Featured image for Withstand The Toughest Environments With Koa

Withstand The Toughest Environments With Koa

by Chloe Gordon on 03/09/2023 | 3 Minute Read


kincare from Hawaii, for Everywhere

Hawaii has 14 different microclimates—one of the highest concentrations in the world— making it a unique position from which to think about skincare. Growing up there, Koa’s three cofounders knew firsthand the importance of caring for one’s skin under extreme weather conditions, and understood this as an asset when formulating for their skincare line. Developing products to withstand the toughest environmental factors, from sun and ocean to wind and humidity, meant the outcome could be used successfully anywhere else. Since one of Koa’s cofounders is also a founding partner at Combo, Combo was involved with Koa from its inception all the way to in-market phases, playing a role more akin to brand co-creator than consultant.


When formulating for optimal performance, Koa turned to the rich natural database of native and localized plants. Unique ingredients like the kukui nut, giant seaweed, sugarcane and the noni fruit were chosen for their ancient healing properties and were incorporated across the product line. With the Hawaiian climate as the yardstick, the answer to its extreme conditions rightly lay in Hawaiian expertise and ingredients—something intuitively understood by those who have personal ties to the land, like the company’s cofounders. This perspective would remain central as Koa and Combo moved into the brand, visual identity and packaging work.

To craft a brand identity that expressed Koa’s core ideals, the team leveraged the Hawaii-specific origin story and skincare formulas into a narrative that extended the pointedly local to anyone who wanted to receive those benefits. The design team created a visual world that blended youthfulness with a central connection to nature, a sentiment that was inherent to the Hawaiian lifestyle, but could also be relatable or aspirational, to young urbanites.


With that foundation, packaging design aimed to reflect the vibrancy of the islands and a consciousness for the environment - something the cofounders hold close. Color choices were rooted in the idea of a contemporary earthiness, vibrant yet relaxed shades that complemented the energetic landscapes and natural world of Hawaii. For example, greens for the lush foliage, and yellow symbolizing the Ilima flower, a style of hibiscus and the official flower of the island of Oahu.

Packaging materials were equally important. Because the founders grew up across Hawaii and had seen first hand some of the negative impacts its environment had gone through, it was known that in Hawaii everything you bring to the islands either gets brought back off or it goes into the land itself. That in mind, all Koa packaging is made from recycled materials. Tubes were constructed from aluminum, one of the most recycled materials in the world, vs plastic. And the minimal use of plastics across Koa’s packaging is all 100% post-consumer plastics.


Overall an elevated and minimal look for the brand was created, reflecting the limited and purposefully selected ingredients of the products and land in which they’re derived. In addition to the packaging, the team designed visual assets including both product photography and layouts expressed the Koa brand story from start to finish.

koa sunscreen.jpg
koa both products.jpg