Modern Times Beer

Label Approval by | Mar 2013 | Issue #74

In 1850, nonviolent anarchist Josiah Warren founded the utopian colony of Modern Times, on Long Island, N.Y. The colony lived outside the conventions of established society until the state shut them down after 10 years. In 2012, Jacob McKean—also nonviolent, not so much with the anarchism, though—named his San Diego brewery-in-progress Modern Times, “because I’m fascinated by the colorful, ambitious little pockets of history that develop in the folds of progress,” he writes on his website. “Hopefully, Modern Times Beer will be one of those little pockets too.”

So, what does all that look like on a beer can? “Someone on Facebook said ’80s tube socks,” says McKean.

Or, as designer Christian Helms puts it: “a snapshot of what dreamers in 1960s San Diego thought beer cans might look like in an idealized future.”

Helms and McKean started with 14 different concepts for the can design, inspired by vintage packaging McKean had collected (“Vintage typewriter tins were probably the single most influential reference point,” he says).

“We explored a host of design directions referencing forward-looking historic icons including Raymond Loewy and Norman Bel Geddes, as well as contemporary revisionists like Wes Anderson,” says Helms, who’s the founder of renowned Austin, Texas-based design firm Helms Workshop. “Through that juxtaposition, we arrived at a packaging system that fits perfectly into Modern Times’ brand story.”

Then they brought in typographer Simon Walker to create the logotype. “The look ultimately needed to straddle the line between vintage and modern in a way that reflected the positivity and forward-thinking ideals of the visionaries after which the brand was named,” says Walker. “In a way, I think part of its appeal is the subtle visual irony of the name being set in such a classic-feeling type style.”

When it comes to designing for cans, McKean says it’s nice to have the entire surface of the package to work with, but “despite the explosion of craft beer in cans, there’s still many more bottles to look at.”

McKean certainly did his homework, though. “I tend to pay a lot of attention to detail, so hopefully these cans let people know that we were meticulous about every aspect of the beer, from design to aroma to freshness to ingredients.”