The Red Sox Get Dirty with Dirty Bandits
Baseball brings millions of fans together every year to sit in the sun, cheer on their teams, and kick back a couple cans of suds. The sport has been America’s past time for decades, connecting generations of families, and inspiring friendships new and old. For Annica Lydenberg of Dirty Bandits who grew up in Boston, baseball was a huge part of growing up. “We didn’t take a lot of vacations or eat out or do things like that. The one special thing that we did was go to Fenway and go to Red Sox games. That was the biggest treat of my childhood. So I used to go with my dad all the time,” Annica explains. “Even in High School the Red Sox were not winning so tickets to sit in the bleachers were just as cheap as going to the movies so I picked going to a game.” When Budweiser approached her to design a new can for the Red Sox that would only be available at Fenway Park and the outlying area it was an unbelievable opportunity.
Not only did she design the can, and a handful of digital assets, she was invited to the first game of the year. And of course she brought her father. “It was pretty mind-bending, to go to Fenway Park for Opening Day this year and take my dad and see people drinking out of Budweiser cans that I had designed for the Red Sox,” she says. “My 15-year-old brain would have exploded.”
That mind explosion isn’t just about working with the Red Sox and Budweiser, but also about becoming a part of that landmark. As a commercial illustrator in 2017, it’s possible to create work that will live on in all sorts of different spaces, but to become such a large part of a personal landmark is incredibly meaningful for Annica. “When you can go to Fenway Park and see your work… There were ads up for the cans in the stadium! There’s a giant 10ft tall version of can that lives up on the Budweiser deck at Fenway! And it says my name on the can! It says Dirty Bandits on the can!” Dirty Bandits is now a part of a history Annica has always witnessed, and will now be a part of what the next generation experiences.
All those years rooting for the Red Sox has had an impact on Annica and her family beyond just inspiring love for a sports team. Before 2004 it has been 86 years since the last time they won a World Series. That can have a profound effect on how a fan approaches winning and losing. “I had a conversation with my Dad once about whether or not he thought people could change,” Annica says. “And he said, ‘Some things are fundamental to a person and will never change.’ And I said, ‘What’s fundamental to you?’ And he said, ‘I grew up a Red Sox fan, I will always root for the underdog.’ And there’s just, the joy of rooting for the underdog, the losses aren’t so catastrophic because they’re not unexpected, and the wins are just so good.”
We can always choose to not be dragged down too heavy by a loss, and celebrate every win like it was impossible. But the most important choice is to just keep going, and working at it. Unless, of course, you want to take a break with a beer.
Dirty Bandits Turns a Decade's Long Project into a Career
This past winter, like every winter for the last ten years, Annica Lydenberg of Dirty Bandits released her Calendar of Silly Holidays. Every month gets its own holiday. March has Pencil Day on the 30th. May 19th is National Pizza Party Day. July 14th is Cow Appreciation Day. A collection of 12 cards come in per pack of holidays, each illustrated with digital lettering, but even though she makes each of the illustrations from scratch she’s not inventing the holidays. They’re all completely real. “Every year I have to research a lot,” she says with a laugh. Ten years in she has to find holidays that are more and more obscure – she doesn’t want to double dip.
The calendar started as the very first lettering project that she ever did, but this single project has helped shape the entire trajectory of her career. She’s used it as a tool to explore artistically, and as a calling card to remind the industry that she’s out there working and of all the different skills she has. “I send this out to potential clients and, it was actually how I ended up getting involved with B&A,” she explains. It took sending a B&A agent her calendar for four years, but eventually the work followed and now she’s a part of the roster here.
“It’s always a chance to practice different styles to show off something that I want to be hired for something more,” she explains. “Early on in lettering it was a great way to experiment because each holiday requires totally different illustration and I can use a different style of lettering and then one year I wanted more chalk jobs so I made the entire calendar in chalk and that worked great. People would see it on their desk every month and be like ‘Oh yeah! Annica does that!’”
After this year Annica has decided to retire the Calendar, so she’s now looking for another calling card to make her own. In the meantime she’s using her skills for a new ongoing project: political activism. “I appreciate that people can post on their Facebook wall but that I could actually post on an actual wall. And that to me was a really interesting,” she says. “I really enjoy taking what I learn from what other people are sharing that really speaks to me that grabs me, and then turning it back in a new way for a new audience.” She taken her skills to paint messages on walls, design tee-shirts, and even paint signs that found their way to the Women’s March on DC in January.
“My goal is not to criticize anyone who supports a particular politician or anything like that. My goal is to make the people that are being marginalized feel supported,” she explains. “I’m doing this project to help the people who are scared feel less alone.”
Vault 49 Opens a New World for Grind
How do you take your morning coffee? Do you like a bold blend or something a little smoother? Milk, cream, maybe something soy? Sugar is an option, but so is agave, or something a little darker like a raw sweetener? The possibilities are practically endless, and each choice is as personal as any other. Building a morning mug of coffee is like building a cocktail and no one knows this better than Grind Espresso Spirit, an espresso based liqueur. Grind has been winning awards for decades but recently came to Vault 49 to help them rethink their identity. “Re-position and re-design Grind to make it more relevant to consumers today. However there was also a secondary – and equally essential – objective,” explains Vault 49. “We needed to show that our packaging solution would have a grounding in product-relevant authenticity, and have the substance to support an off-pack brand world and drive consumer-focused stories.”
