Co.Design

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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