In the competitive world of retail, a store’s branding can make all the difference. When Oregon-based spirits retailer Uptown Liquor planned to relocate to a larger space after 40 years, they initially sought a simple update of their logo. But as retail designer Shelley Prael began designing the new space, it became clear that a more robust rebranding program was needed. That’s where Ventress Design Works came in. The result was a comprehensive “Sip City Spirits, Wine & Beer Identity Program,” including a new logo, exterior signage, artwork for the store’s windows and doors, interior graphics, way-finding signage, and more. This blog post delves into the design process behind the project.
By: Tom Ventress
“Sip City is Oregon’s top retailer of spirits. When we first talked with the owners, Randall Family Enterprises, about the project, the store was known as Uptown Liquor, and the owners wanted a simple update of their existing logo to coincide with the store’s relocation to a much bigger space a couple of blocks away from where the store had been for over 40 years.
“With the impending move, the owners engaged retail designer Shelley Prael to design the space. Shelley knew that a robust rebranding program was needed. They asked for proposals from us and another branding firm that Shelley had worked with.
“The project comprised a new logo, exterior signage, artwork for the 70-foot (21.34m) run of windows facing one of Portland’s busiest streets, a graphic treatment for the doors, way-finding signage, interior wall graphics, as well as other needs that pop up during a rebranding effort—van design, coming-soon graphics, and creative for the billboard above the store.
“We dug into the logo design as soon as we got the assignment. The logo became more than a simple update, but for consistency’s sake, we stayed true to the typographic tradition of the former logo and refined a long-used graphic. As we finalized the logo, we began working on concepts for the windows—presenting three basic directions for the client to choose from.
“The client liked all the concepts, but treating the thirteen windows as three story-telling murals representing the production of spirits, wine, and beer was more in line with what they had hoped for. Vector-based, photorealistic, multi-scene montages were created—four windows for each product category to fill twelve windows with a logo display on the remaining window. The project became the largest and most complex vector-based we’ve ever created.
“Shortly after the window illustrations were finished, the Randalls were thrown a curve ball—the landlord of the space they were vacating forbade them from using the name ‘Uptown Liquor.’ Rather than get into an expensive, time-consuming legal battle, the Randalls wisely renamed the store. ‘Sip City’ was suggested—it’s perfect for a liquor store in Portland, known as ‘Rip City’ since being coined by the Trailblazers’ beloved announcer, Bill Schonely, in 1971.
“With the name change, we returned to square one on the logo. We jettisoned the color and typographic scheme we had done in the Uptown vein. We tried an ultra-compressed sans serif during type exploration, which worked with Shelley’s concept of a fun take on a Modern Industrial look for the store. In a stacked design, we raised the baseline of the ‘Y’ to subtly suggest a fine sherry glass and knew we had something. Orange, white, and yellow were chosen to work with the dark gray building.
“Elements from the window art were repeated on the large canvas panels that are part of the way-finding system and extend the exterior visual into the store. The window murals and signage went up about a month before the opening to pique curiosity about the new store. Since opening, sales have been robust, with customers and vendors being thrilled with the new space.”