Great Spirit
Project Type
Cody LaFond
My Contribution
Creative Direction
Logo Design
Visual Identity
Packaging Design
Great Spirit logo imposed over a road in the forest.
the Spirit.
Great Spirit first came across my desk in early 2019 as a proposal that spawned from the love of great spirits (let’s just get that inevitable pun out of the way) and distilling premium alcoholic beverages. It began as a hairbrained idea between a group of friends with ties to both the Alderville First Nations and the local brewery scene, but quickly evolved into a genuine pursuit of shelving a premium brand of vodka. 

It was to be a small batch craft vodka, handmade to perfection, with its roots in the Alderville First Nations community proudly on display. They had a product and their slogan in “Behold the Spirit”. All they needed was the logo, branding, and packaging, which is where I came into the picture. Having wanted to delve into the alcoholic beverage industry previously, I jumped at the opportunity and was excited to help make this vision a reality.

After a discovery session and some deep diving, we concluded that the branding and packaging for Great Spirit would be heavily inspired by nature, with a premium look and feel, and first and foremost would pay homage to the Indiginous peoples of Alderville First Nations. The spirit was to be distilled locally within the reserve, and so it was imperative that the imagery be respectful in its portrayal of their local culture.
360 degree view of Great Spirit bottle.
360 degree view of Great Spirit bottle.
360 degree view of Great Spirit bottle.
360 degree view of Great Spirit bottle.
360 degree view of Great Spirit bottle.
360 degree view of Great Spirit bottle.
360 degree view of Great Spirit bottle.
An eagle looking attentively.
A close-up of the back of the Great Spirit bottle.
A fancy vodka cocktail lit dramatically.A Great Spirit branded drink coaster.
A rustic wooden box adorned with the Great Spirit logo.
Premium, fresh and inspired by nature.
Great Spirit needed an identity and a logo behind which the brand could prosper and reflect its values out into the world. It needed to feel premium but inviting, classic but contemporary, and most of all, look “cool”. The partners expressed that they really wanted the logo to connect with their audience, and be something that “people would want to wear on a t-shirt”. Having come from the realm of craft brewing, they wanted to capture a similar audience with their craft vodka while adding a certain feel of distinction that separated it from the beer crowd. My work was certainly cut out for me. 

I got to work brainstorming and drafting concepts, and soon found myself exploring the world of 18th and 19th century spirits. I was heavily inspired by the hand made typography of the era, something akin to what you’d expect in an old western saloon. I felt like this direction would yield the results we were looking for. After some exploration and several iterations, I landed on a custom solution comprised of a pin-striped, offset logotype which rises to meet an unmistakable Canadian maple leaf. It was classy, inviting, “cool” — we had found our winner.  

Upon approval, it was time to delve into materials. Specifically glass bottles. The manufacturer had supplied a collection of possibilities and we scoured them looking for ‘the one’. After some deliberation over squared vs. rounded, frosted vs. clear and explored different methods of labeling, we landed on a rounded classic gin-style bottle with a wooden corked cap. It was exactly what we needed and really helped set the tone that we had crafted for the brand thus far.
Two Great Spirit bottles side by side showing the front and back labels.
A rustic wooden box adorned with the Great Spirit logo.An outstretched arm holding a feather.
Two Great Spirit bottles floating mid-air.
A Great Spirit bottle sitting beside its packaging box.
Bold and strong, yet light as a feather.
We had our logo, we had the bottle shape, but what we needed most was a package design that begged to be picked off the shelf. I really wanted to do something special with the bottle design, and after a trip to the local liquor store for some inspiration, I came back to my desk with a fresh idea and an ace up my sleeve. I wanted the design to play with the transparency of the liquid and bottle. I had seen this effect done before, however none were quite how I imagined it for Great Spirit.

My design was to have a graphic printed on the reverse side and serve as a backdrop for the front label. This would frame the front label in such a way to allow the pertinent information to live and breathe in its own right, while the effect of the reverse print would be seen from a straight-on angle. The slight obfuscation of light through the liquid creates an interesting effect which warps the graphic around as the bottle is spun. Truly a special execution for a special product.

A feather was chosen for the reverse graphic, which in Indiginous culture is seen as a symbol of the Great Spirit, from whom all strength and power flows. It is said that to wave a feather over one’s head is to wish peace, prosperity and happiness upon them. We felt this symbolism exemplified the heart and soul of Great Spirit Vodka as well as the community from which it came. The use of copper foil throughout the bottle design further strengthens the brand’s ties to nature, and introduces a level of sophistication while remaining within the rustic themes. The addition of the slogan “Behold the Spirit” appears in a calligraphic script, as if written by a feathered quill.
A Great Spirit packing box resting on a table with branded drink coasters.
"Behold the Spirit" and the Great Spirit feather graphic imposed over a misty forest.
Great Spirit branded bottle cork.
A close-up of the front label of the Great Spirit bottle.
Close-up of the Great Spirit bottle design.
Two Great Spirit packing boxes resting on a table.
Close-up of the Great Spirit branded packing box.An outstretched arm holding wheat in front of a large wheat field.
Close-up of the Great Spirit packing box.
Three Great Spirit branded business cards resting on a table.
Wood, glass and paper.
The themes devised for the bottle design were carried throughout the subsequent packaging and various brand assets. 

The bottle was encased within a wooden dove-tailed box adorned with line-illustrations depicting an epic landscape worthy only of the Great Spirit namesake.  The scent and feel sensories provided by the rustic wood shavings upon unboxing serve to further engulf the consumer into the natural elements of the beverage while also serving as cushioning for the glass.

The copper foil from the bottle is carried onto the business cards and stationery which employ a delicate stamped foil technique throughout. Here the feather symbology appears once again as a backdrop upon which the most pertinent information lives. The visual identity of the brand was really beginning to take shape.
Close-up of a Great Spirit branded business card.
A rustic copper cup with a cold beverage. Several Great Spirit branded business cards fanned out across a table.
Many Great Spirit business cards cascading across a table surface.
Model wearing a Great Spirit branded t-shirt.
All's well that ends well...
sort of.
As mentioned previously, the client indicated that one of the important aspects of the brand would be to have customers relate to it in such a way that they would happily sport Great Spirit merchandise. T-shirts, hats, sweaters and other garments were a litmus test of sorts for the client to gauge the viability of my work. So the next logical step was to see these items into existence. 

The resulting feedback upon completion of all the deliverables was overwhelmingly positive. Taking a moment to reflect upon the project as a whole, only then did I realize just how special this production had become. The work we had created blew away expectations, continues to make me incredibly proud, and remains a staple in my portfolio. 

Unfortunately the end of this story isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. After the project wrapped I was eagerly awaiting the rollout. I dreamt of one day perusing the local liquor store and finding my little creation on the shelf in all its glory. I dreamt ecstatically of pointing and saying “This thing here. I made this”. However, the world had different plans. A little thing known as the Covid-19 pandemic hit (you may have heard about it) and plans had changed. The product was never shelved and the project did not resume as priorities had shifted. If you someday come across this brand in stores, rest assured that this designer did a little happy dance upon the revelation. Until then, a portfolio entry it remains.
A Great Spirit branded t-shirt.
A Great Spirit branded t-shirt.
A Great Spirit branded t-shirt.
A Great Spirit branded t-shirt.
Close-up of a Great Spirit branded T-Shirt.
Model wearing a Great Spirit branded t-shirt.
The Great Spirit logo imposed over a misty forest.
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