Hired Guns Creative builds surefire marketing

Leif Miltenberger, left, and Richard Hatter of Hired Guns Creative are drawing international awards and clients for their innovative design, branding and marketing ideas. - CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin
Leif Miltenberger, left, and Richard Hatter of Hired Guns Creative are drawing international awards and clients for their innovative design, branding and marketing ideas.
— image credit: CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin

Big windows spill daylight through the studio and honey-coloured liquid in a labelled mason jar on a coffee table in Hired Guns Creative design studio.

“That’s an experiment for a contract we have right now with a startup moonshine distillery out of the South in the States,” said Leif Miltenberger. “They’re doing it in mason jars and the whole nine yards.”

Miltenberger and Richard Hatter established Hired Guns Creative in 2008 and opened their studio in downtown Nanaimo at 10 Commercial St. in 2011.

Miltenberger, 35, handles the business end of the arrangement. Hatter, 32, creates the designs.

“He brings the magic, I bring the logic,” Miltenberger said.

Hired Guns brainstorms and creates designs and branding concepts to help bring vintners, brewers and distillers products, such as Longwood Brew Pub and Arbutus Distillery, to new markets. The company’s portfolio has attracted positive ink and multiple awards from the packaging design and alcohol industries that have helped the company and its clients expand markets regionally and internationally.

“The whole purpose of it is to sell more booze for our clients,” said Miltenberger, who cites B.C. winery Bonamici Cellars as one of Hired Guns’ numerous marketing successes.

“The Bonamici guys tell us they have no problem landing new retail accounts … the buyer will look at it and say, ‘Yeah, that looks shelf-ready, appropriate, no problem, we can sell that.’ That’s what we do for our clients.”

Arbutus Distillery’s Coven vodka features a simple, plain white bottle and label with red lettering, but in darkness the bottle glows with images of witches.

Glow-in-the-dark labelling isn’t new.

“I’ve seen it on beer bottles with text popping out or something highlighting,” Hatter said. “To actually give a third and a fourth dimension to the concept of a stationary product is really where the strength came in there. That’s where the magic happened.”

Longwood Brew Pub’s Stoutnik Russian Imperial Stout comes in a plain black bottle, cap and label bearing metallic lettering and a small Sputnik satellite, with the story of the beer embossed into the label in raised Morse code.

“One of the things that really makes this shop stand out is our ability to give a personality to a brand, to take it to the next level and make it interactive,” Hatter said. “I’m trying to give life and movement and motion, especially emotion, and depth to something that really just sits on a shelf with thousands of other competitors.”

All Hired Guns label designs incorporate complex multi-layered concepts that are often rendered with elegant simplicity.

“Good design eliminates complexity,” Hatter said.

Hired Guns Creative’s goal is to shake up the packaging industry from Nanaimo, attract the attention of clients in places like New York and Los Angeles and bring them to the Island.

“I want to change the game, get more creative,” Hatter said. “I want bigger clients to come to the Island. It’s going to get weirder. I promise you that. I’ve got some real weird stuff coming out.”

To learn more, please visit their website at

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.

Community Events, February 2017

Add an Event