This Beer’s Wicked Good: Inside Moxie Sozo's Design for Samuel Adams’ Line of Wicked Beers
by Theresa Christine Johnson on 02/21/2022 | 4 Minute Read
When Jim Koch first brewed his great, great grandfather’s beer recipe in his kitchen in 1984, he might not have been able to anticipate the exciting future ahead of him. This homebrew eventually turned into Samuel Adams, a beloved beer brand credited with starting the craft beer revolution. Like so many great things, Samuel Adams got its start in Boston, and that family recipe is now known as Boston Lager, Samuel Adams flagship style.
Recently, however, they felt that while they had a solid base of Sam Adams fans at the core who grew with the brand, they needed to attract a newer, younger audience. They called long-time partner Moxie Sozo to help introduce a new line of innovative beers through packaging that was bold, fun, and swimming in personality.
And that’s how Wicked was born.
“The Sam Adams brand is very beloved and perceived as very traditional,” said Derek Springston, chief creative officer and partner at Moxie Sozo. “The Wicked sub-brand allows for more freedom to connect with a younger crowd.”
For Wicked Hazy and Wicked Easy, the former a juicy New England style IPA and the latter a light and hazy session IPA, Moxie Sozo wanted to push the Samuel Adams brand into new territory. "We wanted to energize people around the brand again—new and current consumers,” explained Nate Dyer, creative director and partner at Moxie Sozo. Most of the packaging for Samuel Adams features the man of the hour himself with the brand name front and center—and these were design elements that needed to be incorporated somehow. The team needed to spice things up while staying rooted in the Sam Adams family.
“We’ve created something that felt a little more dynamic and not so static with Sam,” Nate said. “We activated him on the can by integrating him with the other graphic elements, rather than just sitting above the logotype.”
The result? According to Gregory Pizzi, creative director for The Boston Beer Company (makers of Sam Adams, Dogfish Head, Truly, Angry Orchard, and Twisted Tea), a piece of packaging design that features the most prominent images of Sam “the man” than on any other of its offerings. Wicked beers don’t appear like they’re part of an equation of brand design; instead, custom typography and asymmetrical layout immediately tell drinkers that this is beyond the status quo.
That asymmetric quality wasn’t easy, either. The wordmark needed to stand out, while the typeface remained legible within the wedge-shaped section on the front. Moxie Sozo was also looking to the future—how would this design suit other products in this line? On top of that, the team needed to include key Samuel Adams elements. They were able to make something incredible, though, because of trust from Samuel Adams, who they’ve worked with before.
“It’s pressure testing,” said Mike Bowman, senior account director at Moxie Sozo. “We have a great relationship with Sam Adams. Often, they'll kick us off and say, ‘Push our thinking, even though we might not end up there.’ They like to see that range, they like to feel uncomfortable, and we do that, in a good way.”
“The idea Nate originally had was that Sam had X-ray vision and graphics were coming from his eyes, so we got reined back a little bit,” Derek said. “If we hadn’t done that in some of the initial explorations, they wouldn't have realized, ‘Okay, we can maybe play with Sam a little bit more than we're used to. We don’t need to have this strict lock-up with the name, and we can put them off-center.’ Those initial concepts and the ability to push them out of their comfort zone really helped.”
Ultimately, Moxie Sozo highlighted quality and ingredients while making something playful and refreshing. The cans feature plump hops and slices of citrus fruits floating in the background, while a rich color palette speaks to the juicy, refreshing flavors packed inside. The typeface is thick with personality but easy-to-read even at an off-kilter angle.
When asked what, exactly, has made the Wicked design so successful, Gregory stated, “The unique, organic, and flowing illustrative art forms encapsulate each beer’s flavor while retaining the brand equities of Sam Adams. An essential aspect of developing creative for the Wicked line was to ensure we'd be distinctive in an unexpected yet fun way while being recognizable to drinkers.”
The beer has indeed been wicked successful, and the brand world can easily come to life in its own way for product extensions.
“It’s great to hear how well it’s doing,” Derek said. “They’re sharing pictures with us. People at Fenway Park drinking Wicked Easy with signage that we worked on behind them. It’s out in the world, and the brand connects with people in all the ways we designed for.”