Two Hearted Ale, Bell’s Brewery
2 Comments on “Two Hearted Ale, Bell’s Brewery”
Eric points out that the original art used for the labels is by local artist Ladislav R. Hanka from Kalamazoo, Michigan. Hanka has provided the Bell’s Brewery with label designs since 1984. He considers the Two Hearted Ale “to be the most successful packaging the brewery has yet to come up with and whose six packs and bottles are ensconced as altarpieces in fish camps from Maine, to Wisconsin and all the way to the pacific Northwest.”
The very first design he submitted featured a fish-themed woodcut. “… they were deep-sixed for many years – Larry [Bell] being afraid people would avoid buying the beer thinking it might taste fishy […] My thinking was that fishing goes with beer like a Cubs or Tigers game does. A fishing trip is incomplete without a six-pack cooling in the stream awaiting your foot-sore trudging back to camp at the end of a long day […] I was of course right about that.” The woodcut is currently used for the cans, see the images above.
These labels show that both ITC Clearface and ITC Souvenir were used for the typography already in earlier years. Hanka mentions that Paul Hayden-Duensing was his mentor in the book arts, but it’s unclear whether he was involved in the typographic choices. Left: A portrait of the artist’s father, Dr. Ladislav J. Hanka, “early investor and active board member with a few of his beloved Brook Trout on an early incarnation of the brewery’s flagship beer: Two Hearted Ale.”. Top right: Portrait of John Voelker AKA Robert Traver, “author of Trout Madness, Danny & the Boys and many another fine fishing story (Anatomy of a Murder too)”. Bottom right: Opus Salvelinus – Brook Trout III. Etching with aquatint & Drypoint. This art also appears on the side of the packagings shown above. Images © Ladislav Hanka.
Visit Hanka’s website to read the full story and see many more images.
I think the 'brewed and bottled’ line in the first image is News Gothic.
Your respondent has good second and sixth senses. I did do the artwork and having worked with type designer and engraver Paul Hayden Duensing where I had a relatively conservative upbringing around those things and a solid foundation in the history of writing, calligraphy, hot lead type and offset flatbed stone litho.
I did submit a lot of work to Bells with typography intact and since that was dismissed out of hand by the graphic designers for the various sans-serif abominations popular back then I gave up bothering and stayed with the artwork. The whole point of serifs is indeed readability and flow or ductus from one letter to the next with various shorthand methods of making the jump such as ligatures and movement flowing naturally through the “desert of text” through ascenders and descenders that look nice and immitate calligraphy but all allow words to be grasped whole and reading to be sped up and go easy on the eyes. I do think that approach to letterforms and typography is predicated upon profound familiarity with language and reading and then it really works and is a far more aesthetic approach — but among the semi-literate which now constitute a vast proportion of our society who could read, but tend not to do so and are thus slowly losing their versatility, flexibility, adaptability, vision and all else necessary for enjoying the written word — I sense that for them, the simplest letterforms probably work best, which also make no demands on one. In advertising it is a curious brinkmanship of attracting one’s attention with novelty and of being readable inspite of one’s self. Nobody really wants to read a billboard or advertising copy in a newspaper but you can’t help yourself if it’s bold and simple enough to reach out and pull you in – even if in a split second in passing and gets stuck in your neural net anyway. Then you can go back and read the fine print once you actually want to know when the sale ends or how you get the two for the price of one.
Anyhow the typography on all those products that goes with my artwork is typically something I didn’t do and wouldn’t approve. Good typography is subtle in its understated beauty and stems from the work of modest monks in scriptoria rather than being made by expansive Napoleonic egos…and, like its practitioners, the better typography doesn’t really need to attract attention to itself if it’s attractive and pleasingly done with a few nifty tricks and allows you to read as an aesthetic experience more so than a violent jarring fight for your attentions. It serves its purpose and of course the problem is that advertising is a very different purpose than is communicating philosophic ideas or poetry or artistic visions. Subtlety has become so unusual and advertising such a screaming contest that curiously enough, that has served to make my art stand out in a beer cooler as decidedly different from all the rest. Now isn’t that an amusing reversal. If it had been set in Garamond or Trajan with some Bodoni it would have been that as well and perhaps all the more so.