Wedge’s work for Canada Dry brings a respectful refresh to the ginger ale’s 130-year-old legacy
“Refreshes are not to be confused with setting the house on fire,” Justin Lortie, Founder & Design Director at Wedge tells us, “it is an honouring of a journey and carrying that forward.” When tasked with rebranding one of the most iconic trademarks in Canada, where do you even begin? For Montreal and Los Angeles-based design agency Wedge, who were invited to provide a brand refresh for Canada Dry, the answer lies in its history.
With a legacy that spans over 130 years, the household name ginger ale was in need of an updated brand and packaging system for the modern world. However, Wedge knew it would be vital to respect and pay homage to the iconic elements that evoke the familiarity and nostalgia that Canadians know and love. The brand is such a vital part of Canadian history, that “you may be surprised to learn that back in the day,” Lortie adds, “people used to water their Christmas trees with Ginger Ale! With that kind of legacy comes a lot of history, a deep connection and cultural ownership.” The team at Wedge intentionally wanted to keep that spirit alive.
“With rebrand projects like this one, it’s essential to deeply understand which elements act as key brand attributes,” Lortie continues, describing the initial project stages. “In other words, the elements that define the brand in the minds of the audience.” Studying the Canada Dry archives, the team reviewed decades of brand specimens, advertising and packaging in order to understand the key iconic elements that resonated the most with buyers. These insights would inform the refreshed look – a modernised, cohesive and flexible design system – characterised by a new signature colour, badge and crown.
Tying this together is a custom wordmark that, Lortie explains, was “inspired by early 20th century sans serif typefaces like Johnston or Metro, constructed with geometric proportions and 90-degree sheared terminals.” For Wedge, these types were a nod to the origins of Canada Dry, born in 1904. “Inspired by archival samples of historical versions of the wordmark, we decided to add a serif to the base drawing,” Lortie continues, and “the result is a wordmark with elegant proportions and sharp details that make it uniquely recognisable.”
The ‘unapologetically calligraphic’ Nocturno Display provides a similar personality to the wordmark, with crisp precise details and a flowing rhythm. With “similar sharp serifs” to the logo, Lortie recalls that the typeface designed by Nikola Djurek was “a natural choice” for application across all brand materials. For the secondary typeface, the Design Director notes that Basetica – designed by Matthieu Cortat – has a certain ‘je ne sais quoi.’ “Perhaps it’s one of the things we like with 205TF, the foundry has a way to create typefaces with a little something special,” he suggests, “in this case, a ‘contemporary Helvetica’ with no frills.”
Not just a pretty face, however, Wedge’s consumer research found that, with its new iconic simplicity, their Canada Dry design was easier for consumers to identify on shelves than before. “It was almost as if upon seeing the new design, people forgot the old one. A, ‘hasn’t it always been that?’ kind of feeling,” Lortie remarks, “which speaks on the memory of something that lives in your mind. The design hit a very real point of nostalgia.”