Contributed by Isaac Arthur of Indianapolis-based CODO Design.
Tomlinson Tap Room was special from the start. From a positioning standpoint, it’s the only bar in Indiana that features only craft beer brewed within our state. No beer from the Big 3 and no liquor, just great Indiana beer. From a compelling, emotional angle, it’s the first bar to ever open in the historic Indianapolis city market, a nearly 200 year old building!
We founded CODO Design on the deeply held belief that we can create better design by including the client directly in the creative process. This approach resonated with the passionate city market leadership and they hired us to handle branding and positioning of this one-of-a-kind bar.
So before we ever sketched a logo or sourced pint glasses, we worked directly with the wonderful folks at the Indianapolis city market to define Tomlinson Tap Room’s brand essence. After a month of fun research, including interviewing folks from the Indiana beer scene, visiting several similar bars and poring through Indianapolis history, we developed three strong options for the market leadership to review. These essences were then assembled into mood boards with removable tape so the client can not only envision what a logo, poster, pint glass or the bar itself could look like, but they can cannibalize the different directions to build a final mood board that best represents their vision for what the experience should look and feel like.
The first essence was titled ‘Craft Beer’ and celebrated the artistry and history of the wonderful product.
The second board was called ‘Hallowed Halls’ and aimed to create an upscale environment for the enjoyment of better beer.
The third board was called ‘Social Fabric’ and came from our research of historic Indianapolis. Back in 1850’s Indy, the corner bar was a nexus for community and conversation. This direction took that spirit of community and aimed to focus it around wonderful, Indiana-brewed craft beer.
The city market leadership loved the process and decided the slightly modified essence of creating ‘Social Fabric through Craft Beer’ best represented what they had in mind. The final Mood Board was a beautiful mash-up of historic Indianapolis imagery, period typography, craft beer ingredients and a rich color palette that we then used to inform the overall Brand Identity and Experience.
Immediately after the mood boarding event, we dove into identity sketching. We explored industrial elements (think rivets on a Mash Tun), historic Indianapolis city market references, period typography, family crests and a slew of beer and Indiana indexes.
After much discussion we decided that a modular logo system would best accommodate the coming onslaught of promotional pieces. Our clients fell in love with the period typography and it was decided that rather than fake the effect in the computer, we needed to break into our Alma Mater, Herron School of Art and Design, to letterpress the Tomlinson “T”.
After scrounging around for an hour and a half, we were only able to find a handful of appropriate wood type pieces. Once stamped, we brought them into the computer and played with them for a few days. I think the final ‘T’ was actually an ‘L’ we had to flip; it had just the right proportions.
The final system consists of three marks, the main one (a bar sign), a round application and a lockup for stationery and other items. We’ve had a lot of fun flexing the system across different pieces.
After the identity system was finished, we carried the identity through to wooden nickels (street team pieces redeemable for beer samples), coasters, pint glasses and growlers, t-shirts and the social media presence.
Signage is a challenge due to limitations on what we can and can’t do within the historic space. No drilling, hammering or gluing presents an annoying challenge. Our solution was a mobile pint-glass-shaped sign that carries the Tomlinson identity out onto the street in front of the city market.
The back bar itself was sourced from a historic 1920’s Hook’s Drug Store, meshing beautifully with the Tap Room’s ambiance.
One of the more celebrated promotional pieces is the Tomlinson Tap Room Passport. There are over 35 breweries in Indiana, and more opening every year. If you have a pint or growler fill from every brewery, then you become a ‘Tomlinson Regular’ getting your name placed within the bar.
Due to one color printing and a heavy deboss, we were able to create a tactile keepsake that represents huge bragging rights for beer geeks and a lot of money spent within the bar.