Designer Spotlight Q & A

Record Label Designer Expands to Craft Beer, Spirits Labels

From Green Day to Good Morning Beautiful, from RX Bandits to California Clear, KIHL Studio rocks.

The Durango, Colo.-based collaboration between Donny Phillips and Kaylee Carrington brings art direction, illustration, design, and photography to the world of adult beverages.

The pair say that they both love music - as the amazing album covers in their portfolio will attest. In recent years, they’ve broadened their horizons and made magic beyond the music industry. Here, we speak with Donny to get an idea of what powers their work.

Q: Tell me about your background

A: I started my design career in the music Industry, working as an art director for Warner Bros. Records. Music is my life! After 7 years at Warner Bros., I left to start KIHL Studio with my wife Kaylee. I still do a lot of work for the music industry but designing in the craft beer and spirits world has been an awesome new experience - specifically my working relationship with Casa Agria Specialty Ales. It has been a real dream come true. It's been such a fun process working with them from their initial branding all the way to what now must be 50+ labels for their bottles and cans. Winning a silver medal for my bottle design for J. Riley's California Clear White Whiskey has been a major highlight as well.

Q: What qualities and skills should a good graphic designer have?

A: A good graphic designer should be an effective communicator both visually and verbally. It's important to communicate a client's story with efficacy and power in an aesthetic that is true and unique to their brand. I also find a great deal of patience is required as well.

Q: How do you incorporate feedback into your designs?

A: Every design job is a collaboration with the client, through and through. I typically present a handful of ideas in the onset of a project after a deep conversation with the client. We then choose the option that resonates the most with the client and then make any necessary changes until everyone is 100% happy.

Q: Describe your creative process. What are the major steps?

A: Every project starts with a creative meeting, either in person or on the phone, where we discuss the goals of the project and any visual references the client may have in mind. I then present a first round of concepts that I discuss with the client at length. Again, it's a very collaborative process.

Q: How do you measure the success of your label designs?

A: First and foremost, I measure the success of a design by how excited the client is about it. So typically, by the amount of exclamation points they use in their email reply. If I get a compliment, either verbally or via email, from someone who bought the beer, that always makes my day!

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