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Colorful Cans of Kombucha, Beer, and Hard (or Soft) Seltzers For Springtime Sipping

This month's happy hour is a celebration of funky, fizzy branding

The days are getting longer, the ground drier. Picnic season is upon us, and perhaps more than any other spring, eating outdoors is a welcome treat. This month, we’re bringing you a selection of sleek cans that all contain various degrees of buzz — from carbonation to fermentation. And the outsides aren’t bad, either.

Outline: Hop Atomica

This past winter, Hop Atomica, a microbrewery located on the site of a 1950s-era service station (complete with sunny patio) opened in Savannah. Those Streamline Moderne bones served as the “inspirational origin” for the brand says Ky Allport, creative director at Outline, the Charleston creative company that developed all elements of the eatery’s visual identity, including the design system for its rotating selection of packaged beers. Given the architecture, midcentury design made sense as a starting point, less expected is the “Atomica” name, which injected a bit of science into the aesthetic. Everything from “diagrammatic drawings of molecules to magnetic fields to Picasso’s constellation sketches to paths of planetary orbit” fed into the vibe, which combines the detailed elegance of a chemistry textbook with the broad colors of a Charles Sheeler painting. Because Hop Atomica is always concocting new brews, the packaging formula was designed to be distinctive but flexible. At a glance, the cans appear simple, but squint and you’ll see they’re embedded with information. The graphics and typography are illuminated in gold, a series of “orbiting rings of information” containing each variety’s specs encircle the central illustration, which differentiates brews. The design, like the beer, appeals to both sides of the brain. 

Redscout: Sound Sparkling Water

Prior to the pandemic, Sound’s sparkling beverages could be found in the famously well-stocked office kitchens of companies like Facebook and Spotify. When corporate campuses shuttered and that section of the business dried up, co-founder Tommy Kelly says he and his team found themselves with time to tackle a packaging update, something they’d been planning to do since late 2019. They partnered with Brooklyn design firm Redscout to help reposition Sound to better compete on store shelves and ecommerce, using graphic patterns inspired by waves, with a color palette drawing on the layers of flavor in each beverage. The cans featured here are for the brand’s sparkling waters, which come in varieties like Blueberry with Cinnamon and Hibiscus Tea (cobalt and warm red) and Blood Orange with Vanilla and Black Tea (vermillion and burgundy). One benefit of working from home: if there aren’t any cold ones of your favorite flavor in the fridge, you have only yourself to blame. 


Caserne: Club Kombucha

“It’s like a beer in a can, but it’s kombucha.” That’s the pitch for Club, a recently launched booch brand based out of Canada. It’s no surprise, then, that the visual identity was “inspired by the codes” of beer rather than the more salubrious cues of competitors. So says Ugo Varin Lachapelle, creative director at Montreal design firm Caserne, whose team worked with the founders to create a kombucha brand more closely related to Budweiser than Bragg’s. You can see that brewery influence in the blackletter-ish typeface, whose softened edges and metallic fill feel more storybook than gothic. The individual color schemes are inspired by the “palette of taste” rather than the specific flavor—berry is “safe,” ginger “spicy,” grapefruit “bitter.” The result is a bit Technicolor, a little Disney’s Sleeping Beauty—a can that looks just as good around a poker table as it does on a park bench. But color is the only rich thing about Club. The wave topping off the packaging is a nod to the fermentation process, an airy reminder of how light and refreshed a sip will make you feel.

Mel Yee: Whisp

For Harriet Cuming, founder of Whisp, a hard seltzer company based in the UK, the hardest part of figuring out what her brand would look like was coming up with a name. “The rest,” she says, “was downhill.” (In the sense of momentum, of course.) Cuming worked with freelance designer Mel Yee to bring her idea to life, and from the start they oriented the brand around four pillars: British, Mindful, Healthier, Sexy. Yee and Cuming looked all over the market before launch and knew they wanted to do something more cheeky and aspirational than the “mass market” (and, it’s fair to say, largely dude-oriented) visual language of brands like White Claw. The stacked, lollipop “i’ font evokes a 1950s nightclub marquee, or maybe the title credits of a Doris Day/Rock Hudson movie. The drinks, which come in two flavors—Cucumber & Mint and Raspberry & Elderflower—do indeed seem quite British. They’re spiked not just with alcohol, but also milk thistle, an herb in the daisy family that’s long been associated with liver health. Why not drink a little prevention alongside your cure? 

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