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Hilliard’s: A Retro-Cool Beer Brand That Embraces Good Graphic Design

Though the brand looks like it’s been around since your Grandpa married Grandma, it’s actually a start-up. Smart.

The Seattle microbrewery Hilliard’s is less than a year old. Of course, you wouldn’t guess that from its beer cans, which have the same nostalgic appeal as one of grandpa’s argyle sweaters, inviting comparisons to Schlitz, a brand that’s been around for decades, rather than months.

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To craft the vintage look, Hilliard’s enlisted the help of the Seattle-based branding agency . “Hilliard’s approached us wanting a design that evoked a classic/retro beer label without all the usual clichés that you find on a lot microbrews: images of hops and barley or goofy illustrations,” Mint’s Bryan Danknich tells Co.Design. “We were fortunate in that these guys are into design themselves and were open to something a little more progressive and daring.”

That meant a tight, bold chevron pattern on the bottom counterbalanced on top by tidy type and a wordmark channeling traditional Blackletter. (Type geeks: The wordmark is a custom design; the other typefaces are Tungsten and Stratum.) Says Danknich: “The idea is there will always be a new pattern to represent each new variety of beer–it only has to follow the chevron grid and use the white/black/bronze/gold color scheme, though it’s open enough to interpretation to squeeze a tartan out of.”

The effect is so spot-on, we could’ve sworn it had been around all our lives. Then again, there’s a lot we’ll swear to with a beer in hand.

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About the author

A former editor at such publications as WIRED, Bloomberg Businessweek, and Fast Company, Belinda Lanks has also written for The New York Times Magazine, The New York Observer, Interior Design, and ARTnews.

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