Mystery caller says "Meet me in the Quarter. I got an interesting job for ya."
I love being a graphic designer in New Orleans—you never know what the next job will entail. Last year, I got a mysterious call from someone needing help. The call went something like this:
Me: I Design, this is Matt.
Mystery client: I need graphics help.
Me: Okay, I can probably help you. What exactly do you need?
Mystery client: I can't explain it, I need to show you. Can you meet me in the French Quarter?
Side note: Normally, I would try to get more information before agreeing to a personal meeting with a stranger in the French Quarter, but it was summer, it was slow, and I was intrigued.
Me (after a long pause of consideration): What's the address?
On the drive over, I'm wondering what kind of job the mystery client will pitch. As long as it's not a logo for a new strip club, or a website for a t-shirt shop, I'll be happy to at least hear him out.
So I met mystery client at a nice corner residence in the middle of the French Quarter where we discussed the job. His great-grandfather (I think) was a pharmacist back in the late 1800s and he had this old bottle of "Stomachic Bitters" that he wanted to mimic with a 2000s alcoholic drink. The new drink would have a label resembling the original "Hostetter's Celebrated Stomachic Bitters" artwork.
At first I thought this would be an impossible task. But I was so interested in the history and the challenge, I told him I'd think about it. After some consideration, I agreed to take the job. Luckily, in addition to the bottle pictured, he had some very old, faded artists renderings of the artwork of the man on horseback slaying what appears to be a serpent or some other mystical beast. That was by far the most complicated part of the job, so having that artwork in a somewhat workable format made the job much more doable.
I went to work on getting the main artwork traced and cleaned up, then started tackling the other challenges. The fonts are hand drawn, so digital versions didn't exist. I had to draw the headline font letter by letter. Luckily, I was able to find an existing font that matched the bottom text well enough to pass with some modifications.
I moved on to the intricate framing and corner flourishes and the background "shadows" which were actually just horizontal lines. The original artwork used to create the printed labels was probably etched in steel, so there were no gradients or shadows. The colors are true black and white—no grays or anything in between. I'd never worked on a job like this, but I enjoyed every minute of it.
Our plan was to print the label on uncoated, antique looking paper stock, with a faded sepia-toned color. Unfortunately, the product never made it to market, but you can view the final label artwork below: