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.
Neal Williams is a Eugene-based illustrator and screenprinter working primarily in limited edition prints and concert posters. After spending his twenties working around music; from record store jobs to freelance music composition, Neal 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.
Client list: Queens of the Stone Age, Dave Matthews Band, Interpol, The Head & The Heart, Andrew Bird, Soundgarden, Dinosaur Jr., Low, Russian Circles, Neurosis
Written by Marv Ellis and WE Tribe and recorded at Ninkasi Studios, Ground Control is named after our first beer brewed with an ale yeast that traveled to space and back.
Historical space sounds provided by the NASA SoundCloud Library