"A Bolt of Lightning"
Thanks Cincinnati Refined and Brian Planalp
You hear it across the country, in San Fransisco, Austin, and New York. There’s a business that isn’t really a business. They work like they’re making up for lost time. And they’re not just profiting. No, they’re really doing something, something authentic, something different.
Nowadays you hear it here, too. There’s a business that’s putting Cincinnati on the line—the blue collar spirit, the storytelling impulse, the drive to restoration. They’ve got attitude. They’ve got hustle. And they’re not just profiting. No, they’re standing up for the city’s arts, for its communities, and for its long-buried past.
DAAP grads Jason Snell and Brandon Hickle own that very business in Over-the-Rhine. It’s called We Have Become Vikings and it's invigorating Cincinnati's creative scene in the best way possible.
WE HAVE BECOME… VIKINGS?
The name is a bit different, obviously. Snell picked it in 2008 when he discovered the term ‘branding’ comes from the Viking practice of, well, branding family crests into sword hilts and ship lumber. Hence the name—We Have Become Vikings—which traces a succinct genealogy of the modern world.
Today, of course, everything around us is branded, from the pencil on your desk to the device you’re using to read this. Branding isn’t just illustrations anymore, either. It’s every method of interaction and it’s growing more important as it grows more ubiquitous.
That's why Snell and Hickle decided to work together. They merged companies in 2015, combining WHBV with Southpaw Prints. Now Snell’s design acumen and Hickle’s printing prowess reside under the same roof, so they're able to offer all-in-one branding services alongside custom silkscreen printing on shirts, posters, bags, and packaged goods.
They have a retail space, too. It’s like a punk version of Cincy Shirts, with Cincinnati-themed designs ranging from the nostalgic to the macabre. Definitely worth visiting, and not just because you might happen upon live music courtesy of WHBV’s incipient music label.
Yes, you can add music cultivation to printing and branding in the sense of what WHBV’s does when I say they’re really doing something.
You can add hometown cheerleader, too, as Cincinnati occupies a special place in the hearts of these two creatives. And they’re not shy about it. Remember the Charley Harper showcase at Lumenocity several years ago? That was WHBV. Snell painstakingly repurposed Harper’s original works into whimsical animations. The result was so perfectly executed, it will likely be remembered alongside the original works themselves.
Then there’s the Ezzard Charles and Cincinnati Strong Man murals Snell designed for Artworks...
...and the designs WHBV creates for bands and concert venues to keep local acts going
...and the work WHBV is doing for the Over-the-Rhine Brewing District/Brewing Heritage Tour
...and the work it did for the headquarters of The Brandery
...and, not to mention, the WHBV locale itself, a radiant homage to culture in the city’s most culturally significant neighborhood.
But why? Why the devotion to Cincinnati? Why the hometown hustle? Listen to Snell and Hickle for a moment and you’ll know. They're convinced Cincinnati has a story worth telling—a brand worth paying attention to—and WHBV is how they're getting the word out.
They're more than entrepreneurs after all. They're vikings. And Cincinnati is Valhalla.