My first few weeks at Wilson’s were a whirlwind of excitement and anxiety. In the second week, Paul stopped me and threw me an empty box of Whiteclaws and asked, “You think you can design hard seltzer labels for us?”
Can design was something I had never done before, and I had just started getting acquainted with the visual language of Wilson’s. Needless to say, I felt a little out of my depth, but I said, “I mean, sure”.
That experience really kicked off my understanding of how we were using the brand. Where we could break rules, what was off limits, and where we really hadn’t been doing a very good job. The biggest pressure point for me was consistency. I believe in adaptable branding -- branding that has versatility and creativity. Our issue was not that of flexibility, but a lack of structure.
That same month, talks began of a rebrand. I was anxious to start, but I knew it would be awhile before we would get there. To be honest it drove me crazy. Like someone had dangled a piece of cake in front of me and then politely removed it from view.
Over the coming months Paul and the family talked about the company’s new goals and how to move towards a more sustainable future. Every month my appetite grew more and more impatient. I love branding and the problem solving that comes with it.
In December, I finally got to see that beautiful piece of cake again. We started to really talk about what all of these new changes would mean to the visual language of the brand. Here I find myself again, this time not having to catch anything, but Paul asking “You think you can design us a new logo?”
Having more experience with Wilsons, I answered more assuredly this time, “Absolutely”. I started working on it that night and we are still working on the rebrand today.
Before I could get to work on the logo, I needed to establish a visual direction. I’m far too young to remember a time when computers weren’t a household item, but it’s always fascinated me that design used to be done by hand.
Painted signs and illustrated posters-- I love the imperfect lines that occur when a sign is painted versus the perfect curves of a printed one. You can see the character in each stroke. You can feel the bump of a lost bristle from the brush. I wanted to marry these feelings with the efficiency of technology.
I spent weeks pouring over vintage farm designs and industrial products for inspiration. This exploration was a detrimental step in the process, not only for visual research, but also for establishing the right mindset. We wanted to honor the Midwest and agriculture in a way that felt genuine. A tip of the ‘ole Wilson’s Orchard & Farm cap to those who came before us.
As much as I love vintage design, it doesn’t always translate well into today’s applications. One thing you will notice about vintage design examples is that it’s very busy. Full of text and imagery that breathe life into the design, but hinder the timelessness of the layout. We wanted to combine the character of vintage examples with the minimalism and simplicity of design found today. By doing so, our hope is that we’ve created something that will grow with us in the coming decades.
The biggest design problem was consistency and versatility. Like I said, this had always been a major pain point of mine and I was excited to figure it out, but it’s a big job and a complex issue. We have Wilson’s Orchard and Farm, Wilson’s Bakery, Rapid Creek Cidery, Wilson’s Hard Cider, Wilson’s Hard Seltzer, and, soon, The Smokehouse.
It really came down to, how do we create something with the versatility to fit into each of these different sectors with unique traits that didn't feel too different?
I think we’ve done a great job creating a visual language that merges modern influence with vintage expression. It relies on structure to establish consistency while leaving room for creative flexibility. In one instance, it can be a playful aesthetic for Wilson’s Orchard. In another, it can be a refined look for Rapid Creek Cidery.
There are many times in the creation process where you think you’ve done it. Cracked the code you’ve been trying to break for weeks or months and then you present the idea and it’s met with an underwhelmed audience. This manifested itself in the form of a willow tree.
I had been working on logos for about three weeks straight and in one of our meetings it was suggested maybe we try a willow tree. We have one on our orchard grounds and it seemed right. Strong, bold, and unwavering. A week later I came proud to present this willow tree. It felt like we had cracked the code. We had finally found the logo after a month of trying different things. After a lengthy discussion we decided it just wasn’t right for us, it didn’t hold the weight we needed it too.
In that same meeting we discussed trying a bee. Humble and hardworking. Two more weeks of bee concepts and we finally had it. It was exactly what we had been working towards for over a month. The perfect symbol for our move to a more sustainable operation.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… Consistency.
It’s the key to establishing something consumers will recognize quickly and effortlessly. With a lot of different factions of our company comes a lot of different logos. We wanted a system that could be adapted to each logo to create a seamless visual language.
Never underestimate the power of a circle.
Our typeface Eurostile, just like our brand, is extremely versatile. I know you didn’t ask for it, but here’s a little bit of type history for you.
Eurostile was designed by Linotype in 1962 and was designed for the future. With no surprise, it became the font choice of the science-fiction genre, along with automotive and technology companies alike. Some of the most notable are NASA and the classic Stanley Kubrick film 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Just like everything else in the rebrand process, I had tried many different variations. I’ve always had a soft spot for Eurostile, but never thought it would work for Wilson’s. I tried it on a whim. One of those moments where you think you’ve tried everything so let’s just mess around and see if it works. I was surprised by how well it seemed to exist with the logomark. It didn’t seem perfect until I had paired it with our secondary font Blackbike.
Something really magical happens when Eurostile is paired with Blackbike. It becomes the perfect representation of the vintage and modern goal we had from the beginning of the process. On a personal note knowing we have a font used by Nasa and some of my favorite Sci-Fi movies really makes me pretty happy.
The color palette was actually the very first thing that was approved in the process. Due to my impatience, I had worked on it in September (two months before I was supposed to).
The palette is derived from a little bit of everything from the old brand. Greens from our old Honeycrisp label, reds from the old apple logo, yellows from our old Goldfinch label, etc. These colors have been reworked to fit this new visual system. They are built to be interchangeable -- swapped and traded to fit the tone and mood of any given application.