Though we can’t say this without a hint of bias, Jana + Koos are one of South Africa’s most dynamic forces in branding. Ask them to design your logo and you’ll probably land up with more than you bargained for. Case in point is Simon and Mary, the much-loved millenary label who originally approached J + K for a new logo and ended up with a fully-fledged identity and lookbook for their debut hat collection. Since then they’ve worked with Simon and Mary on this, this and this – the latter being one of the most impeccable lookbooks to grace our eyes last year.
Jana Hamman and Koos Groenewald are also artists in their own right. What makes the agency unique, apart from churning out fresh work on a continual basis, is a dedicated focus on explorative art projects, which they allocate around 30% of their output to. In 2014 the pair took their Joburg-centric body of work City of Gold Diggers to New York City, and last year they hosted the first Con.Artists exhibition to showcase the work of their (non) artist friends who work in advertising.
Graphic Art Month wouldn’t be the same without these two (and that’s not only because they designed the fantastic identity for it, which you’ll spot all over our site). From burning pianos on inner city rooftops to making a website that works backwards and upside down, enjoy this retrospective peek inside the archives, and minds, of Jana + Koos.
Still one of our favourite projects, and the first side project that would set the tone for our careers. A group of us who started working in advertising together started a collective called The Dolphinarium, (we got the waitress at our favourite Greek restaurant, Parea to draw us a logo of a dolphin). Friends of ours from then up-and-coming band 5men3missing wanted to add something extra to their shows, liven up the experience and get some exposure so we jumped right in. We obviously bit off way more than we could chew (especially as otherwise full time employees) and spent three weeks silk-screening hundreds of box heads that were handed out at the event for people to wear, as well as flyers preceding the event that folded into tiny box heads for vinyl toys. We also built a giant box head backdrop for the stage that we projected animated eyes into while the band played. The response was crazy, at some point every person in that audience was raving in a train with neon cardboard boxes on their heads.
We ended up entering it into the Loeries and it won a few awards. The next year when the creative log came out, The Dolphinarium was placed above the big international agency we were working for at the time. (A total joke, but also probably has a lot to do with the fact that 7 years later we have an agency that is heavily focused on the side project/self-initiated work.
The second collective was called The Skeleton Crew. A bunch of people who wanted to create some music/art experience that would bring people out of their houses and into the JHB city centre on a Sunday. The concept was always to bring two very different artists together (for instance Dirty Paraffin and The Makeovers) to perform individually but also create a combined song for the event. The environments were transitional and empty reimagined gutted buildings, parking lots and rooftops.
This project literally nearly killed everyone involved, and despite being a great success and having a cult following, we stopped after 4 of the planned 12. But it’s still probably the project that we’re most proud of. (And we got to burn a piano on a roof in the city).
Left Post Production
There isn’t much to say about this other than that these guys are great and let us design a website for them that works upside down and back to front. A really simple, almost dumb idea for a company called Left. Amazingly, even though this was probably our first real website, it’s still going and works exactly as it did 4 years ago.
Fresh Eye Films / Johnny Gun
The best part about both the Fresh Eye and Johnny Gun jobs were that they were open to such massive leaps forward in both the re-branding and new identity creation, bravely considering such progressive, distinct personality updates for both.
Simon and Mary
Was probably our most important project, and continues to be. It’s hard to believe Simon and Mary launched in 2014 and only two years later has the local and international success it does. When Dean approached us initially, with a request for a logo design, I don’t think either parties could have imagined where this brand would go. After visiting the factory in Harriotdale, and learning the history of this hat making family in the city, we were blown away by this authentic heritage story. We knew this was bigger than a logo.
For us it remains the biggest testament to a great relationship with someone who really believes in what they’re doing, and trusts their agency with the communication thereof. The biggest problem now is keeping up with the demand of all the hat lovers.
City of Gold Diggers / JHB Hates You
We’ve always tried to split our work to include about 30% art projects. This helps us experiment and try out things that we think are funny, interesting, strange, and generally just need to get out of our collective system. Often it fails and no one but us “gets it”, but it helps us stay sharp and some of the ideas and thinking filters down into the more commercial work.
In 2014 we were lucky enough to be invited to exhibit in New York, and it was a no brainer that it would continue to be this golden thread of the off kilter, idiosyncratic experience that JHB is to us. It was our first solo exhibition, and we consider it to be a huge success (it delighted, confused and offended all the right people). Projects like these have helped pave the way for what we do and who chooses to work with us, and carve out a niche for ourselves in a more of a cultural space than just purely design/branding.
We always get excited about working on bigger projects that involve spaces and interiors. This was a particularly stressful one, and probably our first project of the size, which made us realise how we’d evolved from just two creatives messing around into a little agency/creative studio. Lucky we had some really amazing help on the production side for this one and learnt some valuable lessons in working with the best suppliers.
Our first venture into fashion, we hooked up with our now besties from me.plus.one to create the Drol capsule collection. What started out as couple of badges they commissioned us to do, ended up as an entire range because we all got so excited about and involved in the project. It’s been an interesting one to watch as it has some big fans and was taken up by such a wide variety of people, including local hip hop musicians.
Work Shop New Town
This job came our way last year during a time that we absolutely had no capacity for more work. But you can’t say no to Southern Guild or a project as great as this. It’s also not often that people buy an idea straight from the presentation. The most amazing thing about this project was that it basically happened in three months. We love the personality of the brand and are still amazed we got the chance to write THE FUTURE IS NOW-NOW in a giant wall painting – towering over everything.
Our current brand toddler. Mesh is a new kind of business/member’s club and co-working space that will most probably change the way we work, drink, play and connect. Its focus is to bring interesting, unexpected individuals, entrepreneurs and business owners together, in a space that encourages people who would probably never otherwise come into contact with each other to connect, share, mingle and create (and it also happens to have the best view in Johannesburg).
It launches in the next few months, as part of the Rosebank Art Mile. Keep an eye out!
See more of Graphic Art Month on 10and5.