January 11, 2017

8 brands we fell in love with in 2016

It’s a fact of life: we all interact with dozens of brands a day. From the brands of toothpaste or coffee we choose to the clothes we choose to wear to work, we’re swimming in brand choices and developing brand loyalty without even realizing it. Once in a while, it’s nice to take a look around to identify the brands that stand out in our day to day lives – the ones that make an experience better, or that we can’t get out of our heads. Here are eight of our favorites from this year – they’re not necessarily new brands, but ones that made a difference in our lives in 2016. From work out apparel to a DNA testing kit for your dog, we fell in love a lot this past year. We can only imagine what brands will woo us in 2017.

Outdoor Voices

Screenshot of Outdoor Voices homepage. 2016 Brands We Love.

“The standout brand that grabbed me this year was Outdoor Voices, a fairly new exercise apparel company. They nailed it on every level: strong, simplified, and playful visuals combined with a great digital experience and really excellent products that I feel are measurably better than other workout gear I’ve tried. Plus, their brand message is all about making exercise inclusive, casual and fun, which clicks with me, since I’m no hardcore athlete…but I still want good gear.

Last, the brand name. ‘Outdoor voices’ at first was confusing to me, but then I heard an interview with the founder who connected the name back to the indoor voices/outdoor voices concept that we all remember from being kids and getting shushed when yelling inside. The name, to me, translates to ‘be bold, be loud, go for it!’ and I love that this energetic vibe is infused in all aspects of the brand.”

– Clare, Brand Manager

The Noun Project

The Noun Project lets you find an Icon for Everything. 2016 Brands We Love.

“Love this crowd-sourced store for icons. Not only does it fill a need for ever-improving icons and inspiration, the user interface is incredibly simple and intuitive.”

– Jon, Creative Team

Once Upon a Time Toys

A picture of toys from Once Upon a Time Toy Store in Stowe, VT. 2016 Brands We Love.

“The brand I fell in love with this year? One that I had not seen any of their visual identity, had never stepped foot in their store, and have only had one encounter with; but they now have a customer for life. Not because of their visual style (its “mom and pop” look cannot compete with that of a high-end brand), but because of the genuine Vermont-style customer care they offered me 4 days before Christmas while searching for a Bruder toy I could no longer find in stock online and theirs being the last phone number on the list of local retailers.

Located in Stowe, Vermont, Once Upon a Time Toys answered my phone call with a cheerful “hello and welcome,” confirmed they had the toy I was looking for, and proceeded to physically bring it over to the local UPS. They re-used a shipping box they had in their store to save me the cost of a box from UPS and passed only the cost of shipping (not fulfillment) on to me—all done within a few hours. They called me back to let me know the package was on its way, emailed me a tracking number and then thanked me for the purchase.

We constantly preach to clients that a brand is more than looks—it’s about the actions the company takes as well as their customers’ opinions of them. Everything we do supports those efforts. Once Upon a Time Toys is living their brand—and I’ll be back.”

– Jenni, Creative Director

Avalon Hill

Betrayal at the House on the Hill game pieces, including board, playing cards, dice, and character pieces. 2016 Brands We Love.

“Avalon Hill is known for their hours-long, world-conquering game, Risk. However, their latest game, Betrayal at the House on the Hill is what I fell in love with in 2016. Betrayal is an intricate game that starts with players cooperatively discovering the layout of a haunted mansion. However, the real fun is half-way through the game. One player becomes a traitor and one of fifty different “haunts” begins. You’ll never play the same game twice.

With video games taking over as the leading form of home entertainment, board game companies have to be more creative, daring, and unexpected in their design than ever before. The beautifully designed cards and rooms, along with the homage to classic horror stories, makes it one of the best group games to date.”

– Amanda, Office Manager


Airbnb is the latest trend in helping you find somewhere new to stay on vacation“I’ve used AirBnB for years because their website and network are unmatched for travel and this year they launched a new feature where you can also book experiences where you are traveling. People can not only rent out their homes in amazing places but become tour guides of their lives, jobs and area. There is no better way to experience a new place than with a local and I can’t wait to try this new feature!”

– Kori, Creative Team


Embark advertising featuring the slogan "Ever wonder what your dog is made of?"

Embark makes DNA testing kits for dog owners. They have a great visual identity that embodies all the fun and surprises that come along with owning a canine companion. Their messaging is concise and scientific, yet warm and inviting. Their brand totally resonates with a curious and (hopefully) conscientious dog lover like me!”

– Ryan, Creative Team

Birddogs Shorts

Birddogs Shorts are creative, stylish new types of shorts for men

“The brand I fell in love with this year is called Birddogs Shorts. When it comes to men’s shorts, there are a limited number of options. By that I mean you can really either go cargo (so 10 years ago) or preppy (who actually likes those little sailboats on shorts?)

Birddogs shorts are designed by the former head of men’s design at Lululemon. They’re blowing up not only for their style and versatility but also for their mentality around advertisement. They took the over the top, ludicrous advertisement style (think Old Spice) and made it their own. It’s flashy, fun, and seems to be developing its own culture now, in addition to the shorts themselves. I’m going a bit over the top, but they’re definitely implementing the whole ‘they aren’t just shorts, they’re a lifestyle’ thing, without coming off as too desperate or stupid.”

– Dylan, Brand Manager

Leonine Public Affairs

Leonine Public Affairs Logo designed by Tenth Crow Creative“This might be cheating, but I feel the need to tout one of our own clients, Leonine Public Affairs! Leonine is the product of a 2016 rebrand that our designers executed with surety and precision. The mission was to revitalize a nearly 30 year old brand for a new generation, while encapsulating the successful foundation laid by the original. The name, quite literally meaning lion-like, exudes the confidence of a thought leader. And, its look is a modernized representation of the classic lion. The narrowed eyes and strong jawline in the logo’s lion seem to illuminate their strategic thinking and indispensable work. This brand balances the line between powerful and successful, and approachable and friendly.”

– Sarah, Brand Manager

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Branding, Design, Marketing