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.

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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  • Ryan Donnell

    I do enjoy the design but is there a point where this might affect drinkers? I mean to look like Carling black label might not be the best marketing strategy.

  • Ron Schott

    One of my favorite beers right now. The brewery is about 12 blocks from our house. Big props to the Mint team for all their hard work!

    -Ron Schott
    Spring Creek Group

  • Matt Penrose

    This looks great, has a real feel of tradition and heritage but also an understated modern cool to the design too.

    Well done to the brewery for being brave enough to do something more than the standard touch points for beer labels.

  • Climax Media

    Absolutely brilliant. Love everything about it: from the package design to the name itself. I want some right now!!!