At first glance, the packaging for Coven, a new hand-crafted vodka made by Arbutus Distillery in Nanaimo on tiny Vancouver Island in Canada, looks deceptively traditional, fitting right in on retail shelves with the products of large spirit producers. But darkness changes everything.
Asked to develop a product name, brand personality and package design for Arbutus Distillery’s inaugural product, Nanaimo-based agency, Hired Guns Creative, sought to take consumers into the deeper realm of the spirit world. Hired Guns chose the name “Coven” for the Arbutus vodka brand, not only because it was a play on the idea of spirits, but because it suggested gatherings, mystery and a hint of sexual allure. From a design perspective, creative director Richard Hatter also found Coven “a very clean, balanced word that is easy to work with on a graphic level. And, of course, there are the other obvious criteria; it was easy to spell, say, pronounce, read from a distance, and it was available to trademark.”
To bring credibility to this new product in stores, Hired Guns used several traditional indicators of quality: hand-dipped wax, die-cut label, foil and embossing details, and lots of whitespace. What isn’t seen in daylight, however, is a gathering of witches and night creatures made visible through a glow-in-the-dark phosphorescent coating overprinted on the bottle. The text on the back label adds to the haunting impression: “Shrouded in the mist of the West Coast, a timeless rite enchants those who seek a greater spirit. Initiation requires strict dedication to the craft. There is power in numbers, so gather together because when the lights fade, the ritual begins. We’ve been waiting for you.” Drink up and be merry; the spirits are alive.
Designers are not just ordinary consumers in the battle against suffocating the planet with litter. They are the best prevention and the last defense. Aesthetic sensitivity, retail presence, brand positioning, ease-of-use, safety, etc. are critical considerations when designing, and much more fun than thinking about the packing materials used. As important as it is to recycle and minimize waste that goes to landfill, more pressing is what gets blown away as litter. Fast-food takeout boxes probably kill more creatures than the high-fat junk food they hold. Bad typography may be annoying to read, but you never hear about seagulls strangling on overextended serifs, nor about coral reefs stomped to death by insensitive use of graphic standards. There should be life after design. Design for the afterlife. Happy Earth Month.
When it comes to brand mascots, birds seem to soar above all the rest of the creatures in the animal kingdom. It may be because bird species are so distinctively different, not just in how they look and sound, but in temperament and personality traits. Some are peace-loving; others aggressive. Some are sweet and melodious; others playful and loud. Birds also are closely identified with specific regions of the world. No matter what your brand attributes are, there is probably a bird species that is right for you. Which brings us to our quiz. Guess which brands these birds represent.
When you are given an assignment to demonstrate the awesome special effects possible on paper, you need subject matter worthy of such dazzling printing feats. Superheroes. Pirates. Bigfoot. Weird larger-than-life creatures. Spies. It didn’t take long to figure out where to find all of them in one place – at 826 National, a nonprofit network of tutoring, writing and publishing centers for kids, ages 6 to 18. The 826 centers are “disguised” as retail stores, selling gear for “real” working pirates, superheroes, time travelers, bigfoot researchers, robots and so on.