2020 Design AOY Bronze: OneMethod leaves no stone unturned

CCO Amin Todai’s entrepreneurial spirit helped lay the groundwork for the Bensimon Byrne agency's “experimental” mindset.


This story originally appeared in the Nov/Dec 2020 issue of strategy.

Just as OneMethod’s founder – serial entrepreneur Amin Todai – helped give birth to the agency’s “experimental” culture (having created restaurants and a clothing line from behind its walls), so too has he had a hand in its affection for branding and design.

Over the last couple of years, the Bensimon Byrne- owned agency has made a conscious effort to tighten its focus on that side of its business, with Max Sawka, strategy and creative director at OneMethod, describing the agency’s CCO, Todai, as “a designer at heart.”

To be able to pitch for more branding and design business, the agency brought in three new designers and launched an experience design division, led by XD director Kurt Krumme. Only a year-and-a-half since its refocus, and the fruits of the team’s labour are already starting to pay off. This year OneMethod picked up the Bronze Design Agency of the Year medal, its first-ever AOY title.

The KitKat Chocolatory – a Yorkdale store where people can create custom chocolate bars – was one of OneMethod’s first large-scale design  projects for its biggest clients at Nestle. The agency not only designed the retail space – which was anchored by a “Chef’s Table” where chocolatiers make KitKat bars on site – but also the customer experience, says Sawka. Instead of simply emailing or texting a customer when their order was ready for pick-up, OneMethod designed a physical sign that displays the customer’s name with a special message inside the store.

Sawka adds that KitKat chose OneMethod for the project because of its history in blending experiential design with branding through its La Carnita restaurant and ice cream brand Sweet Jesus. He says La Carnita started as an experiment inside OneMethod’s office, with the agency selling tacos from a pop-up and later growing to be in seven retail locations across Canada and the U.S. The agency- born ice-cream brand Sweet Jesus has also gone on to open 20 locations, including one in Dubai.

Experiential, brand design and marketing communications are typically treated as three different disciplines, says Sawka; however, OneMethod has worked to remove silos between the three and create an inverse relationship.

“Anytime we take on brand design, even if it just starts with a logo or a full visual identity, we always map it out beyond that and look at how it will come to life in physical spaces,” Sawka says.

For example, when the shop started the KitKat project, it first focused on the physical store, but then addressed components like packaging, ecommerce and marketing. And when designing Toronto-based cannabis dispensary Miss Jones’ new store, it not only worked on the building design, but also the merchandise, display tags and staff clothing.

“It’s one of those things where it had three different streams of design, even though we were only really focused on one,” he says. “[By blending the three] we are able to have a real intimate understanding of those disciplines [and it] allows us to have a more holistic view of the problems and the solutions.”

New key business: Canadian Tire; FIGR; BentallGreenOak; Reactine; Nicorette; Benylin; The Juno Awards; Tangerine

New hires: Bonnie Cheung, Daniel Cullen, Mario Gelleny and Lisa Phuong, ADs; Nathaniel Houseley, CW; Dalton Halligan and Rudy Cho, studio designers; VP, director of consumer experience, Matthew Ames.

Staff: 45

To see the agency’s winning cases, visit the AOY website