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The Inking of Ground Control

Mar 19, 2015 Comments (1) The Inking of Ground Control

At Ninkasi, we love both the arts AND the sciences. Obviously brewing beer involves a lot of science. Especially when you want to fermet it with yeast that's traveled to space and backBut we also want to include our love for the arts in what we do and brew, whether it's in the crafting of our beer, the metal that we fabricate into tap handles and gates right here in Eugene, the music of our partner artists, or in the creation of our labels and packaging. 


As soon as a lot of science helped us make Ground Control a reality, we knew we wanted to also use some really special art to show people how just how special this beer is. So we recruited Neal Williams, a Eugene-based illustrator and screenprinter, to create the key art that inspired the label and special edition packaging for Ground Control. After feasting our eyes on Neal's work, which includes concert posters for Queens of the Stone Age, Dave Matthew Band, Interpol, and The Head & The Heart, we knew he was the perfect fit for this beer. 

Neal actually spent his twenties working around music; from record store jobs to freelance music composition, and felt the urge to explore the visual side of music. He quickly fell in love with the gigposter scene and decided to try his hand designing flyers for his and other local bands while living in Atlanta, GA.  Soon he entered the broader world of design and illustration as he developed his heavily-detailed pen-and-ink style.  Today he draws mostly with pen on paper and pulls most of his screenprints by hand.

Neal's work at South by Southwest!

We asked Neal to tell you in his own words, how he came up with the radness that is our Ground Control Label:

As someone who is constantly fascinated by space, I was incredibly excited when Ninkasi asked me to design a label for their forthcoming space beer. I could spend hours looking at the night sky and I tend to devour space-themed documentaries whenever I can find them, so this project was a perfect fit. I’m a child of the eighties, so films like Enemy Mine and The Last Starfighter (and of course, Star Wars) had a lasting impression. Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 was also a big influence on me as I began to study film in my high school and college years.

To begin the Ground Control project, we discussed some possible directions and inspiration; from astronaut mission patches to movie posters and comic books rooted in retrofuturism. We knew it should be a triptych, so the concepts I came up with would have three distinct, yet interconnected images. From the get-go, the idea of an image reflected in the astronaut’s visor seemed like a perfect centerpiece to anchor the triptych. A second concept involved a control room looking out over a distant planet, but the astronaut theme was the stronger of the two compositions and quickly won out.

For the right side of the triptych, we agreed on depicting a rocket launch (which was actually the centerpiece of the first concept). Combined with the astronaut’s gaze, it seemed to perfectly embody a spirit of exploration while at the same time referencing Ninkasi’s mission to launch brewer’s yeast into space. For the left side of the image we ultimately settled on a more classically sci-fi scene of a space cruiser flying through an asteroid belt. The resulting collision was probably the most fun thing I drew for this piece, and involved some reference research of the fantastic French comic illustrator Philippe Druillet’s “Lone Sloane Delirius”, which I luckily had close at hand.

After the main illustration was completed, I scanned the image into photoshop and began work on the color separations. Being a screenprinter, I opted to keep it to just six distinct colors. We found a balance of the signature Ninkasi teal colors as well as the yellow and bright red colors that seem to pop off the page when placed against the vast darkness of space.

The entire process of designing the label for Ground Control was an incredibly smooth and collaborative experience. I cannot imagine having a better time creating my first beer label. I was really impressed with the creativity and scope of vision of everyone that works at Ninkasi, and they have all been a blast to work with.

Cheers to that!

If you want to see just how incredible Neal is at what he does, check out this awesome time lapse video of Ground Control getting inked.

Comments (1)

  1. Emil:
    Jun 30, 2015 at 05:13 PM

    I love the artwork for the Ground Control bottle and the box it came in. Seriously going to put it on my desk at work and order a print if I can. Epic artwork guys!

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