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Digital White Label Design: Products with flexible faces

The term “White Label” refers to products and services not being sold under the actutal manufacturer’s brand but as products licensed to another company.

The origins of White Label Design

It’s easy to find white label products at any supermarket around the corner: From groceries to clothes and electronic devices. Rarely, customers know about the true origins of those products.

Consider blank CDs, DVDs or Blueray discs: various retail shops and supermarket chains offer those unter their own brand’s name. The actual manufacturer can be revealed by examining the product code only.

Colourful cardboard boxes and empty business cards on a bright blue background
What defines a product?

The term “White Label” originated in DJ culture. Before releasing a record, the artists often sent it to DJs and radio stations without any label information (just holding a white label) for promotional reasons. The term was quickly established in DJ culture: successful DJs often pasted white labels over records in their DJ set to hide their musical sources from their competitors.

White Label Design in the digital world

White Label Design is a proven approach for digital product strategies. There’s a huge market for digital products and services whose visual design can be customized to meet any brand’s visual requirements.

Their technical framework and overall architecture remain fixed and cannot be adapted. After all, the main purpose of a digital white label solution is that it will be recognized visually as a product of the integrated brand.

Outsourcing digital product development, technical infrastructure and maintenance can drastically minimize financial and technical risks. This makes solid digital white label solutions a profitable business model.

What are the advantages of White Label Design?

Digital white label solutions are about maximizing profitability and minimizing risk. For both solution providers and licensees, there are a number of advantages.

Advantages for white label design providers:

  • Numerous/continuous distribution & sales of an existing, developed product
  • Building maintenance partnerships with clients
  • Continuous development and improvements for existing clients
  • Potential revenue from transaction based fees, in addition to licensing and maintenance revenue
  • Scalable offers for different potential target groups

Advantages for partners who use white label design solutions:

  • Very short time-to-market
  • Reduced implementation costs compared to in-house developments
  • Outsourcing of risks related to technical implementation and maintenance
  • Offering tried-and-tested process, transaction and interaction design to clients
  • Benefiting from continuous iterations and product improvements
  • High availability and failure safety
  • Scalable solutions and branding options enable tailored, flexible products for different budgets and requirements

These are requirements for good white label solutions.

But what are unique selling propositions for products and services that are all about adaptability and generic interfaces?

Digital Design minus Visual Design = Experience Design

What remains of “Digital Design” when you subtract Visual Design? What’s left to “design”?

It’s all about Experience Design. User Experience and Value Proposition need to be the central selling points of a product without distinctive surface.

  • Interaction design: How users interact with the system and how the system interacts with them
  • Process and transactional design: How users get tasks done
  • Information on system state and user’s options
  • Technical service: System availability and performance
  • Customization and Extensibility
  • Support options for licensees

Mastering those design parameters can turn a product with seemingly generic and interchangeable surface into a well-crafted, convincing service offering – for both the licensee brand as well as end clients.

Proven interaction and transaction design is the core of successful white label design solutions.

Parameterizing design values

Any white label design solutions needs to start by addressing real user’s needs and requirements as the pillars for a software solution.

Once the foundation has been set up, the “lowest common denominators” of the product needs to be defined: which elements may reflect the respective brand’s image and convey brand identity?

A project for a global brand I’ve worked on lately, was about defining the concept for a white label design solution to the brand’s existing digital design system – in order to enable partners to use it for their own purposes by adapting the visual design and branding.

For our solution, the lowest common design denominator consisted of a number of basic design assets that were the main building blocks of the design system. Since the white label design solution needed to address branding requirements from various different backgrounds, scalable branding options based on these main building blocks were in focus.

Schematic overview of customizable design assets: Logo/brand, colour system & imagery, backgrounds & gradients, header and footer/search, navigation, buttons, typography, icons, forms, grid & layout, containers. Only UX and interaction design are fixed.
Schematic view of adaptable design assets

For all design building blocks we defined detailed design parameters in the next step.

One of the main results of this project was a style guide for all design assets of the system. For each of these, we defined which design parameters were to be customized, which constraints existed for the overall brand experience and which elements and behaviors were “fixed” and could not be altered. We called this the “design DNA” for the white label design solution.

The Experience Design, however, marked the solution’s functional foundation, that remained the same for all white label client systems.

This article was originally published for (in german)

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