Building the Brand —
Focusing on Tangible Design
From the beginning, MAEKAN was not just about great stories. It was just as much about things you could touch and feel. This is the story of our beginnings and the details that are often overlooked.
By Alex Maeland and Eugene Kan
Audio by Elphick Wo
Photos by Alex Maeland
MAEKAN has always been digital first. We grew frustrated as the publications we used to read religiously all of a sudden changed gears. To them, we were just a number and not a passionate reader seeking great content that was unique, engaging, and pushed culture forward. There’s literally so much noise out there that you get overwhelmed. And unless you can catch a piece of content within a small window of opportunity on the front feed, you’ll never see it again.
We were looking to capture some of that essence of the past when we would read magazines front to back and impatiently await the next drop. But naturally with the benefit of all these awesome modern tools at our disposal. Despite this digital approach, physical objects are an important piece in MAEKAN. A great magazine or card stock and its subtle textures has this ability to give you a momentary feeling of curiosity.
As people interacted with MAEKAN, it was important to value the small UX moments alongside the feeling of running your fingers over a letter-pressed logo in the same light. A good brand has these moments but a great brand has a sense of consistency and cohesion in everything it does. It’s always been a perpetual struggle to link offline and online. Have we nailed it? It’s probably too early to tell but we were certainly thinking of both worlds in tandem rather than separately. Whether it was a business card or stationary, the impression you get should always create a level of great expectation.
A great magazine or card stock and its subtle textures has this ability to give you a momentary feeling of curiosity.
Early on in the course of MAEKAN’s history, we were incredibly fortunate to convince Portland’s Instrument that we were two guys with a dream. And that we were worth spending three months together working on the early stages of MAEKAN. Shout-outs to the whole team in Justin, BK, Zech, Tim, CC, J-Lew, Vin, JD, the friendly girl at the front with the dog and more…they were all awesome at distilling a vision into actual wordmarks and logos.
After all that stuff had settled, we needed to put this into the real world. A conversation with our friend and Chef Matt Abergel (Yardbird/Sunday’s Grocery/RŌNIN) led us to a small little print shop in Hong Kong called WiseArt. The shop is owned and operated by two brothers and they were oddly enough, a mirror of us. The shop is run by two brothers working extremely lean with limited resources but with a standard that doesn’t allow for anything below excellence.
Patrick and his brother at WiseArt dove in and tackled all of MAEKAN’s printed goods, including our business cards, letterhead, and envelopes. The entire experience was a bit analog. And to be honest, it was tedious at first. We had trouble getting email responses from Patrick whose email address was a string of seemingly random alphanumeric characters with a @hotmail.com extension (people still use those?!), yet he was on point when it came to Whatsapp.
The WiseArt shop was no more than 400 or 500 sq ft. Stacks of silkscreen panels sat from floor to ceiling amidst laundry being hung in the corners near old letterpress machines. Everything about their studio made it feel like some disheveled creative’s “live/work” space in downtown LA or Brooklyn.
We’ve gotten a ton of compliments on the cards and a few too many American Psycho business card references as well. Looking back at everything, details aren’t always noticed by everybody, but that’s fine. MAEKAN is the sum of all these parts. It’s the small details that come together to create something big, bold and meaningful. Just like we’re hoping people get behind our stories through the editorial experience, we also want people to have a certain physical experience when we give them our hand-crafted cards. We realize that building a meaningful brand is more than just refining an editorial lens. The whole process requires consistency around the values, point-of-view and the desire to go where others deem too difficult.
MAEKAN is the sum of all these parts. It's the small details that come together to create something big, bold and meaningful.