Meet Alyssa Warnock, the graphic designer behind some of the Bay’s best branding
Never before has the concept of branding—the marketing practice of creating a name, symbol or design that identifies and differentiates a product from another product—been so important. In fact, branding doesn’t simply apply to products these days; it applies to anything and everything, from people (hello, Kim Kardashian) to places (“What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas”). Nothing can be successful without a strong brand. No one understands this idea better than Alyssa Warnock, a graphic designer who specializes in branding. Warnock is the mastermind behind some of the Bay Area’s most recognizable brands including La Boulangerie, Rustic Bakery, Jane, and the Marin Country Mart. “My favorite thing is to work for people with new ideas, entrepreneurs,” Warnock told the Nob Hill Gazette on a recent unseasonably warm morning. “I love people who are passionate about their ideas and their businesses and I get to help them bring it to life.”
One person whose vision Warnock brought to life is Alexis Traina. In 2009, Traina tapped Warnock to amp up the marketing for Swanson Vineyards. “She wanted me to come up with a new website design. I got what she wanted immediately and that’s why we formed such a good working relationship,” Warnock recalls. When it came time for the heiress and author to publish her first book, From Napa with Love, she insisted that Warnock design it. “Her publisher said, ‘We have an in-house art team who can design it,’ and she said, ‘No. They will not do it right. You have to do it.’” Warnock worked with Traina for six months, making sure that each page was perfect.
Another consistent client: James Rosenfield, the owner of the Brentwood, Montecito and Marin Country Marts, who hired Warnock to create the branding back in 2001. “He took a chance on me,” Warnock says. “We based that logo on a kind of historical reference. It’s interesting because somebody tells me about their business. Then they tell me the name and I usually get an instant visual.” Research is an essential aspect of Warnock’s design process. The Brentwood Country Mart dates back to 1948, so Warnock researched what a shopping center looked like at that time. For La Boulangerie, she spent months researching Parisian bakeries and French patisseries, searching for as much inspiration imagery as possible.
Like most creatives, Warnock sees the world slightly differently. The mother of 5-year-old twins observes things that other people normally wouldn’t—whether it is a color, an angle or a font. “I’m always looking—my eyes are always on and I notice things,” she says. Warnock has design in her blood. She grew up in Los Altos and says both of her parents were mentors. Her dad was an art enthusiast and her mother was a graphic designer who used a drafting board and Letraset letters to create her brands. “I watched her create designs all growing up.” Warnock went to school knowing she wanted to follow in her mother’s footsteps. She’s spent her whole life honing her craft and is constantly seeking out new ideas. “I derive inspiration from anything and everything, but more important, when I think about design, I think about what’s going to last.” Timelessness is a quality that Warnock values—one she says is crucial to a brand’s success. “Things that are really well done do stand the test of time.” Brands like Apple, Nike and Budweiser are some of her favorites.
She takes note of Budweiser’s branding because on top of running her own design studio, Warnock is the creative director at Hiball, the beverage company of her husband, Todd Berardi. The SF-based manufacturer of energy drinks, sparkling water and coffee was acquired by Anheuser-Busch last summer. She met Berardi when she designed Hiball’s logo, and since selling the brand she is determined to maintain its integrity. “Working with such a giant company as Anheuser-Busch, we need to defend the brand we created,” she explains. “My husband founded the company, so he said, ‘I need you to make sure that they do this right’”—something that Warnock will no doubt accomplish.
So what makes a good brand? First and foremost, the logo has to be easy to read. “Something that’s crisp, and has the right weight to it, and not fussy.” Bold color and a strong point of view ensure that it doesn’t look like everyone else. Traditional fonts are also a good idea. Warnock refers to her style as “classic and whimsical”; in person, she’s relatable and fun, like the company she started in 1998.
With 20 years under her belt, Warnock shows no signs of stopping. “I don’t typically do trendy, I don’t do cutting-edge, but I do things that resonate with people,” she says. “Things that will last with them and stand the test of time. You always go back to the classics, and that’s more my kind of style.