Located near Paradeplatz in Zurich, Nailsmith & Johnson is "the antithesis" to what is expected in a nail studio. In a pleasant rustic atmosphere with cool beers ready to be served, the team of Nailsmith & Johnson provides well-groomed hands and feet for men. Its manifesto: it is about time men reconsider visiting a nail studio.
Nailsmith & Johnson, Switzerland's first nail studio for men only, is the result of a proof of concept developed at Aquilas with Lucy Johnson and Jan Harmel. The pitch: there is an untapped market in the cosmetic segment dedicated to men. After an initial phase as a concept project, it was high time to mold the brand and iron out the details.
An initial challenge was what "manly" meant to the brand and avoid a "macho" or "gentleman" label. The right interpretation came with the concept of a blacksmith (an image that resonated throughout the whole process): solid, robust, reserved, "dark", welcoming and warm.
Known internally as "Project Nagelschmiede", the name derived from "blacksmith of nails". "Nailsmith", deemed too dry, was then combined with "Johnson" to signify the expertise brought by the founders and have a ring to it like "the place to be". An early idea in the conceptual phase was to embody the "man's cave" but this was very soon dropped to focus on a more social, positive feeling: "sitting back in a deep armchair while holding a cold beer, manicures and pedicures suddenly start to make sense."
The brand was not to be "overdesigned" but rather be blunt and have a physicality to it ("solid", "practical", "dark", "warm"), referencing and integrating the materials, such as iron, concrete, wood and leather, that one would expect in a blacksmith's shop. This would then be taken and amped up in the interior design to set the wished rustic atmosphere.
The typography went through multiple feedback rounds. Because of its statuesque and clear presence, TIMMONS NY was picked as the main font for headlines and titles. It is accompanied with Masqualero, a typeface that conveys a sense of craftsmanship through its distinctive demeanor.
Various concepts were explored in an effort to avoid bland results and rely on a more common logo design as pictured above. The following concept established a foundation that carried over to the final design.
Enter the Lion: the heraldic figure of Zurich, the "King of the Beasts" and a metaphor for the positive qualities of men: proud, strong, protective and regal. This proposal considered the aspect of "manly" that Nailsmith & Johnson promote and references its origin in Zurich. This is also when the logo started to be designed as a heraldic shield, a historic visual element in Switzerland, and to represent the brand as a corporation of "Nailsmiths".
Reception of the Lion was not 100% unanimous and was eventually dropped in favour of keeping a degree of bluntness in the overall design: the concept was deemed too abstract and elegant. Going back to the drawing board, the logo was to avoid additional abstract layers and mostly refer to the blacksmith's theme.
The final version features a file, an instrument employed in both manicure and blacksmithing, and a thong. Early feedbacks had the latter felt unpleasant when associated with fingers. The decision to stuck with it came from 1.) the blacksmith's theme, 2.) this is something intimidating for men.
Camera & Editing: Stephan Fehr
The different design elements remain relatively low-key and blend with the interior design to deliver the "Nailsmith" experience: "solid wooden flooring, dark leather chairs, muted colors. And a beer. Or a cup or coffee. No suspicious glances or questions. Everything here is designed to make men feel comfortable". Nailsmith & Johnson it is not what it looks like, it is not what you expect, it is something new, something that requires to muster a bit of courage, something for men.
Leading up to the opening of the first studio at the start of 2018, Nailsmith & Johnson used "it's called manicure for a reason" as it main claim, supported with other provocative headlines (in High and Swiss German) throughout the social media channels and marketing materials.
Right at the start of 2018 it was then announced that Nailsmith & Johnson was shortlisted for the Man's World Schweiz Go! Startup Challenge, a contest to find out what the man of today is looking for in the new year. For this challenge, an image video was requested in order to promote the contestant.
Because of the time of the announcement and scheduling conflicts, the window to produce the image video was very brief (one weekend). Work on the content began immediately but turned out smoother than expected, since all decision-makers unanimously agreed that the video was to play out the twist of the blacksmith/nail studio.
The ideal location to shoot was pinpointed to be Klettgauer Kunstschmiede, a forge situated on the border between Switzerland and Germany, and distinguished itself to represent Nailsmith & Johnson. Freddy Huber, the owner, kindly offered to play the role himself to keep the act real and authentic.
Subsequently the storyboard was drafted and finalised with a basic narrative structure (initial situation: "this is a blacksmith's forge" / plot twist: "this is not a blacksmith's forge!" / final situation: "this is a nail studio, for men") in order to keep production relatively smooth and the length of the video under 60 seconds.
Concept: Lucy Johnson, Jan Harmel, Vinh Pham Dang
Directed by: Vinh Pham Dang
Camera: Giovanni Fortunato
Editing & Sound mixing: Giovanni Fortunato
Thanks to the extra effort of everyone involved, a brief and intriguing video was produced and allowed Nailsmith & Johnson to take the crown of Man's World Schweiz Go! Startups Challenge 2018's winner. During production, the goal was indeed to aim for the win but, because of the timing and scheduling difficulties, this was not an obvious feat to achieve.
For more about why Nailsmith & Johnson is the 2018's Winner and what it brings to the table, check this article (Swiss German) from Man's World Schweiz.
Men should no longer feel embarrassed or intimidated to visit a nail studio. It is not hostile territory anymore – Nailsmith & Johnson provides a solid option to benefit from well-groomed hands and feet, with a glass of whisky or a cold beer on the side. It is called manicure for a reason.