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A Brand is Born | T.H.A.O. Tea Company

Once a while, a project comes along and fills us up to the top with excitement. This project did just that and we are thrilled to finally share it with you. Introducing, T.H.A.O. Tea Company, a new brand of tea for a new generation of tea lovers. THAO, which stands for taste, healing, aroma, and organic, provides premium loose-leaf teas. The company cares about quality and flavor just as much as they care about the health benefits derived from drinking teas that are made from organic and natural ingredients.

Earlier in the year, the client came to us when the brand was just in its infancy. The owner felt that many tea brands on the market don’t appeal to younger generations because tea drinking isn’t seen as hip or cool. She wanted to get young people excited about drinking tea and she knew that proper branding would play a vital role in this. We were excited to take on this challenge and immediately went to work on building the brand.

Finding inspiration

We started by doing research, which included visiting local teahouses, flipping through books and magazines, and scouring the Internet for inspiration. Since the brand was inspired by the owner’s visit to Kyoto, we researched the culture and looked at photos, patterns, and artwork from this ancient city.

THAO Tea Brand Design

Logo design

Next, came sketches and renderings and when a few logo designs emerged as solid contenders, we presented them to the client. The winning logo design is simple and understated, yet distinctive.

THAO Tea Brand Design

Putting it all together

Once the logo was chosen, we started working on the packaging design. The design of the package is the first thing that consumers notice and are drawn to so we knew not to take this task lightly. We experimented with many concepts and prototypes before coming up with the design that we knew was the one. The final design is modern and a bit edgy with bright, vivid colors contrasted with black. Each tea type would have its own color and a pattern to match the “personality” of the tea. We wanted these tins to be more than just containers for the teas – we hope that people will see them as pieces of art for their pantry shelves.

THAO Tea Brand Design


The final piece was the E-commerce website which would be the launching pad for the brand. The website was to be appealing, user-friendly, work on mobile devices, and most importantly, look and feel like an extension of the brand. We started with a lifestyle and product photography session to capture the beauty of the loose-leaf teas, ingredients, and packaging. We then designed the website page by page and developed it to run on a content management system. THAO Tea officially launched their website in September, just in time for tea-drinking weather. The brand is generating a lot of buzz and the online store has already received many orders! We are happy and proud to be a part of this passionate brand and we hope that THAO Tea is on their way to changing the world one cup of tea at a time.

Visit the website and let us know what you think!

THAO Tea Brand Design

A Brand Is A Promise

There are many definitions of a brand. Branding is such an abstract notion that many definitions could be used and they would all make perfect sense. As a matter of fact, an SVA Masters in Branding student gathered 100 definitions of branding from folks in the industry and published them all here. If you read through all 100 definitions, you’ll see that there are many brilliant ways to define branding. So what is the true definition of a brand and can it be defined in simple terms? We’re not completely sure but what we do know is, at its core, a brand is nothing more than a promise.

This promise is different from the official “brand promise” that’s concocted inside boardrooms by marketing executives and brand consultants. The promise I’m referring to is the unspoken promise that customers can perceive each time they visit a store, pick up a product from the shelf, visit a website, or speak to a service rep. These days, customers are savvy and extremely perceptible when interacting with brands. They know when a brand is authentic and they can easily spot those that are phony or weak.

In the previous blog post, A Brand Is Not, we used Apple as an example to discuss brand misconceptions. So what is the Apple brand? It’s their promise to deliver groundbreaking products that are unbelievably simple to use. This promise of simplicity is conveyed throughout their touchpoints. It starts with the logo, which is nothing more than a simple icon. Without any use of color or even text, the logo is the first indication of Apple’s promise for simplicity. When you step into an Apple store, you see a stark white, large room with high ceilings. The products are displayed like pieces of art in a gallery. Customers immediately get a sense of expansiveness and are put at ease by the open space. The entire experience is easy as the sales reps in blue shirts show the products and ring up customers all in the same spot. There’s no line and no checkout counter. Once you purchase an Apple product, it’s just minutes between the time you turn it on and before you can use it. This is a good example of a company with a clear and consistent brand language centered on a single promise.

Ultimately, a brand is not what the company says it is; it’s what the consumers say it is. The best thing a company can do is to figure out what it is that they are promising to customers and to communicate and uphold that promise at all times. Then, it’s up to the consumers to decide (subconsciously) how they perceive the brand. When a brand, or promise, comes from an authentic place that resonates with consumers, that’s when they are drawn to it. When the promise is communicated at every touchpoint and is kept time after time, it is a winning formula for customer loyalty and longevity.

What is your definition of a brand? Let us know!


Newly Launched: GrowthPoint

growthpoint responsive website

Based in Palo Alto, CA, GrowthPoint Technology Partners is a technology investment bank that provides financial and advisory services to technology companies around the world. With hundreds of completed transactions to their name, GrowthPoint was outgrowing their current website which wasn’t doing anything to strengthen their brand image.

After initially planning to work with a larger firm, GrowthPoint chose Ha Design for our boutique-level service and unique design abilities. The new website was to have a robust Content Management System (CMS), video and article library, and a news feed. It was also very important for the website to be responsive so it would display well on mobile devices.

We went right to work, first coming up with the new look and feel, which was well received and quickly approved. Page by page, we worked closely with the client to build out the website, keeping important goals in mind such as ease of use, content organization and flow, and consistency of style.

The new website tells a visual story about GrowthPoint and their flair for “getting the deal done” for clients. The new interactive video and article library contains a plethora of valuable content, featured in a visual and organized gallery. The Transactions page showcases a list of transactions and big-name clients and the Team page shows all of the team members and their impressive bios. We combined crisp imagery with bright colors and bold type to give the website a modern look with a slight edge. Best of all, the client is able to easily manage all of the website content and add new videos and articles.

