I was always drawing as a kid. I would get ideas in my head and would just have to draw them. Now as a professional designer, my favorite projects include that hand-drawn aspect; a personal touch before moving on to the computer. It makes designs more flavorful and posed to stand out, and I get a chance to flex the illustration muscle for a client. It feels good when everyone is proud of the outcome.

Custom Illustrations for a Homegrown Brand

Illustrations contrast with the digital world we’re surrounded by. The traces of human involvement will always be more interesting than an algorithm generated by a machine. For Grove Roots Brewing Company, we had the opportunity to use custom illustration in posters for each of their flagship beers. The brand is based on celebrating the historic citrus industry in Winter Haven, so lead designer, Tiffany, and I found our style inspiration in vintage postcards. Often for illustrators like me, who aim to capture each project’s individual aesthetic, custom illustrations are a chance to explore a new style. In Grove Roots’ case, it was a reminder of an old style. We reckoned the audience would be drawn to the familiar, nostalgic quality of the vintage postcard style.

Grove Roots Brewing Company is the first brewery in Winter Haven–a fresh and welcome establishment!–so juicy custom imagery was an opportune branding decision. (Drawing people in? No problem.)

Shannon sketches a truck

An early sketch of the vintage Ford inspires the label for the 6am Pickers beer.

The Process

In the beginning stage, I gathered reference images and made sketches. I started with the illustration for 6am Pickers, because the truck was a bit of a challenge. Tiffany and I wrangled with finding the correct perspective of the road, after I drew the truck from scratch, sans-road … so we took the bumpy route, but we got there.

Shannon vectorizes a custom illustration

The sketches become vectorized.

Using my references, I drew with the the pen tool in Illustrator and began layering the pieces to build the scene. Highlights and shadows were added. After tweaking the details and perspective to our satisfaction, we were on the road (pun intended) to a strong poster design.

Tiffany, who designed the Grove Roots branding, had the colors mostly picked out ahead of time. We added a few more once we got into final stages of the illustrations and realized they needed a little more depth. Enter: vibrant greens!

The final result was a unique combination of fresh and nostalgic, just like Grove Roots Brewing Company. The 6am Pickers poster is one in a series of four flagship beer representations, but it is one of my favorites for the challenges we overcame to breathe life into it. Plus, it’s delicious if you’re into coffee stouts.

For more great Grove Roots illustrations, check out our case study, Crafting an Identity for Winter Haven’s First Craft Brewery.