Mohni is a small family-owned brewery based in Westerville, Ohio. They had been producing small quantities of different ales and selling them locally for a few years when they came to us with the task to design their first commercial product. They sold their brew in unbranded brown glass bottles and didn’t really care about expiry dates: everything got consumed in a few days. Trough the years, they worked on different brews, but the one they really perfected is their signature amber ale.
With the craft beer market exploding in the recent years, the brothers decided to make a move and start selling their amber ale state-wide. When they came to us, they had already solved the expiration date problem and sorted out most of the distribution details. Yet, the amazing ale didn’t have a name and packaging. After tasting the brew, we were sold.
The core of the Mohni team consists of second-generation Estonian immigrants. It turned out the brewery’s name is actually a small island in the Baltic sea, somewhere between Estonia and Finland. They used to sail to Mohni with their grandfather and watch the ships pass. It’s a lonely and deserted, but also charming and calm place.
Their Estonian heritage isn’t just memories. The guys use a special (and secret) mix of spices inherited from their grandfather. For the latest brew, their goal was to soften the hoppy taste and fuse it with some classic amber ale tradition. It had to appeal stronger to the mainstream audience, a part of which might find the original spices too strong.
At first, the Mohni team didn’t want to stand out too much — the taste of the brew was enough. They suggested we follow the craft beer packaging trend of the time and go with bright colors and a lower level of detail. We agreed on a maritime vibe, representing the cold, misty Baltic sea.
We can’t say we don’t like the first approach we took, but it turned out to be too generic and, most importantly, the team didn’t feel like the minke whale represented their brand message well enough. The key visual also didn’t lead to a great name, so we had to dismiss it.
Researching Mohni’s history wasn’t an easy process. Most of the information is in Estonian and the brothers didn’t provide a lot of summarized details as they were busy negotiating contracts with resellers.
Mohni is a super small, uninhabited and deserted island. The answer turned out to be right in front our eyes: the lighthouse. We were actually surprised we hadn’t came up with it earlier. Mohni and its lighthouse clinked perfectly, so we started researching the old structure.
The two brothers told us a bunch of nostalgic stories centered around the lighthouse. They used to visit the island with their grandfather when they were little. In their teenage years, they used to drink beer under the lighthouse and enjoy the scenery. We had to recreate the authentic look of the Mohni lighthouse. Not just any lighthouse — they insisted on the smallest of details.
Fortunately, they provided us with high-res pictures and scanned versions of the original plans for the building. Dreamy clients, right? After a few revisions and test prints, we settled on the right level of detail for the material and process. It was the first time we were designing for printing on glass, so it took some trial and error.
Our key visual was ready and we were quite happy with it, but we didn’t have a name. The guys did a great job explaining the vibe Mohni is all about: cold, seagoing and Nordic, with a pinch of tasteful vintage aesthetic. After achieving that with the illustration, we had to come up with a name that’s just as good. We tried a bunch of English words, but going painfully literal did the job again — Tuletorn (Estonian for lighthouse). It sounds exotic to most people, but has a rock-solid logic to those who are willing to translate it. It also has a nice Nordic ring to it, especially when pronounced by an Estonian.
The amazing KanKin by Alexey Frolov was a natural match. The big x-height and sharp corners complement the lighthouse without overpowering it.
The rest of the label is set in Mohave Bold and Avant Garde Gothic Condensed Demi. Mohave shares some key characters with KanKin, but have much less character and remains legible at small sizes.
Normally, we try not to use more than two font families in our projects, but Avant Garde worked quite well for the back of the label. We didn’t want to go totally crazy with our typography, although that’s quite common with craft beer packaging nowadays. The similarities between the three typefaces we used make them feel like three levels of detail of the same concept, not as three different clashing styles.