Packaging is like a handshake, it speaks for the product as a first impression for the consumer. It has to strike the right balance between being personal and aspirational, it must communicate the ideals of the product while at the same time being accessible to a shopper. So Vault 49 invited Grind to their studio and involved them in the creative process. “Exciting and unpredictable creative processes are often hidden from clients by agencies who are concerned either that they are weak in this area, or that the practice is too unpredictable,” explains Vault 49. “By laying our process bare we were able to achieve such excitement and senior client buy-in for the re-launch that it made the rest of the design process and sign-off a relative breeze. Our client saw the potential, and as a result also drove Vault 49 to deliver bigger and better.” Vault 49 got Grind on their side from the quick, and the rest became a creative torrent. In fact, that exhibition included a live chalk drawing by Annica Lydenberg of Dirty Bandits, whose process we’ve included a video of.
But Vault 49 didn’t stop there, they also created a comprehensive brand identity for Grind that starts with the packaging but also encapsulates everything that represents them online, all the way down to accessories that carry the brand’s story. This kind of total brand reimagining can only happen with exquisite trust, something that Vault 49 earned from Grind, and something that will translate directly to consumers. “Our clients love to see the humanity of our team and our work, and we’re confident that same humanity is much more likely to be evident to consumers as a result,” says Vault 49. Cheers!
Take a Bottle Off the Wall with Dirty Bandits
We come into contact with beer bottles all the time, and they’ve almost become a pedestrian object in our daily lives. But Annica Lydenberg, the creative force behind Dirty Bandits, has come up close and personal with almost a hundred of them for her latest project entitled “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall.” As a non-beer drinker (she drinks mainly wine, and bourbon sometimes), she didn’t give much thought to beer bottles before this project. But now it’s almost like seeing a new world. “I have been full of appreciation for just how beautiful the glass is and just the subtle differences between beer bottles, which I’ve certainly never picked up on,” Annica says. “On some level it’s the diversity of the beer bottles that are out there that I’ve never really thought about much before.” She’s spent the last couple months applying beer centric puns and word play to these dozens of bottles and now that they’ve become her tiny canvases, they’re something new to love.
The challenge has been that the bottles are so small. Since she’s using old school sign painting techniques on a teeny glass canvas, she’s really had to focus her approach. “What’s not easy is painting on something that small. And painting on something that’s round is actually impossible,” Annica says with a laugh. “It’s just been me and a size 0 brush for months now. Pulling straight lines on something that’s curved is very challenging.” On the other hand, tying the bottles into cultural history hasn’t been that much of a challenge considering the much beloved song that the project draws information from.
In one way, the bottles are totally deferential to the old song, but in another way it’s totally subversive. It takes a song that has become a marker of annoyance and turned it into something beautiful. “I love that it borrowed from the childhood traveling song,” says Annica. “I took a super irritating song from my childhood and turned it into a very adult art project, which was fun.” When broken down, the song is about communion and sharing space with people. That’s where Annica went in her exploration of this songbook staple.
It seems that Annica has made a habit of painting a large volume of items to be placed on the wall. But unlike her project with Weight Watchers the source of inspiration this time came from her friends. “It’s been a really fun thing to brainstorm with friends in bars when we’re out at night. I have an endless list going in one of my notes on my phone,” says Annica. “I don’t even drink beer. I’ve been buying a lot of beer for my friends. Every time I show up to a friend’s with a six-pack I’m like, ‘Can you drink these all while I’m here?’ Painting is so solitary, and this involved other people. So, that was really fun.”
“99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” will be on view at The Little Lodge, a gallery in San Francisco, from January 30 to February 21. The show happens to coincide with San Francisco’s Beer Week this year, so you can find even more information on the official SF Beer Week website.
Dirty Bandits Recalibrates Self Value with Lean Cuisine
Not a day goes by when Americans aren’t faced with their own systemic health issues. Whether it’s learning that red meat causes cancer or being encouraged to try the latest fad diet, our relationship with our bodies is always in the conversation. That constant drumming can have a negative effect on how we value ourselves, seeing our lives as lived only through our bodies at the risk of discounting the rest of our human experience. Lean Cuisine is fighting back against this obsession with their latest campaign 'Weigh This' that gives the power back to the consumer, letting them decide what it is that’s most important about them. Participants were encouraged to go online and tweet what they found most important to understanding their own human experience, what they think should be weighed as their value. Each participant chose their own value, placing it above what their bodies weigh. Dirty Bandits was brought in to illustrate what users put forward as their experience. Annica Lydenberg of Dirty Bandits transposed each idea onto a scale and hung them during a limited installation in New York City’s Grand Central Terminal. 250 scales ended up creating a wall that dominated an entrance to the train station.
The installation was open to the public and thousands of people walked by every day. There was one viewer that affected Annica a little bit more than she was expecting. “I think the most intense part was when this woman stopped by from Long Island,” says Annica. “She knew that her tweet was going to be used, so she and her husband came in to see the wall and check out the project. Hers was ‘Caring For Over 200 Homeless Children.’ To see her and realize that was her story, it made it just so much more real.” She was invited to put the scale on the wall herself. When Annica handed it to her, they cried together. “I didn’t know it would be that overwhelming to meet the people,” says Annica.
The setting of Grand Central Terminal added a whole other element that put the wall of scales into particular focus because of the contrast of the public culture of the train station. “Usually in Grand Central you walk with your head down, you’re trying not to interact with people, you just need to get where you’re going,” says Annica. “It was different to know what struggles people had faced.” 750 thousand people pass through Grand Central every day, and every one of them has a story. It can be such a gift to remind ourselves that we get to write our own stories. We get to decide what will “weigh” as our value.