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In the soaring Golan Heights, the land is rocky, leafy green, and pocketed with minefields. Israel has occupied this fertile plateau on the Syrian border since 1967, when the Jewish State captured it during some of the most intense fighting of the fabled Six-Day War.
Golan Heights’ troubled natural beauty
Fifty years on, the bucolic region is quiet and charming, its winding roads leading visitors to quaint dairy farms and artisan chocolate shops while offering jaw-dropping views of Syria’s Quneitra Valley, where smoke from the civil war sometimes pours across the UN-monitored border.
But the region’s own war-torn history lurks in plain sight. In the 1970s, after hundreds of Palestinian and Syrian refugees stormed Israel’s border in an attempt to return to the Golan Heights, the Israeli government responded by planting hundreds of landmines in its rich soil — landmines which continue to lurk below ground to this day.
The fields and valleys of the area are now filled with hundreds of bright yellow signs screaming out “Caution! Mines!” in three languages, marking the earth with the menacing fruit of war in a warning to anyone who might come too near.
Where graphic designers find their inspiration
When graphic designer Assaf Cohen was serving in the Israel Defense Forces, as is required of all Israeli citizens, he was stationed in the Golan Heights. He was instantly taken by the harsh yellow signs and the way they stood out from the backdrop of the region.
“It’s one of the most visual elements you see when you visit the Golan,” he says. “Everyone knows the signage there and instantly recognizes it.”
In 2006, Cohen joined forces with Ernest Bijovsky, an Argentinian-born Israeli who also served in the Golan Heights during his time in the military, to form Studio Blend-It, a graphic design agency specializing in branding. When they were tasked with designing a slew of labels for the Golan Brewery, a boutique beermaker situated in the tiny Golan Heights village of Katzrin, both Cohen and Bijovsky instantly knew what sort of imagery they wanted to invoke.
“For the brewery, one of its most important values is that it is so local to the Golan,” Cohen explains. “So because of that, we took reference from all the signs around the Golan, the script of the military text, and also the graffiti on the buildings there. From there we began to develop the language and look of the beer labels.”
Israel has a small but thriving microbrewery scene that takes pride in local terrain. With more speciality craft beer bars popping up in the cities like Tel Aviv, the Craft beer revolution is slowly overtaking the party capital. Golan Brewery is one of the most popular microbrews, and for a hyperlocal beer, a hyperlocal label was required.
Golan’s brewery landmine-inspired label
Cohen and Bijovsky worked with a colour palette inspired by the wild animals of the Golan Heights — deers, eagles, antelopes and gazelles — to create a font set that invoked the sharp, strong language on the military signs. The result was a family of labels, in soft blue, deep maroon, mustard yellow, black and sage, with the names of Golan’s pilsner, wheat and ale varieties marching in proud, almost-retro style, across the curved slope of the bottle.
The labels are assertive but not frightening, Cohen explains, meaning they pay homage to the Golan Heights’ landmine signs without attempting to invoke any sense of fear or panic. “The signs are very strong,” he says. “The colours and the process of the background is done like a craft. It’s historical visual language, and it became the reference point for our work on the design.”