With a focus on collaborations between Vancouver’s craft breweries and assorted creators, chefs, and artists, Intersections seeks to contextualize the everyday by exploring how people in two very different disciplines come together to create something awesome and unexpected.
Carlos Mendes recently sat down with the two brothers behind Doan’s Craft Brewing Company, Evan Doan (ED) and Mike Doan (MD), along with Ola Volo (OV), the artist who designed their labels and the mural in their tasting room, to discuss how they came together, why their collaboration works so well, and how storytelling is such an integral part of their shared project.
CM: Tell us who you are and how you came together.
ED: I’m Evan Doan, and I’m one of the two brothers behind Doan’s Craft Brewing Company.
OV: I’m Ola Volo, a local artist and illustrator.
MD: I’m Mike Doan, one of the Doan Brothers. Initially, we were looking for artwork for the bottles, or just a general brand, and a friend of mine had a contact who knew Ola.
ED: We decided to approach Ola at one of her shows in Chinatown, and so my lady and I went and saw her art first-hand. She had this huge line-up of people wanting to talk to her, and so I quickly explained that I was starting a brewery and that we were looking for someone to do our labels. She said she was really excited and liked the idea of working together. However, during our first meeting she started to really interview us and ask us questions like ‘what’s your story’, ‘what’s your past’, and ‘what are you looking for?’
MD: Yes, that was a cool process. She was really picking our brains to try and figure out what the project would actually be about, what we were about, and what would be a good fit.
OV: I feel like we got personal really quick. You were telling me your story and I was wondering about how I could represent you in a way that would be true to my style. I thought at the time that it was a lot of pressure to be responsible for a brand, and I knew I had to make sure it was the correct fit. I think that this is the only project that I’ve worked on that has evolved over time. It’s been kind of like telling a story. When we got to know each other it was like ‘what’s your family like’, ‘what’s your mum like’, ‘what are your personalities’ – all of this was really helpful to develop characters so I could properly represent you guys.
CM: So it was important for you to get to know who they were and what they were about – it’s really more about telling a story for you?
OV: Yes, absolutely.
ED: The process is just amazing. We have these conversations, she shows me her work, and I’m always so impressed – it just keeps getting better and better. When she sent us her idea for the Rye Stout label I thought it was incredible. She asked me ‘what do you think of having a woman in it’ and I thought “Yes, that’s perfect”.
MD: You made a stout romantic – which is very difficult to do!
OV: Well, I was thinking about how you both are – your girlfriends and your family – which are such big parts of your personality. Also, when I met you both, you talked about how much effort you put into opening a brewery before it even began. How it was always your dream, and how you saved your money. I know the struggle of starting something with an idea and following through. When I came here for the first time you were executing this whole dream, and being part of that process together with you has helped me get to know you both so much better.
CM: So tell me about the mural and the labels.
OV: We started off with the labels before we got into the mural because they didn’t have this space yet.
ED: It’s funny, but the initial plan was to use a different Vancouver artist for every label. But now it’s impossible not to ask Ola.
MD: I remember one of the first things we wanted was the label to be a piece of art showcasing the artwork on the front and then having the second label at the back. We knew that the art would draw the customer into the bottle, which it has, and as soon as they turned it around, they would see our information and the type of beer on the back. As soon as they picked up one bottle, they would forever know which bottles are Doan’s. The first time I saw Ola’s labels they had such an impact from a brand imaging perspective, and I knew that the style was going to really work – and it has. It’s unusual to have a brand that doesn’t have a ‘Doan’s’ or ‘Red truck’ etc. on the front, or doesn’t even say the style of beer on the front – but the difference here is the story.
OV: That’s my favourite part.
CM: So you were building a story, building a universe through consecutive labels?
OV: Yes, the ‘Doan’s world’. These labels are more about characters and about the personality of the people and of the whole family and you can see that in all the hidden details. The logo is also hidden in the pieces, so it’s a very smooth transition into branding.
MD: That wasn’t our original idea. We didn’t want to have our logo on the front, but maybe off to the side. We never thought of adding it as part of the image. Ola creatively incorporated the logo instead of just stamping it randomly on the image.
CM: So what’s happening in the mural?
