Artist Profile – Joe Ernst

Artist Profile: Joe Ernst - Graphic Designer

"I love collaborating with Harding House Brewing Co. staff and folding everyone's ideas into the design."

We sat down with our graphic designer, Joe Ernst, to talk about his artwork and the inspiration behind all things Harding House Brewing Co. More of Joe’s work can be found at and on Instagram at @joernst1.

Ever since I started doodling stick figures with crayons as a kid, I’ve been drawn to creating. My parents always encouraged my sister and I to pursue creative activities and gave us plenty of opportunities to learn more, whether that was taking a beginner painting class over the summer or signing me up for a youth woodworking class at the local community center. We were taught to take pride in creating things, so I’ve always seen the value in that, whether someone sees what you’ve produced or if you just make it for your own satisfaction. I took a few art classes in high school which helped me switch my college focus last minute from engineering to art, which I’m so grateful for, because a career in numbers and math just wouldn’t have been for me.

My main inspiration hits while pouring over vintage packaging designs found at antique shops and flea markets and studying the ways designers came up with their layouts and lettering choices before it was all done digitally. I love tangible, printed goods with age and wear on them. I’ll usually just take a picture when I see something unique, but occasionally I’ll have to take home a piece if it really just blows me away. I also try to keep a pulse on what other designers are up to by following my favorites online, and a lot of their work influences my style and informs a lot of my thinking. I’m constantly trying to learn more and broaden my skills, so I look up to others in my field who are leading the way.

I decided to study studio art in college, and didn’t really dive into graphic design until graduating, so that background in traditional art techniques like sketching, painting and printmaking have totally influenced the kind of design I’m into. I’m drawn to hand lettering, illustration, printed goods and vintage aesthetics that recall a sense of imperfection. These types of designs sort of reveal the artist’s touch in the work, as opposed to being super slick and buttoned up, which can feel a little cold or mechanical a lot of the time.

I enjoy block printing, the occasional painting project, and pottery. It’s good to get away from screens and undo buttons every once in a while.

I really like the Heirloom summer ale label. “Heirloom” is custom lettering inspired by vintage seed packet artwork. Paired with the orangey-red and golden yellow, it’s bold and summery and I can’t wait to see it on a can.

Probably the Allelon Golden Ale. We wanted the English spelling of the Greek word to be prominent since its meaning is important to the ethos of Harding House Brewing Co., but we also wanted to show the Greek way to spell it and the pronunciation. I think we figured out a good solution, but it wasn’t as straightforward as designing around an illustration of an ingredient or other imagery.

The most challenging part has definitely been time. Like everyone involved in starting up Harding House Brewing Co., we’re working on our nights and weekends to craft everything involved, and while we put our best foot forward, there is always more you wish you could do and more time you wish you could spend to make it even better!

I try to balance the vintage design aesthetic with contemporary sensibilities while keeping in mind the future shelf presence of the packaging, and contrasting the look from what’s on the market in beer right now. I love collaborating with Harding House Brewing Co. staff and folding everyone’s ideas into the design. It’s fun when everyone has a part in conceptualizing the look and can get excited about an idea they threw in making it into the final product.

Through many iterations and conversations with the guys, we all thought it was important to design a timeless, vintage-inspired logo, rather than something too perfect or minimal. Through lots of sketches, preliminary digital builds, and then final vector artwork, we came out with a logo we’re all really proud of, that we think represents the brand well and can stand on its own amidst the market. The word “Harding” is custom lettering, which we thought was a great way to add our own unique signature to the logo, something that belonged to HHB alone. We were drawn to a hexagon shape as a subtle nod to the roof over a house, without getting too literal. I’m really proud of the final product and the collaboration that made it happen.