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San Diego Logo Spotlight: Mike Hess Brewery

Posted on: June 8th, 2016 by Chase Design

Let’s face it, San Diego is indeed mostly fun and sun and the reason that we love it so much is due to the unique areas, exciting things to do, the contrast of communities and the ever increasing innovation occurring in the area.  Not just technological or economic innovation, but artist and cultural as well. America’s Finest City has tradition and history that shapes our perspective of the city as well as a unique individuality that portrays the San Diego brand to the rest of the country.

At Chase Design we believe that this inspires a cross section of creativity and tradition that truly stands out. As a branding and logo design agency you could guess that we think strong branding is important for every organization, business and even every city. This is exemplified by the lengths that the city of San Diego has gone to in their website redesign and creation of the new “San Diego” logo.

We also value the connections in the design community and appreciate the essence of collaboration which has been lead to our work with AIGA, the Jacob’s Center and design groups. In keeping with this, we want to pay tribute to some of the designers that have created the brands that we know and love around San Diego and give our readers the real story behind these incredible logo designs.

We have chosen three brands that stand out and cut through the clutter as worthy of our San Diego Logo Design Spotlight. We will spotlight one each month for the next three months. The decision was based on our own perspective of the San Diego brand, culture and the stories that brought these logos to life!

The Mike Hess Brewing Brand Identity

Mike Hess brewery logo tap handle

At Mike Hess Brewery there is always something changing and a fast paced growth that is tempered by the dedication to quality and consistency of their product. In fact these changes have kept their design partners at Patton Brothers quite busy over the years.  Chase Design picked Mike Hess Brewery as a brand spotlight due to the way that they are able to mix classic themes and iconic characters with modern details and vivid color schemes.  We also think that the brewery has done a fantastic job keeping their branding in line with San Diego’s comfortable but increasingly modern style.  This can be seen in the ultra casual atmosphere of the original Miramar location and the open space design brewery in north park.

A little background for those not fully familiar with the brand.  Mike Hess is an Ex Navy Officer turned entrepreneur who was always dedicated to his “craft”. As a home brew hobbyist for 15 years it was the expansion of his second career that led to the brand becoming the first production nano brewery in San Diego. While originally located in Mike’s financial services offices in an industrial park in miramar, they decided to open the roll-up doors to the public in July 2010, close to the same time as SD beer week.  NY times did a review that went over very well and the following boom caused them to close down for two weeks to keep up with production demands.

An Award Winning Creation


The continued popularization of San Diego beers and the quality of their craftsmanship helped Mike Hess Brewery earn a gold medal in the 2016 World Beer Cup® for their “Claritas” Kolsch style beer, one of the highest honors for a brewery worldwide.  However it is not just what’s in the bottle that helps them stand out from the crowd, it’s also what’s on the bottle.  For that aspect, they credit Court Patton of Patton Brothers Design with the creative direction of the logo, packaging, typography and more.  To find out the real story behind the brand design we reached out to Court to hear what he had to say about the ideation and execution of the brand.

The Logos Inspiration

brewery print design

Court tells us that the original concept was to create a code of arms featuring unique “creature animals” for each brew. These mascots would sit behind the logo and would be associated with the each brew style that they released.  “Part of the origination” Court posits “was due to Mike’s ability to be forward thinking, and while it doesn’t fit the highly popularized hipster style that’s associated with craft breweries, they were looking for something that would be a nod to the old with a new twist on it.”  Which was what led them to meld modern design aspects with the traditional mythological creature animals that are now synonymous with the brand.

Conceptualizing the Creature Animals

Mike Hess creature animals

The idea for the creature animals was inspired by the travel experiences of Court Patton and his wife. While visiting the old churches and museums of Siena, Italy they were surrounded by many unique medieval and gothic style animals that impacted the ideation of a mascot to be used for each beer style.  The Duomo cathedral had a particularly significant impact on this decision.  The Mythological creatures that adorn the building sparked the idea to bring this traditional style of art into today’s world with that “modern twist” that Court refers to.  The mascot  found on the 8 West IPA, for instance, is a mix of traditional mythological sea creatures mixed with a dolphin and utilizing modern details to create a uniquely present look with traditional characteristics.

Typography Design

At Chase Design we are obsessed with typography.  It is a huge part of every logo design project that we undertake for our clients.  We like to think that after 15 years, we have developed a tasteful eye for it. Which is why we can appreciate the choice of typography that was decided on for the Mike Hess Brewery logo (after testing with several iterations of the logo itself).  The final choice combined elements from different fonts that utilized large, thick vertical lines with ornate decorative spacing towards the ends which can be seen at the end of the “Hess”.  However keeping the ornate elements on all of the letters resulted in an over stimulating font that was distracting and sometimes looked like “bats” attached to the end as claimed by those close to the brand focus groups.  The solution was a minor simplification of the now heavily modified font.  We especially like the use of negative space for all typography which lends a relaxed disposition yet is bold enough to stand out in a sea of dark and sometimes overly edgy craft San Diego brewery brand themes and logos.

Brand and Logo Redesign

original hess logo  tap handle design mike hess

As with many great logo design stories, there were a few hairpin turns to navigate while branding Mike Hess Brewery.  The main situation was the evolution of a full name change in the midst of the logo design in 2012.  It was “about a year and a half in when we were contacted by Hess Collection Winery” of Napa Valley, CA, an unrelated winery in the state.  Unlike other cases of trademark issues that impacted San Diego Breweries, Hess Winery was very good to work with and notified Mike Hess Brewery as soon as the trademark was approved.  They also continuously work with them to ensure that the individuality of each brand is protected.

However, from the design standpoint it was cause for a major overhaul while “keeping the spirit of the design” intact.  This meant rethinking the simplicity of the original “H” crest that scrolled across the top and refitting the new “Mike Hess” verbiage on all products.  The new placement required moving the new full name across the top which went against the original spacing but turned out great on many of the uses, in particular on the new white background cans where the added contrast lends itself to a more balanced design that takes advantage of vertical spacing nicely.  The new branding also retains aspects of balance and symmetry that was originally conveyed with the prior logo.

In our opinion we think that the final logo design and branding compliment eachother nicely and believe that Court and Mike Hess breweries are worthy of our Kudo’s for the fantastic design work that they have contributed to the San Diego logo design community.  We also look forward to meeting the new “creature animals” as they continue to expand on their line of highly regarded San Diego craft beers.

Give us Feedback

What are your thoughts on the Mike Hess Brewery logo? Is there a brand you love that’s worthy of a spotlight?

If you know of a logo or company branding in San Diego that you think really stands out we would love to hear about it.  We are always considering San Diego brands for our future spotlights.  Please send us an email, or reach out to us if you are interested in any of our logo or web design services.