Jennifer Gagnon

Feb 19, 2019

8 min read

Boreal Estate: Hilliardton Collection

Client: Self-Directed

The goal for this project was to choose an existing winery and rebrand it entirely. Along with that, I was required to create a line of wines that fit within the wineries brand, and execute the bottle labels & packaging.

Boreal Estate, which was previously named Boreal Winery, is a small artisanal winery located in Warren, Ontario. It is unique because it is the only winery located in Northern Ontario. How is it possible to have a winery in such cold climates? It’s simple. The wine is mainly made from native Arctic and Boreal berries. They are able to produce delicious berry wine using sustainable heating and cooling systems through an above ground cave built from concrete filled insulated foam blocks.

They are a unique company because they also use solar power to run production processes to reduce their carbon footprint. Not only do they grow and harvest berries, but they also grow switchgrass to use as a bio-fuel to heat the winery during the cold winter. In the spring and summer, they use heritage breeds of Canadienne cows and Chantacler chickens to produce fertilizer.

All of these unique processes that they use to grow their berries and make wine inspired me to update their brand, and give them a new modern look. The current branding is functional, but the aesthetic was a bit dated. The companies’ environmental initiatives and location sets it apart from others and make it unique, so I felt that the logo, branding, and promotional assets needed to reflect that.

The main objective of this project was to revamp the brand identity so that it reflected the unique qualities of the company. It is a northern winery, which is definitely not in the heart of wine country in Ontario. As a designer, I needed to focus on brand awareness to bring more attention to Boreal Estate.

The goal was also to promote more variety. They currently only offer berry wines, but the eventual outcome would be to release grape wines that would hypothetically be grown and harvested in such a unusual location. This would also spread word, and promote the company as more unique. The branding and design reflects these ideas, as well as promoting the excellent quality of the product.


Boreal Estate’s target market would grow from the smaller Northern areas to beyond due to the brand and product expansion. The grape wines would cost slightly more than the current berry wines, because the climate needs to be controlled and maintained.

The current wine ranges from $25-$50.

Hilliardton Estate line is $35-$60.

Therefore, the demographic would be middle-class to upper-class.

That being said, the approach to design will be to elevate the brand, but make the aesthetic approachable and welcoming for all types of people. The main goal with Boreal Estates new identity is to expand on its current market.

As mentioned above, most wineries are located in Southern Ontario. It is unusual for a winery to be located in Northern Ontario because of the harsh winter and dry summer climate. Although that is the case, Boreal Estate manages to produce delicious and unique wine flavors.

Some main competitors that I had stumbled upon are Muskoka Lakes Winery, and Coffin Ridge Boutique Winery. They are both located in more Southern locations, and both produce wines with berries.

Introducing a line of grape wines, while promoting environmental friendly processes, as well as presenting a modern and refreshing identity, are what would set set Boreal Estate apart from its competitors.

The logo begun with many hand drawn explorations of Northern imagery and iconography. I wanted the logo to truly reflect Boreal Estates main uniqueness; being the only Northern Ontario winery.

With this idea in mind, I explored different logo ideations involving trees, branches, pinecones, and merged that with strong typography. Some were very obvious. One struggle was to overcome the idea of creating a logo solely out of a tree graphic. Upon researching Boreal related logos, most of them included a tree icon, and I wanted my logo to stand apart, while still representing the company values. I also wanted to ensure that people perceived Boreal Estate as a professional, approachable company. My goal was to create a unique logo, but also ensure that it was easily relatable to both middle and upper-class people.


The final logo reflects the rustic, natural qualities of the North, but still has a welcoming aesthetic that speaks to their brand values. The design style is not overly fancy, but still has a professional tone in order to relate to the target audience. I did end up including a forest, but strayed away from using a single tree as an icon. I felt this approach was fitting and appropriate for the winery.


