1. September 15, 2014

    We had a wonderful time in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, meeting with the group behind Fernson Brewing Co. We’ve been working with them for a few months on naming, positioning and branding their new production brewery and were excited to head up there and see the space itself.

    We should have their identity finished in a few weeks and will then move straight into package design and typography design (a first for us!).

    Stay tuned.

  2. September 5, 2014

    450 North’s cans arrived yesterday and should be filled in the next few weeks! 

  3. September 3, 2014

    Design Ethics ( with a splash of bourbon )

    A lot of attention has been drawn to the craft whiskey market recently, and for good reason. If you don’t feel like reading a long article about whiskey production, the gist of this piece is that an enormous amount of “craft” whiskey marketed and sold in the US is actually distilled in a huge facility in southern Indiana. It’s something that a lot of folks in our industry ( distributors, distillers themselves and branding / package design firms ) have been aware of, and quiet about for a while. And this wouldn’t matter, except that there are several egregious examples of falsified brand stories developed to sell this liquor. 

    There are companies that buy their product straight from MGP ( Midwest Grain Products, the large production plant ) and go on to develop elaborate back stories detailing heirloom recipes that’ve been artfully distilled in the remote hills of Bourbon Country by a stoic 95 year-old man, and so forth. It’s pretty shocking when you think about it. 

    We’ve been following these stories closely as they touch on one of CODO’s most recurring internal conversations—to whom are designers (and the companies that hire us) held accountable? 

    A designer’s job is to make a product jump off of a shelf and into someone’s cart, home and life. To differentiate it from every other option out there. To get people to act, to entertain them, to educate them—to tell a compelling story in a beautiful, smart way. But what if there is no story? What if you have to, at the very best, fib, and at the very worst, blatantly lie to sell something? 

    Now comes the second big question, does this matter? Well, no—at least not in the grand scheme of how the world works. After all, we’re talking about luxury products and people with money to blow on luxury products. BUT, does that still make it ok for a design firm to lie to to customers in order to sell a product? 

    I’m not sure if there’s a clear answer, but I’ll share CODO’s perspective. We believe a design firm, and any company for that matter, should never lie to sell something. If you can’t find anything compelling about the product, company or other aspect of this equation—even after considering positioning amongst competition, current market trends and so on—to communicate through design, then you have to ask yourself if the product even needs to exist. I know it’s a tall order for a design firm to stand in front of a potential client and tell them their product is bullshit and that it should never see the light of day, but we believe there should be more self-policing within our industry. 

    We police ourselves by only taking on projects we believe in and routinely turn away work (some of it, well-paying) that doesn’t sit well with us—whether for environmental reasons, political reasons, public health concerns, or that hard to quantify this-product-is-dumb-and-you-should-be-ashamed-of-it scenario.

    Ok, back to whiskey. 

    I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with buying, bottling and selling whiskey like this ( in fact, some of my favorite Bourbons come from MGP ), I just think design firms and clients alike, need to dig deeper to tell the spirit’s story. 

    It shouldn’t have to be said, but as an industry, we need to not lose sight of ethics in our day to day work. To whom are we accountable? First and foremost, to ourselves.



    The famous Tibor Kalman vs. Joe Duffy debate.

  4. August 26, 2014

    Oh hey, our new share box for Sitka Salmon Shares was just featured on The Dieline (one of the most visited design blogs in the world)! 

    Click here to see more! 

  5. August 22, 2014

    We wrote another branding article for Craft Brewing Business. This one’s about what goes into naming a craft brewery. Check it out on their site or read it below if you don’t feel like clicking the link.


    Having a great name for you craft brewery is every bit as important as brewing great beer, because it communicates, even before people see your logo, what you stand for, what you believe in, and why someone should care about you. It’s the foundation for your brand identity, responsive web design, packaging, tasting room vibe, marketing and overall culture. And if it isn’t well thought out, it can dog you for years. 

    In this industry, a winery from across the world or a brewery from around the corner can sue you for naming rights. Craft Brewing Business has already published an outstanding series on trademark law, so we won’t delve into that, but rather, look at naming a brewery from a branding and positioning standpoint and discuss what makes for a “good” name. 


    The most important element of naming a brewery in this crowded market is availability. Is there another brewery/winery/distillery with the same (or similar) name? How about a similar beer name? Is your URL available? How about social media handles? It’s frustrating, but with the amount of lawsuits flying around, this needs to be a driving force in naming any brewery from here on out. 


    Your name should reflect your brand essence. Do you have a special brewing process? Is there something special about your team, how you got your start, where you’re located, and so on. 

