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Sunsets, Synesthesia, and Good Times In a Bottle (or Can)

This month's happy hour explores the world of daydream graphic design

Did you know that La Croix was founded 40 years ago in Wisconsin? If you squint a little, you can see that, but the brand itself has become commonplace to the point that it’s surpassed any kind of Midwestern specificity. It can seem risky to tie the branding of a beverage to a specific time or place. But in an age where so many products are bought remotely (and, you know, there are just so many products), it’s also a way to impart a feeling from afar. This month’s picks are inspired by far-off places in the world, and the mind. 

1
Aiden Duffy: Nomadica

Nomadica sources its art the way it sources its juice: very personally. “In my first few months as creative director,” says Aiden Duffy, who led a recent rebrand at the California-based wine company, “I combed through every art blog, magazine, and gallery Instagram feed I could get my hands on to compile a collection of pieces that felt strongly connected to each of the wines. Duffy then brought them to Nomadica’s sommelier founder, Kristin Olszewski, to identify the pieces that felt just right before reaching out to the artist to license the work. Through this sifting, Duffy matched the art of Osamu Kobayashi with Nomadica’s rosé, Maureen Meyer with its white, Jonathan Todryk with a red blend, Rocío Montoya with sparkling rosé, and Gabrielle Teschner with sparkling white. Nomadica works with small-batch, sustainable winemakers and sees its sippable product as one part of a larger experience. “We’re obsessed with the concept of synesthesia,” says Duffy. “Wrapping the wine in a piece of art is a way for us to amplify the wine’s tasting notes by creating a link between seeing and tasting.” The brand also pairs wines with playlists, creating an entire sensory package that goes beyond the can.

2
Polonsky and Friends: Souleil Vin de Bonté

When Marianne Fabre-Lanvin and Thomas Delaude decided that they wanted to start a wine brand, they turned to their friend Anna Polonsky (founder of the aptly named food & beverage-focused agency, Polonsky and Friends) to figure out what it should look like. The fresh take on a ’60s-70s, French Mediterranean vibe is very much an authentic part of the brand identity—Fabre-Lanvin and Delaude grew up on the coast in that decade. The three wines Souleil launched with last month—a white, red, and rosé—are made in the region and pair just as well with a handful of olives and cheese as with an entire meal. Early 20th century eau de cologne labels were another reference that provided a structure to frame the location-inspired feeling. Claire Dufournier, the graphic designer on the project, created seaside illustrations using “old-school French crayons,” each of which features a sun in different settings, an homage to the brand’s name, which means “sun” in the Occitan dialect of the region. “The abstract iconography, combined with the circular frame, sans serif font (Greta Sans Extended, from design studio Typotheque) and the poppy monochromes bring a contemporary touch to the vintage inspirations,” Fabre-Lanvin says. 

3
Cygne Cooper: Hiyo

“Hiyo’s brand identity was largely inspired by elements of coastal California,” says Cygne Cooper, creative director at the recently-launched company, whose “better-than-alcohol alternative” is made in the region that serves as its muse. Hiyo, which stands for “happy in your own,” has a “color palette pulled straight from the Santa Monica sunset,” and ingredients lists that include all the nootropics and adaptogens that were once associated exclusively with the West Coast. The brand currently has three flavors: Peach Mango, Watermelon Lime, and Blackberry Lemon, each of which is packaged with a slice of sunset. Building a brand identity on a place only works if it’s somewhere that consumers are familiar with, and southern California has certainly had its fair share of cultural mythology. But the muted, minimalist take is a departure from the often representational look (palm trees, ocean waves, seagulls) of SoCal as an export. Sure, gradients are everywhere, but there’s something comforting about seeing them in a very literal context, evoking exactly what they’re meant to. 

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