It all began with lunch. The sunlight was filtered through the Portland overcast, as I sat with good friends from the local Coast Guard base, in a small Italian deli. One of them began to recall what he had enjoyed about the city so far, and how he would miss it, as he was due to transfer soon. During this casual chat a comment was made about farewell gifts, and how they were always the same and likely always would be.
I have never been one with much knowledge about military ceremony, although they have certainly intrigued me over the years. I began to admire the foil cover I had peeled from my Lemonata soda, and ran the course textured metal through my fingers. Bending it, creasing it... Half mumbling I mused to myself "It's a shame that everyone gets the same thing, especially with so many talented artists in Portland. It would be nice if the station gave each person something unique that represented the city and the military simultaneously...". The table got quiet, and they all looked at me, until someone said "True, but we wouldn't know where to look for someone who could do that".
I continued to run the soda cover through my fingers, and began to run ideas through my head. Looking over at the station's Executive Officer I decided to throw a pitch, "Well it's not hard. I am someone who can do that, and we see eachother practically every week. Just think about what Portland is known for; good food, especially it's liqours and beers. It is also a port city, being Portland after all. So you have shipping crates coming and going, vessels, and tradesman. You see them everyday when you patrol the river. I would draw inspiration from that".
Pausing for a moment I realize the whole table has gone from glancing at me to listening, so I let my mind wander as I kept spoking. "I would want something that would recall all of this. Wooden shipping crates, waxed sail cord, textured traditional papers, all securing glass containers like those used in every local distillery and brewery. I would tie it all together with history; pay homage to the individual groups that formed the Coast Guard when the nation was first born". In an hour what had began as lunch with friends, and their coworkers, became a new task for myself, and anticipation for all who had taken part.
The concept was simple, but fitting. A glass bottle, a container to protect it, all made cohesive through design. The first step I took was creating labeling and tagging for the individual bottles.
The hangtags consist of a layered design; a pine wood tag is attached, and on it is a true 1945 United States Coast Guard stamp, issued by the United States Postal Service. Only once has the Postal Service honored the Coast Guard, and they did so in a beautiful manner. Adding this element meant that I was able to ensure that every individual who recieved this gift would truly be holding a piece of the history of the service for which they serve.
Nestled above, and below, each wooden tag is a cut to measure sheet of archival cotton pulp. Chosen for it's PH neutral, acid free, qualities, it protects the stamp it shields to add longevity to this element. The top layer is finished with a hand stamped seal for the US Revenue Cutter Service; one of the many organizations that formed the Coast Guard in 1790.
As a finishing element each tag is topped with a layer of cotton vellum, and tied with wax sailing cord The color of the cord, and all elements of this design, are made using the current approved Pantone Matching System colors for the US Cost Guard.
Once the tag is numbered, using a black pigment ink pen, it is hand tied to it's bottle, and secured with a kraft paper ribbon.
To ensure attention to detail I had applied every element to each individual bottle. A single designer, from beginning to end, designing and crafting the final product.
The rear label features a message of thanks for the ongoing service and protection provided to the city of Portland.
Seen in full further down the front label features a custom design done in the style of a traditional wood block carving, displaying a rescue boat breaking waves, with Mt. Hood in the background.
When I saw that the Coast Guard had a Pantone approved color for gold I instantly decided to add an element for a wax seal, utilizing the current Coast Guard emblem, and in the approved gold color.
The bottle, and it's case, are wrapped in bleached parchment, and bound using natural twine. The twin, and parchment, are secured using copper nails as they would have been in the late 1700's. Again the kraft ribbon is utilized, with a wide kraft ribbon on the lower half that has been hand stamped to clearly identify the package as property of the United States Coast Guard.
The lighthouse symbol seen on the bottle, and the outer packaging, represents the United States Lighthouse Service, as they played a key role in the formation of the Coast Guard.
Once opened the recipient is provided with a pine slide top container, that has been hand crafted in New Jersey. The label continues the use of kraft paper, a readily available material for traditional shipping crate labels, and a message of encouragement.
The pine container is unique to the individual bottle it houses, and can be paired with the bottle by matching the number seen in the upper corner of the slide out top.
Every container has my signature in silver ink that is visible under direct light, to signify that it has been hand assembled and inspected before wrapping.
Once opened the full bottle can be seen, nestled in translucent Coast Guard Red wrapping, and in a newsprint shred made from local independent newspapers that are currently in circulation.
Seen here the bottle and container are placed alongside miltary issue flags and challenge coins. One can easily identify consistency in color and design elements from the government issue items to the handcrafted bottle and container.
The men and women serving in the United States Coast Guard truly live every day by the statement "Semper Paratus". They mobilize at a moments notice, both to defend the nation and the individuals within it. They have saved countless lives both at home and abroad, with great modesty.
Seen here all elements has a unique, cohesive, visual communication language. When presented to the Commanding and Executive Officer's of the station the joy was almost palpable. As he least recognized and honored branch of the United States Armed Forces the goal for this project was to dedicated as many resources, from time to materials, to ensure that the Coast Guard was truly paid respect in the final design.
The band that extends along the center of the bottle is made from .02mm banded maple, that has been sanded to a smooth velvet like finish, and then sealed in a traditional manner using Danish Oil. This technique gives the grain an incredible shine, while maintaing a natural feel and protecting the wood from decay.
The entire process was truly an honor, and as a design I will forever be grateful for the opportunity provided to me. Not only in knowing that the station, and the United States Coast Guard, were elated with the results, but in knowing that I was able to provide a truly unique gift for the men and women who serve at the Coast Guard station in Portland, Oregon.