Branding A Gentlemen’s Subscription Service With Old School Charm

How do you sell a $330 box to customers without telling them what’s inside? That was the Sisyphean task handed to creative agency RoAndCo.

Subscription services are all the rage these days. There’s one for cosmetics. One for razors. One for kids’ toys. Hell, there’s even a startup for making your own subscription service. Consumers want curated goods without the hassle, smaller companies want exposure to broader markets, and shipping companies–well, they’re more than happy for the business.


A fledgling subscription service for men called, appropriately, Svbscription, approached the New York creative agency RoAndCo to design its packaging and branding earlier this year. Svbscription sells itself as a service for men with “a high appre­ci­a­tion for qual­ity, design and lux­ury.” For $330 a pop, four times a year, customers are privy to a thematic collection of items “that are unique or hard to find,” the company explains. Items range from pens to underpants, cilantro conditioner to the Travel Almanac.

The trouble with selling subscription services, of course, is that customers don’t know exactly what they’re getting for their money. It fell to RoAndCo to design a brand experience that would convey the value and mission of the company without ever mentioning the products themselves. The website, brand, and packaging had to be enough to hook potential subscribers–to convince them that, whatever arrived inside that box, it was going to be worth it.

For RoAndCo, “luxury” meant simplicity and sincerity. They designed a crisp logo in which the “V” in “svbscription” is dropped down a few points, giving it a hint of deviation and eccentricity. Each parcel arrives in a natural wood crate, forming the keystone of RoAndCo’s packaging scheme. “We nailed them shut and wrapped them in brown kraft paper for shipping,” the designers explain. Accordion-folded paper padding and primary-colored tissue paper protect the products inside. Along with the boxes, the design team came up with a booklet that outlines its contents and doubles as a notebook, detailed with a rip-off front cover tab à la an average cereal box. The packing is full of such throwback details but avoids going overboard into retro-nostalgia.

For my (imaginary) money, the coolest detail is the wedge that arrives with Svbscription’s first collection. To our modern eyes, this little gadget is an anonymous scrap of metal. But back in the day, such objects were more common since they were necessary for opening wooden postal parcels. RoAndCo anticipated the confusion: An explanatory note tells subscribers to “keep this item close, you’ll need it to enjoy your Svscription parcel.” Compared to haphazardly ripping open a cardboard box from Amazon, there’s something undeniably luxurious about cracking open a wooden parcel, no?

Check out more of RoAndCo’s work on their website.

About the author

Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan is Co.Design's deputy editor.