Blackened branding


Blackened Whiskey





Creating a new brand with two industry icons born in metal, forged in sound, and finished in wood.

As unapologetic masters of the craft in their respective fields, Metallica and Dave Pickerell have built world-renowned legacies by carving out new spaces and bringing their singular, incendiary perspectives to everything they touch. Our challenge was to take these two uniquely talented collaborators and create a brand to show the world their shared creative fire and dedication to the craft.

  • • Creative direction
  • • Logo design
  • • Visual language
  • • Advertising & marketing materials
  • • Sales materials
  • • Video design and editing
  • • Photography

Brand strategy

As a brand, BLACKENED had to be more than a whiskey. It had to carefully combine the best of both Metallica and Dave’s brands to create something new. The challenge was if the brand was too much Metallica then it would look like every other rock ‘n roll product in this space where the band put their brand above the product quality – and in this case that was the farther thing from the truth. But if it took on too much of Dave’s DNA then it ran the risk of not standout out enough in the space.

The resulting tension is a testament to their brands and creative process. It is the balance of the hard work and determination required to make something from nothing. It’s a monument to the ones who charge into the fray and come out the other side stronger, together. Fueled by decades of creative passion, BLACKENED is a distillation of the incomparable bond between the band and their community of fans.

Brand positioning

A large part of the project was clarifying and defining the brand archetypes for Metallica and Dave as a foundation for all work going forward. Normally this process would try to land on a single brand archetype but because of the complexity of both groups, the brand needed to be more complex.

The artist looks to create something of enduring value and beauty. They do it with confidence to be themselves and are often uninfluenced by the state of the world. This describes the style of both Metallica and Dave and their collective dedication to their craft.

The leader shows everyone else the way by imposing their creativity and vision through their voice. For both Metallica and Dave, their voice as a leader in their industry has lasted for decades.

Both the artist and leader are individually important parts of their brands, it is the combination that explains their success and impact. The artist often has a work ethic that leads to a single instance of success but is the leader who is then able to create something new from that work. Cycling between the two states has meant that they have been able to find success and evolve their work over the years.

Visual language

BLACKENED was the perfect name for a few reasons. From the Metallica side, it is the name of one of their iconic songs and is the name of the production company. From Dave’s side, it is part of the whiskey-making process where the barrels are blackened to create the caramel color of the liquid.

We handled the initial naming, brand strategy, and visual language design before handing it over to the Blackened internal team for management. However, we were requested to revisit the account after 4 years to update the positioning and visual language. Our approach began with a thorough audit of all the brand elements and iterations to gain comprehensive knowledge of their assets and brand versions.

Once the brand audit was completed, we went to work on simplifying and evolving the branding we had created years earlier. One of the biggest problems was the sound wave which was originally created from the actual file of James Hetfield singing the word Blackened from it's namesake song, but that version was so detailed that it looked muddy in almost every usage and iteration. we did a lot of explorations about to simplify the sound wave while keeping it's meaning and form. The result was a much more usable and effective brand element.

From there we went to make other refinements like updating the primary logo to even our the kerning, add small details like a notch in the center of the A to improve readability, more modern colors, and new typography.

Product re-design done in collaboration with Sterling Brands
Re-designed shippers
Product design matrix

Typography and texture

We wanted to give the san serif headline typography more character and depth so we turned to the legendary music poster Hatch Show Print for inspiration.

Based in Nashville, TN, Hatch Show Print has been a working letterpress print shop since 1879, using its vast collection of vintage type and hand-carved imagery to create timeless designs that express and commemorate America's evolving cultural identity. Sharing long-standing relationships with Grand Ole Opry stars and the Ryman Auditorium, among other historic Nashville landmarks, Hatch Show Print’s posters are woven into the fabric of Music City and beyond. The shop’s reach extends as far as the touring musicians who have traveled with their show posters and as far as the music venues throughout the country and internationally that have ordered their prints for upcoming performances.

We visited Hatch to go through their music poster archive, and print some posters of our own to get samples of their unique letterpress texture which we used to create an Adobe Smart Object we could apply to any Blackened headline,.

Typography texture detail

Working with James Hetfield to create Het Font Bold

We wanted to find a way to be able to bring James Hetfield into the brand more than had been done in the past. In working with him, we always loved his handwriting which was very distinctive, and full of personality.

James is a huge design and typography fan so he loved the idea and worked with us to create Het Font Bold which is used throughout the packaging, branding and advertising for Blackened.

Creating the innovative Black Noise sonic aging

BLACKENED Whiskey sonically-enhances their whiskeys to extract more flavor from the wood, using a proprietary scientific process co-developed by the engineers at Meyer Sound, a global leader in sound technology. Dubbed BLACK NOISE™, this sonic-enhancement process produces low frequency sound waves that cause the whiskey to reverberate at a fast rate, interacting with the oak staves of the barrel, unlocking its full flavor potential. The result is the one-of-a-kind BLACKENED Whiskey taste.

The methodology involves using advanced techniques like Spectrometry and Gas Chromatography to measure color, absorbance, and the levels of nine key markers (or wood compounds) from the Oak Aroma Panel. These markers correspond to flavors like toasted coconut, vanilla, butterscotch, caramel, and charr. Through this testing, we gained insights into the unique flavors and aromas that give our whiskey its distinctive taste.

Blackened launch video