throughout the S&N site, especially in your product descriptions, is so fresh and quirky. How did you and your team develop this unique brand voice?
I guess this is us wanting to be Talking Heads again. We don’t have a boss or a client to keep happy, so we can say what we like. It’s easy to become vanilla when you have to please people, so it’s our duty to have fun with words and images. I’m sure we can push this further.
What were your team’s thoughts behind the more vibe-driven photographs on each can rather than images of ingredients?
Again, a drive to do things differently. What do most drink brands do, and how can we do it differently? Everyone knows what a cucumber looks like, but what does this drink taste like? What does it make you feel? So many people have said, “this tastes like a holiday in a can.” That’s how it tasted to us, so that’s how we designed it.
We tried to create something graphic, striking, and emotive for each can. We were looking at a lot of Moroccan architecture and colors as references, combining textures, shade, and light with a striking and architectural plant.
There is also a big element to examine in the way the cans get printed. You lose a lot of definition and depth, so we had to consider this in the process, too.
What aspect of the S&N brand are you proudest of?
It’s very much a holistic brand—the white frame, the images, the name, the scales, the copy, the tone, the website design, emails, and social—so it’s virtually impossible to pull out one thing.
However, I really like the new Spritz cans. The bold typeface over the existing can design and layout feels very striking, unusual, and brave. Perhaps too brave; only time will tell.