How Gander Designed A Pet Wellness Brand For The Modern Pup

by Theresa Christine Johnson on 09/09/2020 | 5 Minute Read

Dogs aren't just the furry roommate or drooling border that you have to feed and walk every day, and often, they very much feel like a natural extension of our own family. Because of that, we tend to want to pamper them the way we would ourselves, buying premium foods that are better for them or matching sweaters because that's a perfectly normal behavior to engage in.

Color-coordinated cardigans aside, consumers still want the absolute best for their pet pals, even when it comes to supplements.

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Finn gives man’s best friend a little extra love. This new pet wellness brand offers products that calm dogs down or keep their coat nice and shiny, and you can mix and match based on your pup’s specific needs. But these aren’t your typical doggy treats packaged in a flimsy plastic pouch—Finn comes in recyclable and reusable matte finish tins, which up the game in the world of pet product design.

“I was working on a pet-focused newsletter just because I loved pets and animals,” James Shalhoub, founder of Finn, explained. When James first had the idea for Finn, he was working at a health and wellness company. “It occurred to me that if people are throwing their dogs birthday parties and creating Instagram accounts for them, then they would probably hold their dogs to the same standards of modern wellness and nutrition that we hold ourselves to.”

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James decided to approach the team at Brooklyn-Based Gander to develop his idea into a direct to consumer product.

“The way we helped him is what we do with a lot of brands that we work with,” said Mike McVicar, partner and creative director at Gander. “We love working with brands early on, as early as they have a concept to prototype, all the way through the end to delivery.”

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Their jumping-off point with Finn was research, research, research—but the kind that would be every dog lover’s dream. Aside from examining what other pet supplements were like, Gander found out what the competition was missing by speaking directly to pup parents on the phone, or (better yet) in person at dog parks in the city.

“We found that people care enough about their pets to make that diligent choice,” Benji Haselhurst, senior graphic designer at Gander, said. “They think about giving their pet a supplement as though they were giving it to their own child.”

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As such, consumers needed to understand the specific benefits that fit with their dog’s needs in a simplified manner. Finn makes it very clear on the labels what each product does—whether it’s to calm your dog down or help give him a silky, shiny coat.

Gander also discovered how much value consumers put on knowing the formulas get backed by veterinarians, as well as what products they recommend for specific breeds. The supplement space can become a landscape of buzzwords with products packed with fillers that don’t really do what they claim. So ensuring these were dog supplements vets would give to their own pets was vital.

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Finn takes a modern approach to supplements for pets, meeting the needs of owners who are left confused by other dog supplements, and that carries through to the design. Active ingredients are listed prominently on the packaging, and eye-catching colors differentiate the clearly labeled supplement varieties. Geometric dogs appear on the packaging and website, walking the fine line between abstract illustrations and familiar graphics, which represent certain breeds (like poodles or dachshunds).

The choice to package the supplements in tins especially makes Finn a standout. So many pet brands rely on plastic, whether it’s pouches for treats or tubs of kibble. But when working on Finn, the team at Gander wondered what other options there were—particularly ones that were infinitely recyclable and reusable. Tin seemed like a viable option.

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“My dad is an electrician,"  Benji said. "Growing up, he would collect and save every Altoids tin he ever had. He'd label it, customize it, and make these racks to keep all the tins separate and filled with the tools he needed." This memory inspired him while working on Finn, and it led Gander to do something that no one in the space was really doing yet. “This was an opportunity to ask the question, “how can we create a container that is recognizable and iconic, and recyclable but also reusable?’”

The final product proves that sustainability can look jaw-droppingly gorgeous, too. But the matte tins also added an extra element to the packaging.

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“One thing the client really liked about the tin was that it gave a much higher, more premium feeling versus a plastic experience,” Alex Gracey, senior project manager at Gander, said. “They were excited by the sustainability, but that helped send it over to where it wasn’t just the sustainability. The tins added to the overall value proposition in a unique way, and it hit on a lot of levels for both us and our client.”

While Gander is proud of their work for the newly released Finn, they acknowledge that the project was incredible to work on because of one small detail—trust. This, Mike said, was the key ingredient to creating Finn.

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“They showed us a lot of confidence and believed in the process that we did,” Alex stated. “They were good partners in feedback and understanding why and how we make this brand, and then really believing in it. Because they didn’t just make a company because they saw a little bit of white space, but it’s something they’re genuinely interested in. They want to put out a better product, and it got us very excited.”

“It was just a really fun project to work on,” Benji added. “Working on something that is a quality product for dogs was just a real treat. Dogs are life.”

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