And the Design AOY winners are…

Rethink, Sid Lee and OneMethod stole the show with iconic designs that touched brands from Heinz Ketchup to the Toronto Raptors to KitKat.


For the first time in 32 years, we won’t crowd together and laugh at the musings of a Steve Mykolyn or another fabled emcee. We won’t silently bid on art for a cause, nor will we toast to the Gold, Silver and Bronze AOY winners as they make their way to the stage to collect pointy awards and cram to fit their entire office in for a group shot. Worst of all, we won’t play the who-dunnit-best agency showreel game.

Yes, the pandemic robbed Agency of the Year fans of a lot of things – but it did not steal the show of its winners.

While this year’s competition was destined to go on without a gala, strategy decided to announce the medalists virtually, one category at a time, each day of this week. First up: Design.

Drum roll, please…

This year’s Gold trophy for the category went to Rethink, having scored the highest among the group of shortlisted agencies for its work for Veryvell, Heinz Ketchup and London Drugs.

The Silver trophy went to Sid Lee, which submitted branding and design work for CN, the Design Vanguard and Toronto Raptors. Its piece for CN, called “CN 100,” was also awarded the Campaign of the Year award in the Design category.

The Bronze trophy was given to OneMethod, the first AOY trophy for the shop, having entered work for a range of clients from Nestle’s KitKat to Scotiabank and new cannabis brand Good Buds.

Here are the features on each of the winning agencies, which also appeared in this month’s strategy magazine:

Rethink’s secret sauce
Sid Lee was born this way
OneMethod leaves no stone unturned

You can get a snapshot of each agency’s winning cases below, including the Design Campaign of the Year; for more detailed cases on winners profiles, visit the Agency of the Year site. And make sure to check back here every day this week to see the winners in the other AOY categories: tomorrow, we’ll reveal the top shops in the PR category.

GOLD: Rethink

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To stand out against cannabis brands focused on getting consumers high, Truss (a joint venture between Molson and licensed producer Hexo) created Veryvell, a wellness-focused brand. With regulations preventing Truss from putting the word “wellness” on packaging, Rethink told the brand’s story using approachable, human typography, a soothing colour palette, and a design system that helped educate customers on recommended dosage.

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Rethink noticed puzzles were making a comeback during a period when many people were looking for new pastimes. Working with Heinz Ketchup, it created a game to match the condiment’s reputation for being slow out of the bottle and red all over: a 570-piece puzzle all in the same Heinz Ketchup hue.

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Canadians send more than 40 million Valentine’s cards every year. But the perfect card is often hard to find for people from diverse backgrounds, including the LGBTQ+ and disability communities. So, for London Drugs, cards were designed by local artists celebrating the diversity behind those messages of love.


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Design Campaign of the Year: To visually express how CN has helped shape the geography, culture and economy of Canada since 1919, Sid Lee designed a milestone commemorative book. Shipping containers, which CN transports across the country, was the inspiration for the book’s design. Inside, it looked at the company’s 100 years through 100 perspectives. The manifesto was filled with a year’s worth of research, interviews and historical images, which the brand then made 40,000 copies for all of its employees to have as a keepsake.

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The Design Vanguard is a philanthrophic community of industry leaders. The organization tasked Sid Lee to help it create a new visual identity that would show the impact and power of design, with the resulting brand iconography giving each word in its mission statement deeper meaning, turning letters into lightning rods, infinity signs and the like.

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Moving away from stale logos that tend to be released by sports leagues, Sid Lee created a unique flexible photographic logo for the Toronto Raptors 25th season. The calling card was replicated in hand emojis and giant statues in city streets, with the forever-morphing “two five” logo showing what Toronto is all about: a place where diverse cultures come together, united by their love for the Raptors.

BRONZE: OneMethod

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When tasked with freshening up the Scotiabank brand, OneMethod expanded beyond the bank’s signature red, using a multi-coloured palette for its marketing and communications material. The agency immersed the company in fresh, bright, optimistic and rich colour to bring out its more human side. From in-branch to online ads, all of its brand collateral was updated to reflect the more friendly Scotiabank signature.

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The shop showed its design chops in the KitKat Chocolatory that brought the brand’s new revenue stream to life in so many delicious ways. The agency was tasked to plan the blueprint of a retail store in Toronto’s Yorkdale mall, creating design elements that reflected the chocolatey Nestle product. The light fixtures, for example, were in the shape of KitKat fingers, while the store’s clean wafer-inspired lines were a sight for design-hungry eyes.

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In a sea of cannabis competitors, OneMethod worked with Good Buds to help it stand out. Taking inspiration from the great outdoors and the feeling one gets when smoking chronic cannabis, the agency created a rather trippy brand identity. It used a colour palette drawn from sunny skies and super high eyes, designing a vibrant visual identity that brought an artsy vibe to the Good Buds brand.