Our team sat in a conference room during the Coronavirus shutdown and decided we needed to spend our time wisely. The burning question was, “how do we take advantage of this downtime to get better as a brewery?”. There were many ideas and suggestions thrown out that day, but one thing we did was develop a plan to be better when we came out of the pandemic than when we went into it. This plan included new beers, new hires, new sales strategies, a new brewing line (Symbol Brewing) and new can designs.
Our distributor had long told us that although some of our can designs were good (in particular Mango Smash) but that we lacked 1) continuity and 2) our overall designs were not as good as our beer. We decided it was time to tackle these two issues. Continuity is really about someone looking at the store shelf or even an individual can and recognizing the brand based on the look of the can. Our team agreed – we lacked continuity. Over the years we had hired several advertising companies to create can designs. We even tried to create a few on our own. The result of a mix-mash of different kind of designs.
So, what direction should we move? There were two directions we considered. The first was safe and maybe the easiest. Our red “3” is easily recognizable and an important part of our marketing. Our logo was one thing that was done right. Why not just focus on putting the “3” in a prominent place on the can? Had we become recognizable enough as a brewery to be identified by our logo?
The second option was a little riskier. We stood at the beer aisle and looked up and down trying to get inspiration from a million different can designs. Nothing really stood out to us. We floundered for a month or so with different ideas and suggestions. One Sunday afternoon, I decided to look at muralists, local artists in the state, that used colorful and fun art on the walls of buildings. I wondered if that energy could be re-created in some way on a craft beer can.
I contacted four well known and up and coming artists/muralists about the project. Only two responded, but it was the two that I really wanted. Each artist submitted two can designs for us to consider. Both were really good, but we chose Joe Skilz to move forward. Joe was based in DFW although he did work across the state and even into Oklahoma. He used bright colors and unique designs. We met with him and his girlfriend, Gina, to discuss the project further. Gina and Joe are a team and work on projects together. Joe and Gina agreed to help us accomplish something unique – art on cans. Our artist would have a new kind of CANvas.
We decided to start with our most popular can design – Mango Smash. The gorilla on our can had become iconic to our regular customers. It took Joe a couple of weeks to sketch and then color the new design. I showed it to the team and there were lots of questions. “Why didn’t he use a gorilla instead of an elephant?” “Could he make this or that bigger/smaller?…add this color?…has he thought about doing…?” The answer to all of these was “no”. We wanted an artist interpretation of our beer and we got it. Joe drank each beer and drew each design based on his experience with the beer. Although not planned, Joe ended up drawing a character for each of our six core beers. Each design took a couple of weeks to complete, but once we saw 3-4 designs we believed we had something special and unique.
Next, we had to put the artwork on cans. We used a graphic artist named Corbin Runnels that had worked on some other projects for us. Corbin has an art degree from the University of North Texas and years of graphic design work. Sunnye Childers work painstakingly with Corbin to find a way to put the art on a can within the six colors allowed by the canning company and to make it appealing to the consumer. It was not an easy feat, but when finished we were happy with the product.
Several breweries have talented artists or graphic artists that design their cans, but I don’t know anyone that gave their artist full control over the can design as we did. Every character that you see on a 3 Nations Brewing can is a Joe Skilz original. Other than backgrounds on cans or choosing a can font we had nothing to do with any of the original characters.
We now have a partnership with Joe and Gina. Joe Skilz’ original artwork will be promoted at our brewery. We look forward to some new can designs with our seasonal beers and other unique projects. I believe that Joe Skilz talent will be recognized across the region. Besides great designs, Joe’s can designs give us the continuity for which we searched. You can pick up any can and recognize it as a 3 Nations-Joe Skilz original.
Mission accomplished. We hope you enjoy.