Opening Day: Designing in the Heart of Lancaster, PA
I have a big family… and I’m not just talking about aunts, uncles, and cousins. My sister-in-law’s family (The Grillos), for example, makes sure that my fiancé and I are invited to all their get-togethers and are given seats at any table they set. That’s something special.
The Grillos also own a few acres of land in Refton, Pennsylvania (just a stone’s throw from Lancaster), and graciously allow us to hunt, fish, or camp on it whenever we please.
It was actually there that I got my first doe. When we found her after sundown, my brother, his father-in-law, and his best friend all gathered to help me process the meat.
Inspiration From the Great Outdoors (and Family)
The land itself is inaccessible by car; you have to drive parallel to a cornfield down into a grassy, wooded area and park, throw on some hip-waders, climb down a steep cliff, cross Big Beaver Creek, and hike your way in.
It does have some human touches: the Grillos built a covered porch area with a tin roof a few years ago. There’s a firepit in the center of a clearing where we usually set up tents, and one more up the hill, a few acres back. Otherwise, it is a gloriously overgrown haven of nature.
Bordering the land, an Amish farm fences in a Pony (a few years ago, a Bull). Further North, acres of nettle blanket forested soil. The cover and lack of human presence makes it irresistible to herds of deer. Even more so now that my brother and I planted dozens of trees for them to snack on a few weeks ago.
For many years, the Grillos have hosted Trout Opening Day on this little slice of paradise. Some years are rowdier than others, but this year was one of my favorites: with just my Dad, his best friend, myself, my fiancé (who wandered off to a grassy hill to read a poetry book in the sun), and my brother Andrew.
An hour or so in, a family friend waded on into the creek. Then, my nephews and their Dad coincidentally made an appearance. It just so happened that a house bordering that same stream used to belong to their family (small world).
It was frigid in the morning, which made catching any trout challenging. But we enjoyed watching the sunrise, spotting a great blue heron flying above, and red-tailed hawks circling the adjacent field. Around lunch, we drove to the Grillos home property just a few miles away for hotdogs and a gigantic roast lamb.
The following day we were lucky enough to enjoy Easter with vaccinated loved ones, including my parents, siblings, niece, grandparents, and great grandmother. It was an awesome weekend, and I really needed it after such a difficult year.
From Big City Designer to Small-town Outdoorsman
I can’t deny that being a graphic designer in Philadelphia was a lot of fun. I really did have the world at my fingertips: with every kind of food, activity, art, and culture available to me at my convenience, inspiration was not difficult to come by.
A simple 5 minute walk down the street could expose me to masterful logo and apparel designs, both in shop windows and on people.
Every day there was a concert/performance, art show, craft fair, or a random performance in a park nearby to get my wheels turning.
But there is just something about being a Lancaster local that draws you back here: and it’s not just that we have all of those things, on a smaller scale, happening in the city's downtown area.
It’s the rural landscapes, pastoral fields, flora and fauna, woods and hiking trails… it’s the opportunity to get outside, connect with the land. But , mostly, for me, it is about having this community of people around to share it with.
The big city afforded me opportunities I would’ve never dreamed of at home: I worked with the Philadelphia Eagles, met my fiancé and a slew of diverse and wonderful friends, quit my job and started freelancing full-time.
But being in Lancaster gives me something that is not repeatable, replaceable, or imitable: family.
And there are boundless opportunities here, anyway, to practice my craft (for the benefit of my family, too). A few examples are below.
Branding for Huegel Handcrafted
My brother Andrew has always been handy. He gets it from my Dad and my PopPop; the Huegel family has had a long tradition of being woodworkers and craftsmen, and it’s been amazing to see it passed down and manifest differently from generation to generation. Even my cousins are all talented creatively.
We had an idea a few years ago to really hone in on these gifts and share them with the world. Just this year, Andrew & I were able to bring this brand to life with Huegel Handcrafted.
For the logo and brand design, we wanted it to be nostalgic, comfortable, robust, personal, wise, gentle, and a little funny; like a loving, trustworthy grandfather.
This brand is personal for us, for Andrew and I but also for the Huegels… we are telling real family stories, digging into our personal history, and exposing a century-old family tradition to the public. Because of this, the heart of this brand has been authenticity, craftsmanship, and locality.
This is not to mention that every last good is designed, handcrafted, tested, tuned, handsewn, and built by a Huegel… so every last product is unique and one-off. Never mass produced!
To see the entire website design and finished brand identity, (also to check out our wallets, turkey calls, and field journals) visit: HuegelHandcrafted.com.
Logo & Branding for Huegel Taxidermy
Taxidermy is something we often think of as the creepy, doll-like animals mounted in our grandfather’s wood-panelled den. My brother Andrew redefines taxidermy entirely: he is equal parts artist and outdoorsman.
He knows the animals he hunts from tail to snout, and because of that, his taxidermy is genuinely beautiful and hyper realistic.
When I was designing Andrew’s logo, my objective was to bring taxidermy into the 21st century: while he is super experienced and wise beyond his years, Andrew is a young artist with new perspective and innovative methods that allow his mounts to be a step above the rest.
His logo design is retro yet modern, symbolizing the respect he has for the sport of hunting and the traditions that come along with it, but adding a gentle suggestion that we allow taxidermy to evolve as an artistry.