    EXAMPLE: Anchor Steam’s name is a nod to a historic nickname for beer brewed under primitive conditions on the West Coast. Their classic bottle shape and overall branding align to support this narrative. 


    Being easy to spell and recall doesn’t necessarily mean that your name has to be short, though that can be a great attribute as well. No matter the length, your name needs to be something people can easily pronounce. 

    EXAMPLE: Daredevil Brewing Co.’s name is short and easy to spell. Plus they make a damn good IPA.


    This can be hard to quantify, but a good name is fun to say and can be an important element of solid brand strategy. Consider a name with assonance. Or an irreverent name. Or a short phrase. Like beer, names can be judged on their mouthfeel.

    EXAMPLE: Dogfish Head’s name is fun and weird. You might even say it’s off-centered. Seriously, who doesn’t like Dogfish Head?


    Does your brewery name lend itself to larger theming or branding campaigns? Think about your flagship beers and how their names can further enhance your overall brand name and story. 

    EXAMPLE: Tin Man Brewing Co. in Indiana has a great name that lends itself to broader brand strategy. Their overall identity centers around a robot supported by beer names like “Circuit,” Alloy,” and “Rivet.”

    Some other considerations: 

    Be careful with made-up words:

    Made up words can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, they tend to be available—and can seem like a godsend after ripping your hair out from the naming process. However, keep in mind that these can often carry no ingrained meaning to potential customers. Of course you have to tell your story over time through great branding and beer, but why start off in the hole if you can avoid it? 

    Que esta su nombre? 

    It’s important to make sure your name doesn’t translate to something unsavory in another language (this can extend to include slang). It took 2 years of being in business for us to discover that our name, CODO, translates to “elbow” in Spanish. This could’ve been much worse and I guess you could say we lucked out, anatomically speaking.

  6. August 19, 2014

    Here’s a sneak peek at our 450 North can designs. These bad boys made it through TTB approval and should be out in the wild later this year. 

  7. August 15, 2014

    After designing their salmon share box, we tackled Sitka Salmon Shares' broader seafood box. Building on our ongoing branding work, this badboy more clearly highlights Sitka, AK and includes a fun seafood pattern of some of the species you can expect throughout the season. 

  8. August 11, 2014

    We’re proud to share our branding work for Union 50

    This new bar is just north of Mass Ave, on East Street, and has one of the coolest interiors in town. From the outside, the building is somewhat nondescript, but stepping inside reveals an expansive, amazingly-designed space, thanks to the cool folks at Phanomen Design.

    In addition to a great menu and cocktail list, Union 50 transforms into a small concert venue later in the evening and has become one of our favorite places to wind down after a long night.

  9. August 3, 2014

    We wrote another branding article for Craft Brewing Business. This one’s about about when a craft brewery should rebrand and how it should go about doing so. Check it out on their site or read it below if you don’t feel like clicking the link.


    This piece is aimed at established breweries. Whether you’ve been brewing for five years, or for 25, rebranding can be an important step to reflecting positive changes and growth to your audience. But it’s not something to be taken lightly and there are some important factors that should drive the decision. Let’s talk about some of these reasons as well as additional issues to consider before undertaking the process.

    Starting off, businesses don’t rebrand just for the sake of rebranding. “Hey, it’s Tuesday. Let’s spend $50K!” There’s got to be a problem you’re trying to solve, or an opportunity you can’t pass up. Some reasons a brewery may consider rebranding:

    • Your homespun look, while adored by many longtime fans, may not properly reflect your core values to new customers.
    • Your identity, packaging and/or website are dated. It happens.
    • Your website is barely usable and it’s got you thinking about other communication tools.
    • Your competition is aggressively marketing and selling more beer than you.
    • You’re going to be distributing in a new market (or you’d like to).
    • You’re repositioning (new beer styles, new location, new concept/etc. )

    One of the most important things to consider when looking to rebrand is taking stock of your brand equity. Basically, this is all the positive connotations, messaging and positioning you already represent to your audience. This translates to your visual identity system as well — do you “own” a certain color, typeface, texture or other visual element? Think New Belgium Brewing Co.’s iconic cruiser or Anchor Steam’s anchor and ribbon illustration.

    Taking stock of your brand equity is important because it gives you a foundation for moving forward with the rebranding process. What elements are absolutely critical, and which can be jettisoned? If an update is in order, what elements do you need to maintain to ensure your current customers aren’t lost trying to find your beer on tap or on shelves?

    Brand equity is determined through a larger brand audit process. This entails reviewing all of your communication channels, tools, messaging, audience(s), broader positioning and your brand essence. We wrote a piece on defining your brand essence a couple weeks ago.