A modern website for a modern company, we made sure to include social media links and feeds. Users can even share content on social media. Last but not least, the website displays beautifully on a number of mobile devices. Explore the site further and let us know what you think!

A Brand Is Not…

It seems like everywhere you go, people are talking about brands and the concept of branding. Most companies have come to realize the importance of branding and there’s more and more interest in how to build better brands. Yet, there’s still some confusion about what a brand really is. To clear things up, I’m dedicating a series of blog posts to talk about the meaning of a brand – what it is, what it is not, and why it matters to everyone.

Let’s start with what a brand is NOT. It’s always good to begin by ruling out the misconceptions to create more space for better understanding. A brand is not the following things: a company, a product, a tagline – not even a logo. To expand on this, let’s think about one of the most well known brands of our time, Apple.

Apple Inc. (formerly Apple Computers) is a company that is headquartered in Cupertino and has 80,000 or so employees. That’s the company, but is that their brand? When you think of the Apple brand, do you think of their many buildings with thousands of employees working inside? Probably not.

The next misconception is that a brand is a product. Yes, iPhones, iPads and Mac computers are a huge part of what makes Apple what they are. However, it’s most likely that consumers don’t buy these products for the features and functions that they offer. There’s a much bigger reason why they spend their hard-earned money on these products and return year after year.

One of Apple’s most famous tagline was “Think Different”. This comes closer to what a brand is because it expresses an idea. Consumers who identify with this idea want to purchase Apple products to express their own personality traits and values. However, the tagline by itself is not the brand.

Last but not least, a brand is not a logo. This misconception is the one that designers like us are most familiar with. It’s a common misconception because of how much people are exposed to logos. We see them at every touch point throughout our experiences with brands. We see logos on packaging, websites, brochures, signage, and much much more. As important as they are for visually conveying the essence of a brand, a logo is a symbol of the brand, not the brand itself.

So what is a brand? Stay tuned for part 2…

Meet Larisa

I can honestly say that I wouldn’t be able to do my job without the help of those around me.  Our graphic designer, Larisa, is someone who tops that list.  After meeting her in 2012, I knew she would be a great fit for the studio. From graphic design to painting and even sewing, Larisa’s creative abilities seem endless. Her willingness to learn and try new skills has allowed her to grow with us. Please meet Larisa!

In her own words:
“Art has seeped into virtually every facet of my life for as long as I can remember. I paint, revamp old furniture, sew clothes and costumes, and occasionally sculpt. I delight in the abstract, fantastical, and intricate, and am often moved by the works and aesthetic cultures of earlier time periods. I have long adored practical beauty, visually expressive things that are just as functional as they are lovely to behold, and I was drawn to graphic design for this reason. Every business needs a “face” to its name, one that communicates its purpose and distinguishes it from its competitors. Design makes this possible.”

Why Does Your Business Exist?

Before I start working with a client, I ask many questions to get to know them and their business. This discovery process is what allows me to create designs that are unique and meaningful. There’s always one question that really gets them thinking – that question is WHY?

Everyone knows WHAT they do and by the time clients come to me, they have a pretty good idea of HOW they plan to do it. But very few of them have asked themselves WHY they do it. The answer to this question shouldn’t be something like “to make money” or “to become successful.” The answer to this question calls for a deeper look into why your business exists. Why do you get out of your warm bed in the morning to sit in an office for 8+ hours. Why do you check emails and read articles until you fall asleep at night?

Why does your business exist? Is it to help a cause that means a lot to you? Is it to provide something that you were missing as a mom, dad, student, patient, or consumer? Is it your calling because you have a special talent or skill that needs to be shared with the world? When you answer this question, you are speaking from your heart and not your mind. And when you send that message out to your target audience, you will attract those who believe what you believe. They want to be a part of what you’re selling. These are the best customers and are the ones that will keep coming back.

I always know when I’m about to hear the true answer to a client’s WHY when I see a tiny spark in their eyes as they begin to tell me the story of how their business began. When this happens, I’m reminded of why I get up every morning to do what I do.

Why We Need White Space

In the design world, we often refer to the term, white space. This is the space between graphical elements where the white of the paper would show or merely the empty space on a web page. Just like the color white is not the lack of colors but is actually the combination of all colors, white space is so much more than a lack of. White space serves many purposes: to give the reader’s eyes a break, to separate sections, to frame an image, to create the look of elegance and luxury. I’ve always been a fan of minimalism and have learned to embrace white space in my work, but I also found that white space is important in all aspects of my life. Embracing white space can make you happier, reduce your stress, and improve your productivity. Here are 3 ways to embrace white space in our daily lives.

White space in your schedule

We often feel that doing nothing is a waste of time. We feel guilty for being lazy or unproductive. But if we are constantly moving from one task to the next, sooner or later, we become burned out, overtired, and stressed. Taking some time out to walk in nature, sit quietly, or read a book can have huge benefits to our overall well-being and will make us more productive when we need to be.

White space in conversation

How often do you find yourself not listening to another person when they’re talking because you’re thinking of the next thing to say? This is because we are wired to constantly try to fill in the gaps during conversation. Instead, why not embrace those gaps, pauses, and brief moments of silence? Having actually listened to what the other person said, what you say back would be that much more valuable.

White space between thoughts

Most of us are stuck in a stream of incessant mind chatter. The things we think about are usually repetitive, and always about the past or future. Not only does this cause anxiety, fear, and general unease, it means that we are never fully in the present. Inviting more gaps between thoughts is a way to detox our minds of all the useless mind chatter. What we gain is more clarity, creativity, and an overall sense of well-being.

In today’s world, filled with endless streams of social media, emails, television, and texting, let’s find more ways to invite white space into our lives.

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