Yesterday was the showcase for this year’s AIGA Beer + Branding competition. For those of you who don’t know, it’s a local contest for craft home breweries and graphic designers. AIGA paired graphic designers with the brewers and released a “secret ingredient” for everyone to use. Once the brewer has created and named their beer, the designer is responsible for branding the brewer and creating the packaging for the new beverage.

This year I was lucky to get paired with my co-worker at the Mint Museum, Ian Larson, he brews under the name “Nordic Tombstone” and he created a kick-ass ‘smores IPA he called “A Storm Blown From Paradise.”


I had a lot of fun with this project because beer branding and packaging isn’t in my day to day work. It was actually the first time I had ever designed a beer label. But regardless, the elements of design are the same no matter the canvas. So I set off to create something that would make me proud and that Ian would find worthy to grace his beer bottles.

Something you should know about Ian, we are total opposites. I listen to pop music, and he is all hard core rock. So I knew our styles would clash completely. But I knew that I could find a happy medium that would give him a bold, darker final product...but that wasn't so dark it couldn’t be marketed to the hipsters of Charlotte’s beer culture.

After tons of research I created a symmetrical grizzly viking for the branding that I paired with hand-created type for some added Nordic flair. The label was something different. My least favorite part of bottle labels is where the label either doesn’t wrap all the way around, or it overlaps and creates a little “bump” in the surface. So I decided to die-cut my label and use the negative space as a design element. The space between the edges became another flame to the fire the marshmallows are roasting on.


Last night tons of friends and co-workers came out to the showcase to support me, which lead to the highlight of the evening when they announced that I had won the competition. I was shocked!

The biggest thing that I learned from this fun little project was just how important collaboration is to my design process. For the past few weeks I was showing Ian different ideas and mockups what seemed like daily. We almost never agreed, on anything stylistically, but the final product ended up being something that we both loved, and apparently, the majority of Charlotte did too.

Tyler NealComment