My name is Hilary Ament and I am a senior Graphic Design major. During this summer of 2014, I was a Design intern for Stranger & Stranger in New York City. Stranger & Stranger is a packaging and branding company for alcohol, mainly wine and spirits. They started in London, and now have an office in NYC. They are responsible for the packaging of the mythical Kraken, lovely Jack Daniel's limited bottles, Safeway's Paperboy, a wine bottle made out of compressed recycled paper, among many others. They are known for their ornate style, often dark and sinister, and quite often pulling from victorian filigree or historic pieces.
I found out about Stranger & Stranger through various design blogs. Throughout my junior year, I was very interested in lettering, victorian design, and any type of ornamental graphic design. I continued to research period pieces and experimented, using many of Stranger's labels as inspiration. When it came time to apply for internships, Stranger was my first choice. They have gorgeous designs and I wanted the opportunity to learn the process of creating similar labels. I emailed the art director, Cosimo Surace, my resume and portfolio, and we quickly set up a meeting in their office. He went over the basics of what they do, and I was shocked to learn that they only have four designers, and a few production designers. They not only create the brand and label for a product, but they are able to custom make the bottle shape, do the glass engraving, decide on a closure, write the copy and words that go on a label, and sometimes even invent the name and flavor of the alcohol! Cosimo luckily decided it would be a good fit, and I was set to start in May.
Cosimo started off right away by telling me this was not like a normal internship, he was going to treat me more like an employee and give me many projects to work on. They work at a very fast pace, and unlike any process I did in school, so it was a bit of a shock at first. He would typically spend hours and hours researching, finding specific type references, and researching anything that falls within the realm of the project including images, movies, design examples, etc. so that the project was completely set, and they had a solid direction to go in. They then start designing by getting down the overall sketch down in illustrator, and then fine-tuning it little by little. Cosimo gave me a lot of direction to the overall picture. He usually advised me to research more, and not focus on small details that might need to be changed later. Another designer, Jaymie McAmmond was also very helpful in giving advice and showing illustrator tricks.
I worked on a variety of different projects including researching and starting a label from scratch, minor changes on existing labels, shipping containers for spirits, small stickers for spirits, illustrations, wordmarks and type, and even a couple of books they are currently working on. Almost all of the projects I worked on are currently confidential, but it was exciting to have a chance to design bits for major alcohol brands. I also got to hear about the process of designing the existing successful brands, and I learned so much over the course of three months.