Making Contact: Launching Hubble
More than 125 million people awake each morning to a blurry world. They head to the bathroom to put in contact lenses, and the day begins. This international ritual of necessity fuels a global contact lens industry projected to reach $13.5 billion by the end of the decade.
Not long ago, four manufacturers controlled 95% of the North American contact lens market. In the absence of competition, they overpriced lenses with impunity, leaving consumers with a fraught choice: overpay, or overwear and risk eye damage. Optometrists and online retailers added another layer of inconvenience between manufacturer and consumer, charging their own fees on top of the already inflated price-per-lens.
Somewhere along this arc of ocular injustice, Athletics met Ben Cogan and Jesse Horvitz, the founders of Hubble Contacts. The two entrepreneurs walked into our Williamsburg studio with a clear vision: offer honestly priced lenses factory-direct via an effortless digital platform. Athletics was engaged to translate that vision into a brand identity, packaging system, and digital experience that would streamline the process of ordering contact lenses and — dare we say — make it fun.
Here’s how Athletics helped launch Hubble into orbit.
Athletics has played a key role in the success of Hubble Contacts since well before launch. Their understanding of our industry and consumer — and the importance of good design and storytelling in introducing our product to both — was invaluable.
—Ben Cogan, Founder of Hubble Contacts
With a nod to the first major optical telescope to be placed in space, the term Hubble evokes omniscience, technology, and of course, superior vision. Our team came to this name alongside Jesse and Ben. We’re often asked how we were able to legally claim it. The answer is simple: being associated with NASA means the word “Hubble” is in the public domain.
A wordmark enclosed by two circles, the logomark brings to mind an all-seeing telescope orbiting planet earth, as well as a pair of contact lenses floating in space. Most importantly, it feels simple and friendly — just like Hubble.
While digitization simplifies ordering contact lenses, we didn’t want to lose the human touch. So we turned to our in-house illustrator to draft a series of crisp, friendly characters and icons to guide customers through the experience. While Hubble Contacts currently serves the United States and Canada, we knew international expansion was a strong possibility, so pursued an internationally-appealing style. When it comes to minimalist illustration, it’s all in the details — like the subtle shadow situated behind the illustrations, making them appear as if they’re coming into focus.
We created a 30-second animated video to introduce Hubble to the world. Our brand writers wrote the script to distill Hubble as a concept and service, while our animators brought life to the illustrated cast of characters in fluid, stylish motion. The pastel-heavy palette we curated lends to the video’s warmth.
Athletics designed and developed the core of Hubble’s business — a digital product that radically simplifies the process of ordering lenses. Based on Hubble’s proposed business model, we recommended a custom Shopify platform in tandem with Recharge, an application which brings ongoing subscriptions seamlessly onto Shopify. Working closely with their CTO, we integrated Hubble’s proprietary optometrist API into this core infrastructure, meaning subscribers could search a national database of participating optometrists.
A hyper-streamlined questionnaire / sign-up form translates this dry, practical procedure into a more conversational, effortless process. Fully responsive, with parallax-scroll animation, the site feels airy, approachable, and modern. On mobile, it ties into native touch controls, supporting the best possible user experience.
When it came to packaging, we asked ourselves, ‘how should Hubble make first contact?’ Packaging is the tactile link between consumer and brand — a defining opportunity to build affinity. Featuring raised three-dimensional textures to reflect the physical feel of lenses, Hubble boxes (and the graphic blister packs inside) are 100% recyclable. Vogue recognized Hubble’s “zippy, colorful packaging,” adding, “What good is a contact-lens reboot if it’s not easy on the eyes?
With its colorful boxes, modern design and decidedly non-medical name, Hubble is the first Instagram-friendly contact lens brand.
In the year since their launch, Hubble has enlisted some 25,000 subscribers, inspiring glowing coverage in publications like The New York Times, GQ, Forbes, TechCrunch, and Vogue, and generating revenues estimated at $20 million dollars.
We couldn’t be more proud of Ben, Jesse, and see big things down the road for the entire Hubble team.
The willingness of Ben, Jesse, and the Hubble team to challenge a staid market presented an extremely exciting opportunity for us. Considering the old lens environment — a sea of white, fractal-based illustrations — the solution was right in front of us: own color and bring joy to a sterile space.
—Malcolm Buick, Athletics Creative Director