A year ago, I was approached by Detroit advertising agency Lafayette American, and senior art director Doug Patterson, to produce an art deco style publicity poster for the Michigan distiller Norden Aquavit.
The brief was at once refreshingly loose and bewilderingly vague. Essentially, we needed to explore the attributes and aesthetics of aquavit, and gradually distil these into a graphic image to represent the product. And the product is? Well, I hadn’t a clue.
So my first stop was the fabulous comfort blanket that is Wikipedia, which is where I learned the five hundred year history of the drink, whose name, Aquavit, translates as ‘water of life’. The spirit, originating in Scandinavia, is distilled from potatoes and grain, then enhanced with a variety of botanicals, but importantly the prominent flavour must be caraway and/or dill.
Norden Aquavit’s owner, distiller Robyn Cleveland, having enjoyed a twenty-year career as a bartender and founder of the Detroit Chapter of the U.S. Bartenders’ Guild, spent a good deal of time travelling the world, visiting distilleries. A three-week trip to Copenhagen in 2003 gave him his first taste of Aquavit, and he was smitten. He established Norden Aquavit in Michigan soon after.
Arriving at the essential ingredients of the poster by a circuitous route, brought us to a marriage of Scandinavia and Michigan. The latter is represented by the famous sandstone formation on the south shore of Lake Superior in Michigan’s Upper Peninsular known as Pictured Rocks. This, along with the towering fir trees and abundant snow gives a strong suggestion of the Norwegian Fiords. Placing these elements in a V-formation in the poster, leads the eye, via the wind-blown image of the caraway plants shedding seeds, to the bottle and glass, set in snow.
In the bottom left is the hand-drawn block of text reading “Share the Spirit of Aquavit”.
You can see further examples of my art deco posters at: https://www.newvintageposters.com/