In the last year, the pair has stepped into the spotlight with projects that are garnering international attention. Selling their skills on branding that people can feel – a product’s package, AKA has been delivering consistently revered designs that speak to customers on an emotional level. In their minds, branding is dead. Packaging is the new black.

“Packaging is the tool we can use to make an impact in the marketplace and good packaging has been proven to increase sales while saving money on inefficient marketing and advertising efforts,” noted Vanderheide. “Packaging plays a huge role in influencing what products people buy and connect with.” 

Modern consumers are inundated with ads, but they also have the ability to skip over much of it, from closing mobile ads to fast forwarding through TV commercials. Packaging, on the other hand, is front and center, like the box for that new iPhone 6.

AKA StudioJosh“Starting work on a new project isn’t easy – it involves diving in head first to understand the problem, then looking for inspiration and ideas wherever they might be… retail stores, books, asking people in the industry, the world wide web (of course)…. it all goes into one melting pot and some magic comes out the other side,” he explains. “Each one is a daunting task, but you just have to be focused on learning new things and open to anything that comes your way.”

When faced with designing the look for one of Metro Vancouver’s latest craft brewers, Steel & Oak, the team at AKA decided to go bold, choosing a modern look and designing a cohesive application across all the touch points. They considered where the products would live from the tasting room to a home refrigerator. The finished design made a statement that the brewers flawlessly executed as they prepped for their launch.

AKA SteelOak

“For S&O, we tried to simplify things down to create a bold look that would be different from what everyone else was doing,” stated Josh. “People forget that the production process can really make or break a design, we have seen lots of good designs fall flat because of a lack of attention to detail.”

Building a healthy following through brand imagery and personality across their social platforms, the brewery built demand before opening the doors. And when those doors did open, there was an instant fan base ready to sit and sample everything they had to offer. So many that the company actually ran out of beer in the tasting room just four weeks after opening and had to close the doors for eight days while new brews were in the making.

“We have to give the client credit for the strength of their brand, they delivered at a high level across all the touch points – from the beer itself, to the tasting room, to the packaging we worked on together,” noted Vanderheide. “But we will say that we were surprised on how many media requests we got when we posted the new work online.”

AKA WishboneDesign websites and blogs from Germany, France, Russia and the USA have featured the team’s work on Steel & Oak, as well as a recent project for Wishbone Coffee that had them dipping tins in paint.

“It’s a funny experience, to be looking at new great designs and see one of your own in the mix, the first time it blew my mind,” noted Vanderheide. “We are always humbled when we get requests to feature our work and our client’s products – it’s great exposure for both of us.”

Among the work that’s getting noticed is a non-traditional design for Legend Distilling that incorporated custom illustrations done by a local tattoo artist. Each design brings to life a ‘story worth sharing’, something new and unexpected within the industry. On the flip side, AKA’s take on Left Field Cider Co. brought the company’s craftsman approach to life with an adaptable label that could be used from year to year.

“Our love for the industry and people liking the work we have done keeps us doing fun projects,” Vanderheide explained. “We are also really lucky to have great clients that trust us and will take risks – it’s hard to step out of your comfort zone, but we know it pays off.”