UMSL students learn through Jubilee Brew

Charles Nowell, a junior majoring in art at UMSL, at Ferguson Brewing

Charles Nowell, a junior majoring in art at UMSL, designed the logos used for Jubilee Brew, an Irish-style red ale created by Ferguson Brewing to celebrate the university’s 50th anniversary. (Photo by August Jennewein)

Ferguson (Mo.) Brewing Company, the closest brewery to the University of Missouri–St. Louis, wanted to do something special to celebrate UMSL’s 50th anniversary. That led to Jubilee Brew, an Irish-style red ale made to honor a half century of education and excellence at the university. It also led to learning opportunities at UMSL. 

Perhaps no one can appreciate this more than Charles Nowell, who parlayed a celebratory beer into a head start on a graphic design career.

The 24-year-old junior studio art major was one of more than 30 students from two UMSL graphic design courses to submit proposed logos to represent Jubilee Brew. Nowell’s design was selected as the winner and is now emblazoned across shaker pints, growlers, coasters and T-shirts at the brewery. If you order a Jubilee Brew at Ferguson Brewing, it’s Nowell’s specially designed tap handle the bartender pulls for your pint pour.

“The coolest part of this is actually seeing somebody purchase the shirt, glass or growler with my design on it,” said Nowell, who’s interested in pursuing a career in motion graphics, print or web design in the St. Louis area.

The Crestwood, Mo., native originally set his career sites on clothing design and applied to faraway programs like the Fashion Institute of Technology at State College of New York, Parsons the New School for Design in New York and the Savannah (Ga.) College of Art and Design. Costs to attend those schools kept him in St. Louis where he matriculated at a community college and another university before transferring to UMSL. Nowell said he couldn’t be happier with the graphic design program he’s enrolled in at UMSL, especially the faculty members.

“They have really high standards, which is good because it pushes you harder,” he said.

For the Jubilee Brew logo design competition, Nowell said he had a little over three weeks to create his concept. He worked his way through four or five versions with various typefaces. After scrapping each of them, he ultimately designed his own font.

Nowell is a fan of fonts used in circus posters. It’s a classic style, he said, historic but timeless and not so serious that it feels stuffy. He paid homage to that in his design.

“When you look at old Ringling Brothers posters, they still feel relevant,” he said. “Like the old Coca-Cola typeface – it’s from a specific time period, but it’s still relevant today.”

For Nowell’s Jubilee Brew logo, he tried to instill St. Louis iconography, like a fleur-de-lis as the backdrop. He pointed to green hexagons and said they were to indicate hops.

Jennifer McKnight, associate professor of art at UMSL, oversaw Nowell’s class. She, along with Bruce Sachs, adjunct assistant professor of art, and representatives from Ferguson Brewing Co. and University Marketing and Communications at UMSL, judged the competition.

“Charles’ logotype is reminiscent of old poster broadsides you might find at the World’s Fair,” McKnight said. “We liked that he didn’t rehash UMSL’s logo, but extended our campus’ energy and spirit with active type.” 

Nowell said he’s learned a lot from the project, especially in working directly with printers in order to see his design come to fruition as Ferguson breweriana. He also enjoyed the experience as a craft beer fan who’s fond of the Schlafly brand and frequents Ferguson Brewing Co.

As far as craft beer design aesthetics, he lists St. Louis’ Urban Chestnut Brewing Company and Rogue Ales in Newport, Ore., among his favorites. He also really liked the Jubilee Brew designs concocted by his fellow classmates and said many of them could have easily been chosen as the winning design over his. Nowell remains grateful for the opportunity and experience gained, as well as the additions to his portfolio.

“I know he’s learned a lot from it,” McKnight said. “The design department is also pleased to have our work serving the community we live and work in.”

Nowell and his classmates weren’t the only UMSL students to learn from the Jubilee Brew. Josh Wilson, brewmaster at Ferguson Brewing Co., discussed the science of beer and gave members of the UMSL Chemistry Club a tour of the brewery in the fall. The club president and faculty adviser, Erin Lowry and Mike Nichols, respectively, returned this spring to help Wilson brew a batch of Jubilee Brew. And communication majors wrote about the beer in the quarterly UMSL Jubilee newsletter. 

Visit the UMSL YouTube page to view a video by Alicia Hottle-Sippy of Lowry, Nichols and Wilson’s brew day at Ferguson Brewing Co.


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