Mug of Victory: UW-Stout Grad Designs Bag for Vikings-Themed Brew

Jerry Poling / UW-Stout Communications

Nate Killam can walk into a Caribou Coffee shop or a Minnesota grocery store these days and easily spot examples of his creative skills: packages of Vikings Blend coffee.

The limited release Vikings Blend, a medium roast, went on sale in early August. It’s also available in Minnesota grocery stores and in K-cups.

The deep purple bag with gold “SKOL” lettering and a gold Minnesota Vikings seal really stands out across the room, Killam said. Skol, a word with Nordic origins, is the team’s rally cry, and “Skol Vikings” is the team’s fight song.

Killam, a May 2017 UW-Stout graduate in graphic design and interactive media, was the lead designer on the packaging. He works for Cue, a brand design firm in Minneapolis.

Caribou is the official coffee of the Vikings. “They wanted it to bleed purple and have instant shelf recognition,” Killam said.

Caribou Coffee has more than 263 company-owned stores and 50 coffee and bagel stores in partnership with Einstein Bros. Bagels, 142 licensed locations in 19 states and 268 franchise stores in 12 countries.

One of the project challenges was working with the brand standards for both Caribou and the Vikings, Killam said. Several design concepts were whittled down to three, which were presented to Caribou and the Vikings for the final design to be chosen. Killam worked closely with Cue’s creative director and company co-founder Alan Colvin, along with others from the Cue staff.

“All the colors, typefaces, and graphic elements have to be in accordance with their brand standards,” Killam said. “You want to keep it simple and very clearly Vikings. One of biggest challenges was not overcomplicating the design. Starting big and then pulling back to what’s absolutely necessary for a simpler and more confident design.”

Interestingly, Killam is neither a coffee drinker nor a football fan, but he thought that helped him bring an objective point of view to the project.

He joined the Cue staff full time early this year after working there as an intern. He actually designed Vikings Blend during his internship that began in fall 2017.

Killam, who grew up in Northfield, Minnesota, said he loves what he’s doing and that UW-Stout’s graphic design and interactive media program prepared him well for his career. He cited professors Nagesh Shinde, Robert Fraher, and Alex DeArmond as among those who were influential in his development as a designer.

“I feel like Stout’s program has set me up for a really good career. Stout required me to have internships and real-world experience, and there were a variety of classes and great professors. So far my career is going really well, and I owe it pretty much all to Stout,” he said.

Killam had internships through UW-Stout's Cooperative Education program in Career Services.