At the time of this student project, there were only a handful of canned cocktails available in grocery stores, most of which seemed to overlook visual design. Having both come from a restaurant industry background, Lexi and I wanted to utilize flavors we enjoyed in cocktails, and make them accessible to someone who might buy a canned cocktail in the grocery store. We chose to focus on some of our favorite Southeast Asian flavors, including tamarind, Thai basil, galangal, and hibiscus. These are ingredients that stand out in cocktails, but aren’t always familiar to a Western audience.
After weeks of deliberation and user testing, we settled on the name Instant Karma. We created four alcoholic flavors, and two non-alcoholic flavors. Slim, 12 oz cans were chosen due to their portable nature, and because we felt the size would allow us to keep the cocktails boozy and balanced. We wanted to use aluminum cans for this project because research shoed people tend to recycle them more often than glass bottles. They're also harder to break, which is great for taking them hiking or on other adventures! After extensive research on RTD (ready-to-drink) beverages, we went with a 13% APV beverage. This seemed to be the highest we could go while still getting wide distribution in grocery stores, were this a real product.
We built out Instant Karma with packaging mainly in mind, but also created visual assets to help represent how the brand would be represented in ads across platforms.
There’s a growing market for portable, ready-to-drink cocktails. They’re ideal for picnics, float trips, and are even being used at venues. Canned cocktails are becoming increasingly popular, but many of the brands out there are overly-sweet or lack complex flavors. The branding is also often lacking. At the time of this project, there wasn’t much on the market that used unusual flavors or felt like a true craft cocktail. We wanted to brand a crafted canned cocktail that utilized unexpected flavors and would appeal to a wide audience that might not normally be so adventurous.
We went through many iterations before settling on our final brand concept. The end result drew color and style inspiration from the bright, beautiful neon signs in Bangkok, and had just the right amount of cheekiness in the copy.
Because Lexi and I have a love for craft cocktails, it was important for us to develop the flavors and recipes ourselves; even if this isn’t a product sold on shelves, we still wanted to know what we were designing for was delicious! We also created packaging for two non-alcoholic versions of our drinks. The idea is that these can be enjoyed alone, or mixed with the spirit of your choice.
logo + style guide, packaging design for four flavors, photoshoot, pop-up build
Our first step was a whiteboard session in which we narrowed down visual direction and a general concept of the brand. During this time, we refined our target user and established opportunities for the brand design to help sell the product.
Early on in the design process, Lexi and I also hosted a user feedback session, during which we tested our flavor concepts and got feedback on potential visual designs. This session helped us distill our packaging direction into what it is now.
Our cans went through numerous iterations before arriving at what you see now, and we took feedback and competitor research into consideration throughout the processs. Neon signage was a guiding force in our visual design, and we decided to create a library of sign shapes to riff off of. I found a blocky text we liked for the drink flavors that complemented a rounded neon sign shape, and from there we paired a script for the logo design that fit within the design family.
When it came to color palette, we utilized bold neons on a black background for alcoholic flavors, and their pastel counterparts on the non-alcoholic cans for a softer, daytime feel. The drink flavor is first and foremost on the cans because ultimately, we wanted our beverages to be ingredient-focused. We created a library of character illustrations for each flavor, but simplified them to just ingredients and simple accent illustrations after getting user feedback.
Ultimately, our visual design decisions were guided by the desire to be approachable to a wide audience while still looking like a quality product.