When a client preaches about their products with passion, it immediately wins me over. Ken Turro, Travis Grant and Freddie Mills, the three cofounders of On-Time Mixers, did just that when presenting us with a package and logo design project for a line of three drink mixers: Bloody Mary, Key Lime Sour and Margarita. These products needed to stand out on the shelves, so our goal was to truthfully create and then represent the brand in an appealing way on each bottle.
The first time I met Ken, he struck me with his easygoing nature and charismatic personality—this was a guy who clearly had an emotional stake in how his 100% natural, non-GMO, gluten-free drink mixes looked. Plus, he wasn’t all about formal, buttoned-up business. Now, I just had to make a package design out of that shoot-from-the-hip way of doing things.
The Target Audience
When I design any packaging—especially in the case of this project with a logo design bundled in—I normally ask: Who is your audience? But early on, we just didn’t know. I know what you’re probably thinking: How can I design a brand identity without knowing the target audience?
The answer, in this case, was less about pinpointing gender, race, location, income, marital status or other common audience attributes. This wasn’t a ready-to-serve Skinnygirl cocktail audience, so we didn’t treat it that way. Instead, we believed success for On-Time Mixers would stem from defining a personality for the logo, one that truthfully reflected the cofounders and their brand. Our aim was not only to sell what these guys do but also to reveal why they do it.
Let’s not guess while finding a target audience; let’s build one.
Let’s See Some Options
As with almost every design project, we presented options, and the first step for this project was to design mood boards. Our mood boards focused on four different styles that we named ourselves based on initial conversations with the cofounders (e.g., classic, modern, etc.). After some initial feedback, we dove into logo and packaging design options.
Based on seeing these and many other options, the cofounders gave us a feel for what they wanted to see next: a mix.
The Challenge of Mixing Classic and Sophisticated With Playful
They may sound like descriptions of a little girl’s tea party, but those three words—classic, sophisticated and playful—showed up a lot in the design process. The cofounders talked about a mix or balance of personalities. On one hand, they wanted to hold onto the more informal, playful, fun aspects of their brand. (These are guys who like drinking, golfing and chewing tobacco, if that helps paint a picture.)
But on the other hand, the cofounders’ sentiments were also grounded in southern roots, which led them to like the sophisticated, old-school packaging of fine bourbons and whiskeys. Their product also contained all-natural, high-quality ingredients, so they wanted the packaging to reflect this idea of being a step above other drink mixers. In fact, their tagline is to "Make Better Bad Decisions," an idea that hints at the quality of their ingredients.
The challenge was to balance these seemingly opposite descriptions. How can a brand be classic and sophisticated while remaining playful?
For us, the perfect balance came down to a few key aspects: colors, fonts, icons and label shape. Below is the final logo I came up with (in context) followed by an explanation of both sophisticated and playful elements pulled from the final design.
Sans Serif Font
We chose a sans serif font, Gotham Bold, for the On-Time text. This font spoke to the simplicity of a sophisticated design. The cofounders liked the sturdy, classic look of the sans serif letters.
I’ve seen bottles with square or rectangular labels, but something about how the cofounders described the product led me to stray away from that. I opted to present a more ornate or fancy label, one that gave the appearance of taking more time than simply slapping a square piece of paper on the bottle. The three founders also envisioned their drink mixers on a bar cart next to fine wines and whiskeys. With that in mind, I didn’t believe a square or rectangular label would fulfill their vision.
Although the type of bottle didn’t play a huge role in the actual label design, the choice to go with glass instead of plastic heightened the classic, sophisticated nature of the product and interplayed nicely with the final logo design. As I mentioned above, the founders also wanted the drink mixers to fit into a classier bar cart spread.
To balance out the sturdy nature of the sans serif On-Time font, we chose a fun script to liven up the Mixers text below it. We decided that the font, called “Restless Youth,” not only looked like it fit the brand; it also reflected the youthful charisma of the brand’s cofounders.
The colors we chose for the lettering and icons had to fit for each of three products, not just the whole brand. That’s why we varied the color of On-Time depending on the color of the drink mix itself. For instance, Bloody Mary received a red treatment while the Key Lime Sour Mix paired with a lime green. We believe the brightness of each color enhances the playful side of the brand.
We didn’t want the On-Time Mixers text to stand alone on the labels, so we added icons to highlight the playful aspects of the brand’s personality. The lime (Margarita), tomato (Bloody Mary) and pie (Key Lime Sour) icons give each bottle a unique personality along with variations to the colors.
Every design element down to the font affects customers’ perceptions of a brand’s personality. During this project, Ken, Travis and Freddie gave me three distinct personalities to work with, and I learned that my main challenge would be to balance their personalities with their brand’s through a cohesive package design. If you don’t know the meaning behind On-Time, it simply means really freakin’ good. I’d like to think the package design is just that.