Cabin Knives | Dooka Design Diaries

February 10, 2022

When dooka originally met Alfie, he was rising in Instagram infamy for his unique craftsmanship. The self-taught maestro was selling his custom knives through the platform to an engaged audience. He had admittedly fallen into this position and although the business was operating, he needed design assistance around his full service to convert this passion project into a functioning business.

Originally, our objective was to formulate a service and develop a consistent visual identity across his touchpoints. This would allow Alfie to process custom orders effectively and position his business professionally. As with all of the start-ups we work with, we started the project with a deep dive into his history, process and service to identify key areas to focus our design assistance.

Through our discovery sessions (often referred to as therapy) we recognised that Alfie was close to burn out and his chockablock calendar was negatively impacting his creative output. His books were full for months to come with orders that weren’t all that “custom”. With limited knowledge of available materials and processes, the tailoring requests were often shallow.

The novelty of customisations was therefore transitioned to a premium service offering for Cabin Knives, with a general release (or more appropriately named “Chop Drop”) available monthly through an e-commerce store. This would form an exclusive air around the knives, likened to a street fashion release, whilst also providing Alfie the creative freedom to explore his craft.

We also recognised a large proportion of his following were invested in his unique process. The raw craft itself galvanised fans and validated the product offering. So, without adding to his workload, we identified an alternative revenue stream using paid streaming services to showcase his talent.

This effectively drove the visual direction of the overall brand. We wanted to highlight the manual nature of the business to bring patrons into the cabin, down and dirty with the tools. We focused on physical forms of graphical representation and traditional methodologies of press printing.

Taking inspiration from the legendary origins of blade mastery, we created a predominantly red aesthetic that harked back to conventional Hankos - the signatory stamp of a Japanese house. This would be reflected throughout brand communications, creating an identity that could traverse physical and digital touchpoints.

A key product problem identified was that the (very important) knife care information was often ignored by customers, resulting in damage. We wanted to create an infographic that would be engaging, useful and located close to the blade. Our solution: A Tea Towel. The printing methodology reflected the overall brand aesthetic and also doubled up as an individual knife wrap for packaging.

In parallel to harmonising the Cabin Knives website, socials and packaging, we wanted to create a character that reflected the satirical side of Alfie’s brand. His social content was comedic and showed Alfies lighter, more approachable nature. Introducing "Carlos" your friendly cartoon cabin.

The monthly Chop Drops have repeatedly sold out within a day of their release, whilst custom orders have a more personalised service and demand a higher price point for dedicated aficionados. The project has converted Alfie’s passionate pursuit into a thriving business. More important still, Alfie is once again loving his craft with the creative freedom to create truly unique culinary masterpieces.

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