Parachute Design creates branding for pet-friendly Toronto start-up

Case Study by Jay Eckert RGD, Founder & Creative Director at Parachute Design


In the fall of 2015, Kristin Matthews and Peter Zakarow invited me to sit down for a coffee and chat about their new business venture, Tom&Sawyer. Having collaborated with Peter before on a beautiful website design and branding, I welcomed the opportunity to help create the branding, packaging and website design for their start-up.



We love pets. My dog comes to work with me every day and makes me leave the office during the day to go for a walk, which allows me to clear my head and brainstorm without the distractions of email and phone calls.


Inspired by Kristin and Peter's own dog Sawyer, they created Tom&Sawyer a to offer fresh, healthy meals for pets. Pet food in general is poorly regulated and many people unknowingly feed their pets sub-par food that lacks proper nutrition, let alone good taste. Guided by a veterinarian and pet nutritionist, Tom&Sawyer and a small team of passionate pet parents created a menu of freshly-prepared pet food that only contains ingredients found in the average refrigerator. Now with their newly opened brick and mortar shop and café in Leslieville, pets and their humans can enjoy a casual experience with food, snacks and beverages.




Tasked with the creation of a multi-platform brand from scratch is a tall order. Our initial strategy session with Kristin and Peter began with the logo design and what would become the cornerstone of the brand. At Parachute Design, we go through a questionnaire with all of our clients that is full of silly, off-the-cuff questions that stealthily help us understand the personalities behind the brand we’ve been tasked to create. Questions include:

  • If you had 30 seconds to tell a stranger about your company or product, what would you say to make your company or product memorable?
  • If you were a car, what kind of car would you be? (Ex. Porsche or Toyota)
  • Name five feelings, thoughts or emotions that your audience should feel when viewing or remembering your brand.
  • If you were a shoe, what type would you be? (Ex. running shoe or sandal)

Other key pieces of information established at this stage in the process include colour preferences, typeface selection and the inclusion of an icon that could also be used independent of the word mark.


This process helped establish Kristin and Peter's vision for the company, and how their personal lives and experiences would inform the personality of the brand. The questionnaire also helped identified the target audience: local males and females aged 25-65 with above-average disposable income.


It was established that a key piece of the online business model would be providing customers with the ability to subscribe through the website to have freshly-prepared pet food delivered to their homes.


We also conducted a competitor analysis, which involved looking at both boutique pet shops and (human) cafés, as Tom&Sawyer is a blend of both. We looked at branding and interior design elements that were being used in other establishments to get inspiration for creating an identity and space for Tom&Sawyer that would convey the right mood and atmosphere to potential clientele. Parachute has also worked with international pet food brands such as Nutrience, Zoe and Cloud9 for a number of years to create marketing materials for both web and print. We design and develop monthly online promotions and contests that run alongside the corporate websites and identities we’ve helped build for these brands. This competitor analysis and our experience working in the pet food marketing industry helped Parachute create a brand that met the client's goals and offered a distinctive, appealing look for the target audience.


Logo Design
Along with our initial doodles and sketches, Kristin offered her own ideas on paper throughout the concept development process. In some revisions, Kristin would take our sketch and make it her own, illustrating alternative ideas. We explored many different options this way before landing on the final logo design. 


When a client provides feedback in sketch form it can sometimes be a little tricky. Sometimes the ideas put forward just don’t seem to work, or don't address the goals for the logo design. In these cases I always recommend giving the client what they’ve asked for, but also offering an alternative for comparison. In the end, it’s the client’s decision, but I feel like I’ve done my part in either guiding them to a successful design or at least offering what I feel is the best solution.


I like to look at it as the client’s way of adding their own personal touches to their logo, because when it comes down to it, the visual representation of the brand should reflect the personality of the individual behind it, especially in a small business. The client may not fully understand how to execute an idea for the most impact, but through collaboration between client and designer, we can work together to refine the idea and create a professional looking logo. In the end, it helps deliver something the client can be proud of. 


