Design went through a period of very clean, minimal design over the last few years, a trend that was absolutely gobbled up by any company looking to target the “hipper than thou” contingent of young adults that course through the veins of Vancouver like white blood cells in tightly-rolled toques, too-short trousers and circle-rimmed glasses. But like many others before it, this trend came with its own set of pitfalls, whether that meant overdoing it and coming off a little too clinical to appeal to a wider audience or just getting forgotten in a sea of identical cans.
If the aforementioned traps were crudely painted train tunnels painted on to cliff faces, then Steel & Oak is brewing’s RoadRunner. Their core range of cans are bold, easily recognisable and extremely inviting and their recent Small Batch Can Series designs by Sami Christianson manage to expertly exploit S&O’s type-forward aesthetic to create a cohesive family of visually exciting cans that are all very different, but all still very Steel & Oak.
Sami is a type and graphic designer based in Vancouver whose work is popping up in more and more places and who has just released an awesome new book. Read on for more!
You’re clearly well versed in Typography! When did your love of art, design and type begin?
How did you guess!? Well I’ve always been interested in art and design from a young age. I’m pretty sure I was the only person in my high school who knew exactly what they wanted to be when they grew up. As a graphic designer you have to be extremely knowledgeable when it comes to typography. But my TRUE love for letters specifically began about 6-7 years ago. I discovered a designer by the name of Seb Lester who draws beautiful traditional blackletter and calligraphy. I was so fascinated by it that I dedicated all my spare time to learning traditional calligraphy. I practiced a letter a day until I memorized the whole alphabet. Once I was happy with a style I would choose a different one and do the same thing. And well, here I am now! And by no means am I a master but it teaches you so much about letterforms that you wouldn’t know otherwise. You can do so much with just type alone that I find it’s a waste not to use it when you have the chance. Because I’ve dedicated so much time into learning to draw my own type it has opened so many doors design wise. I can do things that I never had the skills to do before.
What does the design process look like with Steel & Oak? Are they hands on, or do they give you the reigns?
Oh my gosh. As a designer I could not ask for a better client. I truly think of us as partners not as client and designer. They completely trust my opinion in every which way. And I respect every bit of feedback they give me. We also have the same taste when it comes to design aesthetic which makes everything that much smoother of a process. I truly believe we end up with such wonderful designs because it is such a collaborative effort in a sense that Jorden trusts my expertise and I trust his.
Do you have a favourite of your S&O designs?
Such a tough question! I don’t think I can choose just one. But I LOVE the whole Small Batch Can Series that I designed. Jorden completely trusted my gut instinct on all the designs. I love how each can has it’s own personality, but somehow when they are all seen together they turn into this wonderful typographic family of beer. To be completely honest, it’s one of my favourite pieces I have designed to date.
Are you aiming for anything in particular with your designs for the brewery? Is there an overarching concept or theme?
I would say if there was any overarching theme it would be simplicity. Which I love because it keeps me feeling challenged creatively with what I can do next that is simple, but completely different from the last and still have an instant Steel & Oak recognition. I want people to be excited about what Steel & Oak’s next line of cans or bottles will look like next.
Could you tell us a bit about any other personal projects of yours?
Yes! Well I’m one of those people that always has a million side projects on the go. But I will tell you about the most exciting one. I am @Samipaints as well as @PrettyBadWords on Instagram. As I mentioned in the first question, I was self taught in calligraphy and lettering. So when it came to practicing, instead of writing nice sayings I thought it would be more fun to write things that were a little more risqué (hence the name Pretty Bad Words). I started a blog that eventually turned into an Instagram account to showcase my progress. Then a miracle happened and a publisher in NYC happened to find it one day last year. So after almost a year of no sleep I am actually releasing my first book “Please Don’t Do Coke in the Bathroom” – it is a how-to lettering book all done in dirty words. Written, illustrated and designed by me! It will be released on October 24th. You can purchase it for pre-sale on Amazon, Indigo, and Barnes and Noble right now. But along with the book I am always updating @prettybadwords with my everyday lettering practice.
Steel & Oak are based out in New Westminster and are purveyors of some seriously delicious beer! Be sure to pop on down to their tasting room and get your lips around a couple of pints of something seasonal, or seek out their beers in any decent liquor store around Vancouver. They’ve just started canning their Red Pilsner which is an absolute dream of a beer. Find them at steelandoak.ca
Stoked on Sami’s work but don’t feel like scrolling up to click on all those lovely links? Let us make it easy for you. Explore more at samichristianson.com and make sure to follow her @PrettyBadWords and @Samipaints. And of course, pre-order her book on Amazon, Indigo, and Barnes and Noble before they all run out!