    And all of this is assuming you still want to maintain some elements from your initial branding. But what if you’re looking to start with a clean slate? Maybe your head brewer, due to a series of unfortunate life choices, had to fake his own death and move to Rio. Maybe a brewery across the country decides to sue you because your name kind of sounds like a one-off seasonal they brewed back in 2002. Look, it happens.

    No matter the reason, if you’re looking to completely start from scratch, it’s largely the same process as defining your brand essence, only you’re not so much looking toward the past as you are toward the future and where you’d like to position your brewery.


    1. Try to pin down exactly why you want to rebrand. What communication problems are you facing on a daily basis? Get this into writing and ask other people on your team for their input as well. If you need to rebrand bad enough, you won’t be the only one who knows it.

    2. What does your brewery stand for? Does your logo design, packaging and website reinforce this message? How about your advertising?

    3. A brand audit can be a great way to begin this process. Hiring a design firm is critical in this process.

    4. Check out New Belgium’s recent rebranding for a great example of maintaining existing brand equity and the charm of their old packaging while positioning as a top-tier craft brewery.

  10. July 25, 2014

    Today marks CODO’s 5th anniversary, and that’s a nice round number. Five years ago, when Cody and I graduated from Herron and founded this business, people told us that our first anniversary would be a momentous occasion because, “Only 1 out of X businesses survive their first year.” Then, we heard it was actually 2 years. And then 3 years, and then 5 and 7 and 10. The goalposts will probably never stop moving, but I feel like this anniversary is a pretty big deal.

    The biggest thing this number represents is that internally, I feel like we’ve matured into whatever it is that comes after the start up phase—a teen business? Tween business?? That’s it folks, CODO has matured into a beautiful tween branding and web design firm. You’re probably wondering what that means. So am I, and I apologize. 

    Anyway, 5 years is a big deal for us, and rather than go on and on with weird, poorly constructed metaphors about success and maturity, I’ll just give you a run down of some of this year’s highlights. 

    The biggest thing we’ve done this year is hire Ryan Herrmann. Aside from being one of the funniest people we’ve ever met, he’s an incredible talent and is already fast on his way to becoming one of the area’s best designers. 

    Around this time last year, we survived a significant office robbery. Don’t worry, we recovered. And thrived, even. 

    After a two month marketing campaign, we launched Indianapolis’ most popular new food truck.

    After designing and launching dozens of client websites, we finally managed to launch CODO’s new responsive site. It’s not even six months old and we’re already toying with the idea of redesigning it altogether. We’re our own worst clients. 

    We won a Gold ADDY for our package design work on Bone Snapper Rye Whiskey. Now, we can join the thousands of design firms across the country that tout being “award-winning.” Ahhhh, victory! 

    We’ve been taking a new Nora brewpub, Big Lug Canteen, through our Hands-on Branding process since early summer. In addition to being fun to hang out with, these guys have hired us to name their brewery, design tap handles, beer labels, a responsive website and all the related ephemera you can think of. We feel this way with nearly every project, but Big Lug is shaping up to be some of the best work of our careers.  

    Our early package design work for Sitka Salmon Shares earned our team a trip to Alaska and since then, our branding, fully-custom e-commerce responsive website, marketing and print design have received an absurd amount of national, earned media (both for CODO and Sitka Salmon Shares) across many lifestyle publications, industry-defining design blogs, as well as a prominent feature in Entrepreneur Magazine.

    Additional highlights include branding Indianapolis’ newest Cultural District, Market East, as well as launching Ex. Ex., Midwest, a magazine examining midwestern food culture.

    On the digital front, CODO continued designing beautiful, robust responsive websites and this year saw the launch of several gorgeous ones for clients including: Daredevil Brewing Co, Sitka Salmon Shares, the Indy Food Council, Fresh Bucks Indy and Tree House Yoga.

    We’ve seen a big spike in paid speaking engagements across the country, including traveling to Wisconsin to present to the Stephens Point AIGA chapter as well as host an all-day workshop on our Hands-on Branding process. This thought leadership has also translated into writing on branding and positioning for the craft beer industry blog, Craft Brewing Business.

    And perhaps the most exciting thing as we head into our 6th year is that we essentially blinked and ended up working with 6 craft breweries—5 from Indiana and a brand new, yet-to-be-named production brewery in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. 

    As always, thanks to everyone who’s hired us, spoken highly of us, checked our egos, referred us, and kept up with us as we continue building this business. And thanks to our family and friends that continue to put up with us—it means a lot. Follow along as we mature into a healthy twenty-something design firm, or whatever it is that comes after the tween phase.