Brand Extension
Once the logo was established, it was time to expand the brand across all the materials needed to launch the new business. This included business cards, product packaging and interior and exterior signage. Parachute was responsible for laying the foundation of all the branded materials from the logo design and usage through iconography, packaging and various web marketing. As supporting elements were required, we worked with Tom&Sawyer’s in-house designer to expand the brand to applications like apparel and labels, providing feedback on some of the artwork that was created as well as verifying file setup and colours, etc.


Together, through some brainstorming sessions and some trial and error with forms and sizes, we put together a clear and contemporary package design that could be managed in-store to meet the needs of the staff preparing the pet food each day.


We continued the brand expansion by tackling both the interior and exterior signage while the Leslieville shop was being renovated ahead of the official launch. This required trips to the job site to take measurements, chat with our sign maker and get a sense of the space before we applied the brand elements throughout.



Website Design
Parachute Design provided design and user experience consultation for the new website. After aligning with the web developer and reviewing initial wireframes, we tackled the responsive website design to continue the brand expansion through the web and online shopping experience.


For the site, we featured the food and ingredients with custom photography. The web design also showcases beautiful meals dressed up as if for human consumption to reiterate the promise that all ingredients in Tom&Sawyer pet food is human grade and straight from the refrigerator. Additionally, we showcased each individual ingredient through the use of thumbnail images that offered more information on the nutrition added to each meal.




Packaging design involved experimentation with the materials, the dimensions of the packages and how food preparation staff would need t hand-label each product with the date on which the food was prepared. Our solution uses labels applied to clear plastic packages to achieve client goals. The most challenging aspect of creating the labels was sourcing a material that withstand condensation on the packaging without bleeding the ink. In the end, the label serves its purpose and ensures brand integrity when the purchased product is brought home and subjected to fridge or freezer.


Another notable challenge was working the online store platform. We did not look after the development of the website in this case. We worked with an outside web developer to provide our design and usability experience to ensure the website looked perfect and worked flawlessly. As with many proprietary platforms, the one we used came with some limitations. We faced restrictions for the interface design of both the checkout process and the profile and preference centre. To maintain the integrity of the brand throughout the website and shopping experience, we incorporated the brand colours, recognizable icons and typographic styles through these areas. 

The success of a branding project is difficult to measure for any quantifiable length of time. Tom&Sawyer has been building momentum in the weeks since its launch in late spring 2016, catching the eye of local news outlets, including an excellent article on BlogTO.


Throughout our post-launch checkup and various follow-ups we’ve heard all great news from Tom&Sawyer as they begin to brave the market and host customers in their Leslieville shop. The brand and overall experience has been reported as very positive, making it an initial success in our books. It is very rewarding to be part of such a passionate local start-up project.


"Jay and his team at Parachute Design listened to our story and helped us to develop our logo and brand, which we love, as do so many people. Parachute Design was able to translate our ideas and messaging into a visually appealing brand design that has provided our fresh prepared pet meals with a strong introduction to the pet food market." - Kristin Matthews, Co-founder, Tom&Sawyer


Designer Takeaway

Learn something new. This was perhaps our first opportunity to be involved with both the packaging and interior/exterior signage. I’m always eager to expand my knowledge and awareness of design materials and techniques to solve new and evolving challenges. Taking part in conversations with specialists in these fields was exceptionally educational and I look forward to opportunities to use this knowledge in future logo , packaging and web projects.


Client Takeaway

With most start-ups, time and budget are defining factors in determining not only the project scope and timeline, but also everyone’s feeling on the final results. Having the time and space to research and explore more than a handful of design options provides a client with a logo and website they will be able to fall in love with and showcase with pride. If possible, when approaching an endeavour such as this, granting your designer a little extra freedom and time to do what they love will often yield far more successful and passionate results.


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