From Disney+ to PB+J, how the plus sign took over the world

By Katy Steinmetz

February 27, 2020

When Andrew Goetz and Matthew Malin set out to name their unisex beauty brand 16 years ago, they decided to follow in the tradition of successful companies like Johnson & Johnson and Procter & Gamble, with one pointed exception. They linked their surnames just as those firms had, but they used a plus sign. “We didn’t even consider the ampersand,” the latter half of Malin+Goetz says.

The plus sign spoke to everything on the duo’s mood board, from an apothecary concept (echoing the crosses that mark pharmacies throughout Europe) to their balanced partnership both in business and in life. And it was the antithesis of &’s old-timey excess. “The plus sign is very modern,” Goetz says, “and it was very important for the brand to be minimalist and contemporary.” It was also important for the brand to stand out, which the symbol helped do back when Facebook was headquartered in a college dorm room.

That, however, has changed. “Now it’s everywhere,” Goetz says of the plus sign. “It’s literally all over the place.” …

For companies like Disney and Apple (which also tacked the symbol onto a new media product, Apple News+), there is a different kind of functional appeal. “The value of + is that it implies more, better, premium,” explains Maria Cypher … , “without being specific as to content, scale, or degree of premium-ness.” It suggests customers will be getting something extra without making it at all clear what that extra thing might be.

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