Making Our Mark

Making Our Mark

From our earliest work in building North we aimed to build more than a product, we set out to build a brand. The mountains have always been our inspiration. We look to them as a playground, a sanctuary, and a source of inspiration. We leaned heavily into these truths when we built the visual identity and products of our brand. Our work revolves around a simple set of core principles: to make best in class products by the best craftspeople in the USA; to deliver an authentic connection to places that matter; to be truly novel and unique; and, to always do good and give back where we can.

It starts with a name

We knew from the start that our brand was about connecting with a sense of place in a truly authentic way. Our earliest brainstorms explored names tied closer to the beer world or about the product itself but one day in brainstorming ideas we landed on one that had been staring at us the whole time. NORTH. A direction, a feeling, a sense of adventure. We paired it with DRINKWARE to keep our brand tight, to keep us from wandering into categories that divert our focus. NORTH DRINKWARE was born. And now we make blankets too ;)

We followed the signs

After we had locked in on our name we began to explore marks and type that connected to our brand values. Connected to a sense of place and adventure. We quickly came to fall in love with something that had brought us adventure our whole lives, road signs. Always showing us the way to new exciting adventures across the country and beyond. Highway Gothic was the obvious choice for our brand. It is a typeface family that was created by the United States Federal Highway Administration for use on road signs and originally was published in 1948. It was designed to be easily and quickly readable while driving at high speeds. Officially, Highway Gothic is known as the FHWA Series or Standard Alphabets for Highway Signs. It’s not only used for signs in the United States but for many other countries throughout the world. There have been many edits to the typeface over the years and even some drama around newer typefaces that may read better for roadsigns, but we love the true American original. 

The all caps use of Highway Gothic justifies left on our tube stickers. The lines, inspired by road signs, break up critical information.

The strength of a good font choice is one that works in a variety of materials and usage.

When the type gets down to only a few millimeters tall in the base of the glass the forms are all still legible.

The absence of color

When looking for creative inspiration connected to the mountains we go straight to Ansel Adams. His timeless capture of the American West carries more drama and emotion in black and white than most sunsets you'll see in your life. His work in the Tetons, and Yosemite in particular drove much of our inspiration as a brand. His iconic images gave us the confidence to leverage a strong black and white foundation for our brand. You see this from our packaging to our collaborations.

Building an icon

With a typeface and strong but simple color pallet in place it was time to explore what the mark for our brand would be. We again looked to our brand principles for inspiration. A connection to place with the word North quickly lead us to the concept of an arrow. We were drawn to the icon of the magnetic North arrow that is familiar on the USGS maps that we draw so much of our data from. When we looked closely at our Highway Gothic typeface and the magnetic North arrows something really special came together.

Our mark is more than just an arrow, it holds 3 meanings for us. First it is an N, the most abbreviated icon of North.

It is also the representation of the familiar magnetic North arrow seen on every USGS map.

It is also our flag. It is our stake in the ground. It represents the goal of our brand. Making it to the top and it's the mark we want to leave in the world.

Putting it into use

In 2014, when we began to design the brand we created an original lockup of the type and the flag that worked well for us. As the years went by we realized that many of the places we were using the logo lockup were circular and that the rectangular lockup we had created wasn't working as well as we had hoped. In 2019 we again went back to our brand principles to redesign a lockup that better represented our brand. Where we landed was again tied deeply to a sense of place and to our mark. 

We first looked to the circular design of the USGS survey markers. The circular type felt like an obvious direction to explore. The connection to mountains and direction was a natural fit.

The next obvious reference for a circular logo that connects to a sense of place is the compass. The magnetic pull of the one arrow creates a familiar interaction and always guides you home.

Where we landed pulled both of these inspirations together to create an iconic and memorable compass logo that ties every element of our brand design together, and works well in all of our circular use cases from instagram to our packaging lids.

We have lots more in store for the future of North but you can expect that we stay true to our brand and our principles. We will always connect to a sense of place in unique and authentic ways and will continue to give back to the mountains that have inspired us so much along our journey. 

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