Understanding the Beautiful Branding of Summerland’s Dominion Cider Co.

Branding Vancouver looks at some of the more interesting logos and icons that appear in Vancouver’s food and beverage scene, and cultural landscape. Some of the explanations will be long and others short, but the goal of deeper understanding will be constant. If you want the backstory of a particularly compelling local brand revealed, let us know via @scoutmagazine and we’ll try to figure it out.

With its retro-inspired branding and beautiful label artwork, Summerland’s Dominion Cider Co. pays homage to the history of the area. Co-founder Robin Cairns recently filled us in on the orchard’s roots and the creative processes that went into the modern day cidery’s memorable visuals…

“We named our cidery after The Dominion Experimental Farm in Summerland. Established in the early 1920s, it was part of a network of cutting edge agricultural research centres established across the country, helping the government and farmers to understand and improve all types of crops in the diverse geographic zones of our nation.

“Each farm, or research station, in the network had its own focus: the Summerland farm was established to study orchard fruit, specifically apples. The Okanagan, still a novel agricultural region at the turn of the century, showed huge potential, but little was known about it compared to the well-understood climate and geography of the orchards in Ontario and Quebec. It was a time of discovery, when growing techniques were being re-written and new varieties of apples tried and developed.

“To us the early farm network demonstrated the best combination of collaboration and knowledge, shared with a sense of experimentation, discovery and wonder.

“Founder and cidermaker Mike Harris grew up in Summerland, a town founded on orchards and fruit growing. The Dominion Experimental Farm was simply known around town as “the farm” and had been around for as long as anyone there could remember. Many of the families Mike grew up with had members who worked there, and Mike himself worked at the farm as a field hand one summer in university.

“Meticulous records dating back to the early 1920s show exactly what types of apples were being tested on “the farm”. Many of the heritage varieties planted then – such as Newtown Pippen or Golden Russet – are now known for being excellent cider apples. Over the years, many of these varietals were forgotten as the market, mainly grocery stores, funnelled consumers and growers to a limited number of hearty dessert apple varietals that could keep for a long time. With the wine boom in the valley, many orchardists also ripped out their apples to plant vineyards for wine.

“At Dominion, we’ve planted many the cider apple varietals introduced to the valley by the Experimental Farm over a hundred years ago. We even ripped out two acres of vineyard (already on the property when we bought it) to make room for these apples.”

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“The brand identity and labels are inspired by the apple crate artwork common in the first half of the 20th century in the Okanagan valley. Up until about the 1950s, before tractors were introduced and larger bins could be filled with apples and lifted by them, small crates were the standard because they could be carried by a single person. They were known as “one-bushel boxes”. Sheets of paper were placed on either ends of the crates with the artwork/brand to identify which farm or orchardist they were from.

“The artwork typically contained illustrations of the fruit, orchards and surrounding valley or mountain landscape. Bold, primary colours were used based upon the printing techniques common at the time. This style is very evident in our labels, combined with modern design flares, like the chevron die-cut and metallic gold layer overlaid for the logo and trees in the orchard. We worked with illustrator Jode Thompson to create the apple landscapes that helped give them a vintage feel. The Dominion wordmark was custom created and was inspired by typography of the 1930s – 40s, with a nod to that used by the Experimental Farm around that time.”

Pamela Rounis is an amazing designer. We got introduced to her through founder Luke Cyca’s wife, Michelle. She and Pam were co-publishing Vancouver arts magazine Sad Mag. We loved her work and when we came to her with what we had in mind for the Dominion brand she turned out some really awesome designs. She also helped us find Thompson for the drawing work. We went through several iterations before we landed on the final brand identity – mainly because we were rookies and quite precious about it. We definitely laboured over the initial identity. Pam did a really great job corralling us, in addition to her excellent design work.

“Now, Pam knows us so well – the brand is as much hers as ours. So when she does new design work with us – for example, the new experimental series cider labels – we trust her completely and she nails it on the first try. Those labels were super fun because we wanted the design to be free and different from our main identity, except for a few anchors. We’ve actually got new designs coming for this latest harvest’s experimental series ciders, of which there are several new releases coming this spring and summer. We threw Pam the keys and let her do her thing. We’re very excited about them.”

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