How JDO New York Distills Brands Down Into a Concise and Beautiful Belief
by Theresa Christine Johnson on 10/02/2023 | 5 Minute Read
What does it mean to “create belief?” And why does JDO, the independent global design agency, believe it's the key to modern brand success?
While JDO has been around since 2003, they recently opened an office in New York City as a response to an expanding client base.
But it was no easy task. The new outpost for the award-winning agency opened right before the pandemic hit with minimal resources at its disposal. But despite those obvious challenges, the NYC studio has thrived. A big part of that success story is Ellie Hansen, JDO NY's VP, whose entrepreneurial spirit propelled the studio to where it is today. Over the past three years, she has built a multi-disciplined, highly specialized team, putting the global agency’s NY satellite in a better spot than ever to grab onto exciting growth opportunities on the horizon.
"We began with just two clients and no office but have since transformed into a dynamic NoHo studio. Our dedicated team of brand design professionals here collaborates closely with our UK counterparts to deliver top-notch creative excellence to our US clients," said Ellie. "We've really gone from strength to strength, experiencing remarkable business growth with phenomenal new clients, and attracting top-tier talent to our organization. Now, people seek us out and invite us to join their pitches. It's a lovely position to be in."
“Success breeds success,” Ellie added.
JDO can attribute its secret sauce to what they call “creating belief.” People buy the brands they do because of the emotions the brand makes them feel, and JDO uses its creativity to forge those kinds of deep connections.
“Most of the time, consumers are indifferent,” said Ellie. “Lost in the hustle and bustle of their lives, they operate on autopilot and don’t want to connect with brands. Brands not only need to fight for attention, they need to fight against this apathy and demonstrate their significance in people’s lives. We help brands overcome apathy by creating belief.” With boundless creativity and a brand-centric approach, the studio prides itself on transforming intangible ideas into tangible experiences and creating brands that consumers genuinely care about.
“‘We create belief’ is a way of saying that, yes, we look into a brand's history, a product’s history and relevance and what they represent, but I think it’s really about how we can pull out distinction from anywhere,” added Ben Ridley, associate creative director at the JDO NY. “We're strategically looking at insights from consumers and the category and bringing it into a distinctive idea that will then inform design.”
JDO NY has touched some pretty impressive brands in a short amount of time. With Hawaiian Tropic, they rebranded the icon in sun care with distinctive assets like a refreshed logo and hibiscus flower, including a more focused package design. The more contemporary aesthetic and greater emphasis on skincare benefits shifts the brand from a sun cream exclusively used on beach days to a self-care experience consumers can indulge in—in and out of the sun. They also delivered an exquisite identity, luxury packaging, and a robust communications campaign to launch the holistic hair care brand Michiru. The design highlights the brand’s Japanese holistic regimens while simultaneously leaning into its advanced technology, so consumers don’t have to choose between science or natural ingredients with what they use on their hair.
Their sustainability-focused work for Dove, a long-standing client, netted the agency a handful of design awards. JDO was tasked not only with designing gorgeous reusable body wash bottles (as well as a range of concentrate refills and starter kits) but ultimately influencing consumer habits. The premium aluminum bottles bring the spa experience into people’s homes, while the modern botanical illustrations speak to the eco-friendly design and add even more elegance.
“The creative challenge here was about changing consumer behavior by showing them that they can reduce plastic while still enjoying the Dove products they love,” Ellie said. “Our design creates the belief that change is not only possible but simple and beautiful.”
The agency is also responsible for The Glenlivet’s current identity, one that harnesses the brand’s heritage with a contemporary flair. “We learned that ‘The Glenlivet’ actually means ‘smooth flowing one’ in Gaelic, so with the process that JDO uses regularly, we thought, ‘How can we take that phrase and imbue it into different micro-moments within the design?’” Ben explained. “That sort of universal idea is something we champion quite a lot because it can align clients, designers, and potential third-party agencies. It considers multiple factors that make a brand relevant, and it’s super helpful in getting the best creative out of a tight brief.”
The “smooth flowing one” manifests itself on the packaging with a gorgeous, soothing color palette, and a clever curve cutting through the label represents the smooth drinking experience, not to mention the location where the Scotch whisky gets distilled. That also makes an appearance on the special editions Illicit Still and Licensed Dram, The Sample Room, and the recently launched Twist & Mix, a line of ready-to-serve cocktails. This ain't your grandpappy’s whisky—yes, it’s clear this is a spirit with history, but it lacks the prim, stuffy air that some might associate with a long-standing brand.
Though JDO has worked with US-based clients for many years, having a local studio has been a game-changer. "Getting in the room with our clients, rolling up our sleeves for workshops, and diving into deep conversations—that's where the magic happens,” Ben said. “Ideas spark, connections strengthen, and our work gains depth and focus that's hard to achieve otherwise. It's like a creative osmosis, and having a local presence makes all the difference."
Though the New York location hasn’t been around for long, JDO already has several high-profile clients under their belt and exciting design projects in the works, on pack and beyond— making them a rising agency to watch. Their sheer ambition, paired with an obsession with detail, is sure to give people something to believe in, one brand at a time.