These are examples of logo application. One is ideal exterior signage for the winery, and the other is interior sitting area for the winery. These rustic, northern inspired images contribute to the overall aesthetic that I have utilized to represent Boreal Estate.


The stationary was designed with the same aesthetic in mind as the logo. Rustic, and nature inspired, but still professional. My goal was to create a cohesive look that could be expanded upon with further branding assets. The struggle with these deliverables was to utilize the textured paper to speak to the aesthetic of the company without making it look cheap. In order to overcome that, I utilized negative space and kept the design relatively simplified and clean for all aspects of the stationary. In order to add character to the design, I introduced the tree graphics that are taken from the background of the logo.

Hilliardton Collection is a line of wine that was created to promote Boreal Estate’s new rebrand, expand their audience, as well as introduce a new environmental initiative with a new twist. These wines were hypothetically created using a climate-controlled system in Northern Ontario, which makes them very unique.


The Hillardton Marsh is a provincial wildlife area that promotes the study of bird migration. The location also serves as a tool for education for all types of people. Elementary and High School students as well as the general public are often invited to learn about the benefits of wetlands, and different species of insects and birds. The Boreal Estate is committed to ensuring they reduce their carbon footprint, and are investing into continually promoting local environmentally friendly programs, such as the Hilliardton Marsh.

To reflect the previous ideas, this collection of wines was created as another environmental initiative, but this time, the customers have the chance to participate. The idea is that with each bottle sold, Boreal Estate will donate 50% of its proceeds to the Hillardton Marsh.


Upon researching effective packaging design for wines, I discovered that some of the current trends were to create custom diecuts for the labels, use typography in an interesting way, and to utilize illustration within the design. Through my initial sketches and digital roughs, I explored these approaches.

I wanted to include imagery of nature or animals in the design, so it reflected an important aspect of the Hillardton Marsh, and Northern Ontario in general. After able exploration, I decided that the best way to represent the Marsh was to have each label display a bird that could be found in Northern Ontario.

I struggled with trying to find an effective way to utilize a dieline for the label without making it look to busy, or too tacky. I really wanted the labels to be an extension of the brand, and have a similar aesthetic as the logo. Upon reviewing my digital rough work, I decided on having a standard rectangle label, and let the illustrations be the main focus.

I also initially designed the labels with two stylistic approaches. One was more traditionally illustrated with pen and watercolour, and then digitized for the final product. The other was digitally illustrated in a more abstract manner. Each design gave off a very different tone, and would attract different audiences. The traditionally illustrated birds, to me, felt too formal. I didn’t quite feel like the stylistic approach suited the audience I wanted to attract. I felt that the digitally illustrated bird images were more unique and playful, and would stand out on a shelf when compared to the popular traditionally illustrated labels.


The final birds were chosen based on their common occurrence as well as their colour. I realized that not everyone is a bird enthusiast, and I needed to create labels that would appeal to many different people. I chose birds that you could find in Northern Ontario, which are also more familiar birds to everyday people. I wanted to ensure they were relatively recognizable, so when viewed in the store or online, some people could make a connection with the labels and be intrigued to pick the bottle up and learn a little more. Upon reading the back label, they would be introduced to the Hillardton Marsh, and the generous donations from Boreal Estate. Also, the colours of the birds relate to the type of wine. The Common Red Poll reflects the Red wine, the White-breasted Nuthatch reflects the white, and the Ruby-throated Hummingbird represents the rosé.

Overall, this was an incredible journey merging many of my interests — wine, birds, and design. There were a few obstacles I had to overcome in terms of approaching the design, but I feel it was a very successful project. I had the opportunity to rebrand a winery, and elevate their overall visual aesthetic. I also created a wine collection launch that not only aesthetically fit the brand, but also spoke to the ethical and environmental beliefs that the original company practices. I had never done a complete rebrand before, with an additional launch, so it was a great opportunity to dive into a large branding project and discover a new avenue of design that I am passionate about.