Behind the scenes: Steven Bonner for Ballantine’s Scotch Whisky

The Scottish illustrator brought pears, honey and more to life and created a bespoke typeface to boot in this thirst-quenching project for Ballantine’s Scotch Whisky

Award-winning illustrator Steven Bonner worked with digital agency Work Club to design an illustrated animation and typeface for Ballantine’s 12 Year Old, a premium Scotch Whisky.

Briefed to illustrate the seven main tasting notes - vanilla, cream, clementine, berries, oak, pear and honey – as illuminated letters, Bonner treated each as an “exercise in expressive drawing”, with each letter telling the story of its own flavour.

“I looked for ways to make each letter feel like the taste it represented,” he explains. “Matching the client's perception of how everything should look whilst keeping them within my own personal aesthetic was probably the most challenging part,” he adds. “It pushed me to explore the boundaries of my normally more flat style.”

Bonner’s illustrations for Ballantine’s were then animated as part of a story that asks viewers to ‘go beyond’ the blend to explore its unique aspects.

“Parts were added that could be targeted for animation – leaves, dripping honey and so on,” he explains. “Luckily, a lot of the tastes called for fluid parts, so the juicy parts lent themselves naturally to the motion process.”

Bonner also designed a custom typeface, which viewers can use to create a personalised Facebook cover image. The ornate design features both a flourished and simplified version of each character that users can mix and match to create their own logotype – and was inspired by the blend.

So…did the design process involve a lot of taste samples? “I'm not actually a big lover of whisky believe it or not so I don't think drinking it would have helped if I'm honest,” he laughs.

“I initially wanted the typeface to reflect the notes without letting them overpower it, and use the flowing nature of the additional flourishes to communicate the idea of the blend,” he continues.

“In the end though, a version was used where mini-illustrations representing each note were added to the letters to illustrate each one in a more obvious way, so the user would make the connection easily.”

Bonner is represented by boutique production agency Jelly London.

You can see more of his work here on his website.