JACKSON, Wyo. — As a brand, Snake River Brewing has always been a little “DIY.”
As a branding agency, New Thought Digital Agency respected that. When they embarked on a rebrand of SRB, they wanted to stay true to its local, homemade ethos.
The best way to do that, they decided, was to invite local artists to design SRB’s beer cans.
SRB is just one of a growing group of Jackson businesses tapping into local artists to help bring their brand stories to life. The National Museum of Wildlife Art commissioned local artist Haley Badenhop to paint a giant, interactive moose mural on the wall outside of Jackson Drug. The mural is an introduction and direct invitation to the museum, complete with a QR code that directs people to a unique, discounted admission landing page when they take a picture on their phone. In both cases, local organization Wildly Creative served as an advocate and a liaison for both artist and business, reminding the community that creativity in Jackson Hole is integral to its culture.
Wildly Creative, a campaign funded by the Jackson Hole Travel and Tourism Board and sponsored by Center for the Arts and Center of Wonder, provides tools, resources, and a platform for Jackson Hole’s vibrant arts community.
Snake River Brewing was a perfect case study of the power of local artists. The hyper-local brand has never shied away from creativity. They had the vision and the drive, they just needed the talent to bring their brand to life.
“A huge amount of love and care and enthusiasm went into everything [SRB did],” says Paul Gorsuch. “The cans themselves, and the beer … we didn’t want to lose that community aesthetic.”
A designer for New Thought Digital Agency, Gorsuch helped lead SRB’s rebranding process and designed four of the brewery’s staple beer cans himself. For the seasonal brews, New Thought Digital Agency made an open call to local artists. “We wanted to make sure we could get some wonkier ideas than we could come up with ourselves,” Gorsuch said.
Erick Nelson was one such artist. He designed “Hike it Out Hefe” can, an impressively intricate print of the iconic Tower Falls in Yellowstone National Park.
“[New Thought Digital Agency] pretty much gave me free rein stylistically,” Nelson said. “They basically just said, ‘do your thing.'”
So he did. It was, perhaps, one of his biggest and most commercial projects to date. But he did not have to sacrifice any of the artistic liberties he enjoys as a printmaker.
“It was a super cool opportunity to work with a local company for a local product and push my own artistic practice in that context,” he said. “Often you don’t get quite the degree of artistic freedom that I got with this project.”
Indeed, a core tenant of New Thought Digital Agency and Wildly Creative is freedom of expression. “We try to make sure [artists] get to do exactly what they want to do,” Gorsuch said.
Nelson’s final product is a “reductive linocut” — a form of block printmaking that carves one block of wood in phases to create texture, depth, etc. — of Tower Falls.
“I felt like viewers could place themselves more in [Tower Falls],” Nelson said.
Nelson said working with New Thought Digital Agency helped him navigate the “business side of things” and allowed him to produce his best creative work.
Also, he got paid. Professional artists should make money for all of their work, but it doesn’t always work that way.
“A lot of artists get asked to do stuff on a regular basis for nothing more than exposure,” Gorsuch said. “We offer that, and fair pricing.”
It’s a win-win. Artists get paid to create art. Brands like Snake River Brewing get a hyper-local, hyper-talented design. “It gets its name out there as somebody who’s working with local artists,” Gorsuch said.
And because each SRB can is completely unique, the entire brand appeals to a wider audience. Someone might not like Gorsuch’s Jenny Lake Lager can but love Nelson’s Hike it Out can, or vice-versa. And if they like the can art enough, they can carry it with them forever — the labels actually double as stickers. They can be peeled off and ripped along perforations to find a new home on a water bottle, computer, car bumper, or any other surface you might adorn with a sticker.
“Printing directly to a can is a process that requires a very large minimum order,” Gorsuch explained.”Most breweries in their position try to disguise the fact that they’re using printed labels, but we wanted to turn it into a feature of the beer. In addition to allowing folks to decorate with their favorite beer artwork, it also means that there’s a little less paper (relative to their old labels) going into the recycling with the cans.”
Jackson businesses are waking up to the power of local art. SRB plans to keep hiring local artists to design their seasonal cans. “We encourage anyone interested in being featured to reach out,” Gorsuch said. “We do have a big list of folks that we are looking to get on cans at some point, but it’s always awesome to make it a bigger list.”
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