Next time you crack open a Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, don’t forget to take a look at the can. It might just bear the design of Oak Park and River Forest High School graduate Jeremiah Shalo. The graphic designer is one of 25 finalists in the Pabst 2022 art can contest. If Shalo is among the 10 contest winners, PBR will feature his design this fall on millions of cans. He would also score a $10,000 cash prize.
The 10 winning designs will be determined by popular vote on the Pabst Blue Ribbon website. Those of legal age can view all 25 designs and vote for their 10 favorites. Voting ends Feb. 18.
“I would be thrilled to win,” Shalo said.
A humble guy, Shalo hasn’t done much campaigning for votes. Luckily for Shalo, he has a very proud mother who does not mind promoting her son’s artwork, including by reaching out to the local newspaper. His friends have also been sharing his PBR design on their social media accounts.
“I’m really shy about sharing my work, but I’m trying to get better,” said Shalo. “It’s an honor to have such supportive family and friends.”
Snagging a spot in the top 25 is a major feat in and of itself. Pabst received over 6,000 design submissions for the competition, according to the beer company. A panel of judges determined the 25 finalists. To increase his chances, Shalo submitted five designs. The one that landed a place in the top 25 came as a surprise to him.
“Honestly, this was the one that I didn’t think would get in. It was like, ‘OK, I’m just going to have fun with it, play around and then submit it because there’s nothing to lose,’” he remembered.
For his other submissions, Shalo tried to create a backstory for the designs. The can design that could potentially win him $10,000 and be seen on shelves across the country was more “whimsical.” It was also the last design he made for the competition.
The Pabst name and its blue-ribbon logo prominently feature in Shalo’s winning design, which was done entirely in gray, navy and white, per contest specifications. However, its overall composition is very much Shalo’s aesthetic. The design’s overall effect is simple but bold.
A large navy figure, which Shalo describes as a “trophy cup,” takes front and center. The blue ribbon is attached to the unusual shape’s left. Inside the belly of the figure, a thin white line sits below three almond-shaped, forming a face with a Cheshire-like grin. Four boots made up of sharp angles stand perfectly in line underneath the navy shape. The three-eyed, four-booted creature is strange but intriguing.
Smaller figures, including four-pointed white stars outlined in navy, and exclamation points surround the central character. A navy and white candy-striped border frames the composition.
“I like to make things a little strange,” Shalo admitted.
He finds flat, full graphic shapes more pleasing to the eye when it comes to beer cans. The shapes become memorable and identifiable both up close and at a distance. Shalo believes that intricate lines and details, which feature in many of the other top 25 designs, do not read as well on cans as they tend to blur into the background.
“I just think it hides the most important elements,” he said.
The most important elements are the brand and the product. Small details, as wonderful as they are, do not always help a product sell, whereas large shapes can be more memorable and recognizable, according to Shalo. His passion for design, however, is rooted in Oak Park, where his parents still live. Shalo was one of the many OPRF students to take design and art classes under the tutelage of Melinda Novotny and Sandy Campbell. He called Novotny the reason he got involved in graphic design and Campbell the reason why he continued pursuing art.
“I truly owe them big time,” he said of his high school teachers.
Shalo went on to study visual communications design at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, then worked for about four years as a designer for a small media firm called Varyer. He has since gone solo and now has his own studio in Wicker Park.
The voting period is coming to an end soon, but there is still time to vote for Shalo’s design. Pabst does not show how many votes each design has accrued, so it is unknown where Shalo stands in the competition. However, he is happy to have made it this far, especially as a first-time competitor, and is grateful for the encouragement he has gotten from his family and friends.
“I want to thank everyone that has supported me throughout my artistic career,” he said. “And I would greatly appreciate any and all votes for my can design!”