OV: It’s party time – the concept was ‘let’s get everyone together and have a good time’. So it kind of sets the mood for the room. We were at three labels at that point, so we pulled bits from the labels and those characters and put them in the mural. I also really love accordions, and when I was planning the mural I thought about parties back in Kazakhstan when I was growing up – about accordions, people drinking beer, and having a good time.
ED: Ola was very into getting our family involved, including our brother John. In a sense, she really captured all three of our personas. John is very academic, knowledgeable and ponders a lot. With his pint glass there, he’s really enjoying the moment and thinking.
MD: Evan is more of the outgoing and social one.
ED: Then you have Mike – the sarcastic one, the pest – sort of outgoing but also the one with the closed eyes. It really is all three of us.
MD: Everyone seems to find something that they love about it. You could probably see yourself and your family in there – which again brings an element of tradition to it.
OV: With my work I like to merge cultures together, so although we might be focusing on traditional German houses and designs, I don’t think the labels have any kind of concrete representations of Germany or Canada in them. They have a multi-cultural feel that is also celebrated here in Vancouver, so I feel they can be more relatable to a bigger audience
CM: Mike & Evan – What do you think Ola’s work says about your brewery and the Doan’s brand identity – having this artwork being such a strong representation of your brewery?
ED: I think it’s got a ‘grass-rootsy, East Vancouver, family-oriented’ fun to it. There is not a single ounce of negativity in the images at all. I think that is very Doan’s. We are here to please, we are all super happy, thumbs-up kind of people, and we make sure we hire that type of person as well – and Ola’s work really captures that. People come in here, look at the mural and immediately have that feeling.
MD: They are excited before they sip the beer. It does create that atmosphere. Even if it’s just two people here, they are standing next to the mural snapping photos. They’re having a good time.
OV: It also has a bit of folklore to it which represents tradition, bringing people together and sharing stories.
CM: I’m glad that you mention that, because I know that folklore is really central to your work – how do you think your collaboration with Doan’s fits into your larger body of work?
OV: Well, I am from Kazakhstan. My mum is Polish and my dad is Russian, so there is a mix of cultures. After attending Emily Carr and studying abroad, I began to research more about my background which reminded me about folklore and traditions. Folklore became a very interesting way to guide the work into a modern state – combining Eastern European art with a Canadian influence. I always want to know the story about a piece of art. In some way, the art work has a little bit of my story in there too. I do a lot of public art work, murals for outside and inside businesses, festivals, editorials for magazines, and life drawing, but this project has been special. It’s been such a pleasure working with these guys – always brainstorming for what’s next. Working with you guys has been amazing, and I love talking about the process because it is one of the more unique processes I have had with any of my clients. Usually it’s a one-off project – you contribute to the place and then it’s finished. But this has been a storytelling process. There has been so much freedom to where I can take it. I also have gotten more comfortable talking about branding. Branding, packaging and art came together so nicely in this project and it’s a very big addition to the portfolio.
CM: So do you guys have a favourite artist (other than Ola)?
MD: My mum, she’s a fantastic artist and took us to galleries all over France when we were little.
ED: There are so many, but I do love Jackson Pollock. He was a crazy human being, but his art portrays something really original, especially for the time.
CM: Ola do you have a favourite beer?
OV: Doan’s (of course) and in particular the Kolsch. When I tried it, I just loved it. I’ve tried other beers from other breweries but they just don’t match up.
CM: So what is next?
ED: We have some exciting things coming up like our West Coast IPA. I think it’s going to be awesome, and Ola’s label is maybe my favourite – but it’s so hard to say that because I say it every time. It has a whole new realm to it, a whole new feel, and it’s enlighteningly bright. We have some great upcoming collaboration beers too with some awesome artwork, but we need to keep all of that a secret. All I can say is that it’s going to be really fun, and the labels will be awesome.
Carlos is Scout’s beer writer. He’s a beer industry lawyer and a beer blogger with a particular interest in the intersection of craft beer, community and place. He spends much of his free time visiting breweries across North America and beyond to enjoy the numerous stylistic variations and sheer deliciousness of his favourite beverage. When he’s not busy advising clients in BC’s craft beer industry or writing about beer for Scout, Carlos can often be found at one of his local ‘yeast van’ breweries, sharing a flight or two with friends, or some pretzels and pepperoni sticks with his two young kids.