“The brewing industry thrives on passion and needs passionate people at all levels” –Sam Gibson
You certainly appreciate the passion it takes to craft your favorite brews, but have you considered who makes all those quirky labels that make them stand out on the shelf? Sam Gibson is one of those people and he’s been on a quest to combine his passions of graphic design and craft beer since falling in love with both. And now he’s creating brilliant artwork for one of the mid-Atlantic region’s most recognizable breweries…
First catching the creative bug while attending Loyola High School, Sam relied heavily on art for self-expression. He forged close relationships with his art teachers and developed a knack for photography before heading off to college at Salisbury University, which he attended primarily because of its proximity to the laid back lifestyle and surfing opportunities in the nearby beach town of Ocean City, Maryland.
Sam always wanted a job where he could be creative, but needed another option for his professional path after discovering photography wasn’t going to pay the bills
Enter Absolut Vodka.
Beer has always been Sam’s drink of choice, but it was classic vodka ads that opened his eyes to the power of engaging design and branding. Drawing inspiration from how Absolut brilliantly blended product placement with art, Sam spent his remaining time at SU mastering design, imaging, and branding.
Artistic expression has long been one of Sam’s guiding passions, but he also fell in love with good beer during the 90s, refining his palette so much that he preferred Guinness during college over the cheap light beer typically sucked down by undergrads. Around the same time Sam was becoming a beer geek, Dogfish (located an hour from SU’s campus) was emerging nationally. As much as Gibson enjoyed drinking the soon-to-be-iconic beers, he was equally impressed by the clean and fun branding of DFH’s labels. After drinking enough 60 Minute IPAs, Sam Calagione’s brainchild prompted Sam Gibson to amend his bucket list to include designing his own beer label.
Gibson worked full time and as a freelancer following graduation and eventually got the chance to apply his design skills in the world of craft beer. Kind of. During college, he became friends with a professor named Dean Burroughs who recommended Sam for the job when another student needed a label designed for his homebrew. Not quite the level of Dogfish, but creating the label was a great experience, and not the last time Sam’s connection with Burroughs paid off.
Burroughs introduced Sam to another brewing buddy, Tommy Knorr- a prominent restaurateur who co-owns the Evolution Craft Brewing Company with his brother, John. Sam was talented enough to pull off the artwork for the brewery’s Primal Pale Ale, Lucky 7, Lot #3 IPA, and other beers, but his instant resonation with the local mindset of Tommy caused their professional relationship and personal friendship to snowball.
Now, Sam works directly with Tommy to conceptualize the all of the brewery’s labels and “has been an integral component in eVo’s successful growth,” says Knorr.
Growth doesn’t come without challenge and the (many) challenges of design fall squarely on Sam’s shoulders. Crafting labels requires him to take trademarks and cost issues into consideration while incorporating branding consistencies AND striving for ultimate creativity. His success is rooted in his approach: keeping it clean, simple, local, and consistent.
“Sam has shown us the need to have consistent branding,” says Tommy. “He gets frustrated, which I like, when he sees something comes out of eVo that doesn’t match the branding we’ve created. Soon we’ll be tweaking designs so we can keep everything fresh for present day and Sam will be leading this.”
The ‘art prostitute’ in Sam couldn’t be happier with the task. While he may enjoy making money for his work, but Sam’s passion for the beer industry is as unquestionable as his artistic ability and the combination of the two assures eVo of having high quality labels to complement its high quality beers as the brand evolves for the future.