Meet Cellr’s Weekly Crush: Team Unico’s award winning “Graphics Guru” and visual storyteller extraordinaire, Hannah Van Harskamp. If you have ever come across a bottle of Applewood Gin, Okar Amaro, Unico Zelo Wine, Harvest Wine, Carter’s Coffee Liqueur and more recently a Funk Works Wine then odds are you were drawn to it right away (pun intended). Why? Because Hannah has a knack for generating unique designs that are captivating and engaging. But you don’t need me to tell you that, you can read on and see for yourself.
Hannah photographed in main image by Chloe Miller
When did you realise your passion for design, and how did you get into designing labels for Ochre Nation and the family of brands such as Unico Zelo, Carters, Applewood Distillery, Funk Works etc.?
As a child I loved drawing, painting & arts and crafts. As I grew older, so did the appreciation for art. I wanted to be a part of creating pieces that would inspire others. It wasn’t until the early years of high school when I was shown the creative industry, and in-particular graphic design. By year 10 I began to direct my studies towards this industry, and followed through into university.
As cliche as it sounds, it was always a dream to design wine labels. I always appreciated the expression of art represented on a bottle and how it engaged with the customer- maybe enough for them to purchase and even display in their home. I was hoping one day my designs would do the same. When I saw the advertisement for the position, I could not resist! Such an amazing opportunity with an inspirational and innovative company. I gave all my efforts and here I am! Still to this day, I am thankful and love every day of it!
You have won a few awards for your branding designs across multiple industries (congrats!), which are you most proud of and why?
Thank you! I am very honoured and humbled that I have won a couple of awards. The most recent one is being a top 40 finalist for the Adelaide Fringe Poster competition! However, I also like to keep in mind that awards don’t mean everything, some of my proudest achievements are label designs that I haven’t actually entered in for awards. The most rewarding part for me is the feedback & impact my label designs have during a customer’s interaction with a bottle.
On Visual Storytelling…We asked Hannah to shed some light on graphic design in the wine & spirits industry, as a big part of what we do at Cellr is help brands captivate consumers with their story and messaging. Find out more here.
As a visual storyteller in the wine and spirits industry, what is your process for sourcing inspiration and creating a design that captures the brand’s message and the product’s story?
For each of our brands we try to encapsulate different stories. The designs may be my own creation, but how we get to that point and portray these stories is a team effort. We begin by collaborating together on our ideas & visions. We then create a mood board to visualise the vibe, whether this be by clothing, music, venues or patterns. I then experiment with the designs to create a couple of options which are refined to the final piece, which best represents the story. I particularly love the stories behind our untamed series, you can check them out here: THE STORIES BEHIND THE UNTAMED LABELS
What role does graphic design play in developing a relationship between a brand and consumer in the wine and spirits space?
I believe graphic design plays a very important role in developing a relationship between a brand & consumer. It communicates the feelings, emotion, characteristics and values of a brand in a visual manner. It is important to keep consistency with the designs (no matter how big or small the project be), as this continues to emphasise these characteristics. Over time the consumer, distributor or whomever will then associate these characteristics to your brand/products/company.
Talk us through one of your favourite branding projects, from the brief to the design process to the final product. What was the message you were conveying and why is it among your favourites?
There’s a couple of branding projects that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed and feel privileged to have been a part of. One in particular was the re-branding of Økar.
This brand was created to sit outside of Applewood for our very own Australian Amaro/Island Bitter. We had a logo & label pre existing, however with a delicious new recipe, new bottle size and a liquid change, the branding no longer aligned with the values & characteristics we aimed to portay. As a group we brainstormed what we envisioned ‘Økar’ to be, as well as where and how ‘Økar’ should be enjoyed. From this, mood boards were created to visualise the look & feel.
Our aim was to have a design that was fun, fresh and had some relation to our country, Australia, in an Art Deco kind of way. This inspired me to use shapes and colours to create a landscape of our Australian Outback. Texture was added through line work on the edge of the label, as well as an abstract representation of taste on the neck label. Further refinement was made to the logo, shape of the label and overall colours to ensure the desired characteristics were being portrayed through all design elements.
Okar Australian Amaro Old Branding, Photographer: Brendan Carter
With a lot of wine and spirit brands making the digital pivot, how would you hope to see graphic design being used to improve online engagement, and build virtual relationships?
Graphic design can definitely improve online engagement. It’s always evolving and shifting, particular towards the digital platforms. However regardless of if it’s print or digital design, it’s important to keep consistency of branding throughout, and further emphasize those characteristics of your brand. By adding designed elements along the way, it engages the customer journey which will be recognised and associated with your brand.
I’ve designed many, many assets for our digital platforms. It can range from social posts, digital banners, emails and website pages.
Which wine and spirits brands do you think are exceptional visual storytellers? What are they doing, and why are they on your radar?
There’s a few great storytellers, but I wouldn’t say we keep brands on the radar as we are very unique with what we do.
Empirical is a very inspirational spirit brand. In all aspects of their products they push boundaries. They created their own category of spirit by using unusual ingredients & processes to make the liquor. Their branding is very simple, which enhances the focus on what’s really important, which then makes a statement.
Mikkeller is definitely a beer brand to know! Another amazing company who challenges the possibilities of beer by experimenting with different ingredients, and even travels to different brewers to craft their beers! Each label is designed to portray the personality and message as to why it was crafted – so each product truly has its own story.
Garage Project is another great storytelling brand. They experiment by crafting unique products and express the story through their packaging. It’s inspirational seeing the different design styles to ensure every element portrays a certain feeling and emotion.
Last but not least, another favourite is a Japanese Beer brand called Hitachino. All design elements are cleverly thought out and have a representation or meaning. I particularly love how they have animated their bottles on their website – adding a bit of fun & character to the customers journey.
What is the future of graphic design in the wine and spirits industry? How do the Ochre Nation product lines you design showcase this?
I feel like the future for graphic design is to design smarter, to be more efficient and to always design with sustainability in mind. Ochre Nation has taught me to question the rules and think of the impossible in order to achieve outcomes that we didn’t believe were possible. From this, I now always question whether there’s a better way to do something and look at how to improve. Also, Ochre Nation is a certified B-Corporation meaning we are dedicated to being held to the highest verified standards of social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability. As a company we think about the environmental impact our products have, and aim for minimal/offset impact. Therefore, as a graphic designer it is my responsibility to ensure my impact follows these morals and always question what the stocks, printers, waste, carbon footprint etc. are to ensure I’m selecting the most sustainable option.
Carter’s Coffee Liqueur, Photographer http://mccshowcase.com/showcase-items/carters-coffee-liqueur/
How would you like to see the wine and spirits industry engage graphic design to better connect with consumers?
Like any industry some businesses see the importance of professional branding, where others unfortunately don’t see the full potential and take it for granted. A lot of thought, consideration and research goes into branding, design, or visual identity. Unfortunately sometimes this is overlooked, as they only see the end result which is very carefully curated.
You bump into a genie on your way to work and he grants you the opportunity to take anyone you would like (dead or alive) through the Adelaide Hills for the day. Who are they, where are you eating, what are you drinking and why?
Hopefully it would be a warm, sunny day! I’d take my Dad to Lobethal Bierhaus for a cold beer while I’d enjoy a LOBO Apple Cider. We’d sit outdoors enjoy the sunshine then cruise to Lost in a Forest for a delicious wood oven pizza!