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Direct-to-can printing company cultivates MIAD partnership

A tiered tower of aluminum cans with various designs

Packaging Design, Communication Design class, 2023

For the second year in a row, students in the Packaging Design course at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MIAD) will visit Milwaukee’s Craft Beverage Warehouse, a direct-to-can printing company.

Part of the Communication Design major at MIAD, the 3D Packaging Design elective asks students to explore the process of designing three‑dimensional packages, with emphasis on symbols, shape, color, illustration and typography. In previous iterations of the class, students designed cardboard packaging to advertise a fictional beverage like tea or sparkling juice. Now, they have the opportunity to work with a professional printing company to print their designs directly onto aluminum cans.

“Getting out in the real world, you learn so much more,” says Associate Professor Brian Bowles, who teaches the course. “With our project, it allows them to see this thing that they’ve designed come to fruition. It’s nice, it’s always a very exciting thing for them to see. It’s one of the first times they can see an actual end product that’s professionally done.”

Craft Beverage Warehouse, co-founded by Kyle Stephens and Michael DeGrave, also employs MIAD alum Haley Rand ’20 (Communication Design) as lead designer. “Craft Beverage Warehouse providing this opportunity is very valuable to the students,” continues Bowles. “They offer this unique printing experience, and for students to be able to go there and see it, it can really open up doors for them in thinking about how they would get a project printed in the future.”

A group of students and staff take a tour at Craft Beverage Warehouse

Craft Beverage Warehouse tour, 2023.

Back in class, Bowles sees the field trip making an impact in his students’ work. “One of the big things they learn from this is thinking about how design can be affected by material and printing technique, and how to set up those files for a production that incorporates more than just CMYK out of a printer,” he says. Deciding whether and where to use the metallic background of the can or a glossy or matte finish is another unique challenge for students. “Those aren’t things that you necessarily see on your screen. There’s a little bit of a leap of faith that they have to take. To see them making those changes, going through that thought process is really important,” explains Bowles.

The best part of the upcoming visit? Students will get to see their finished can designs printed professionally by Craft Beverage Warehouse. “Professionally printing student projects doesn’t make sense monetarily, so it’s awesome that they are able to provide this as an experience for the students,” finishes Bowles.

Learn more about MIAD’s Communication Design major!

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