Lodge 26 Creates The Ultimate Smokey Bear Collection
By: Bill McCool
“Only you can prevent forest fires.”
There’s almost no need to attribute the quote to Smokey Bear as he’s the rare icon who is instantly recognizable to children and adults across the US. While the slogan was changed in 2000 to say “wildfires” in order to emphasize their accidental nature, the enduring legacy of Smokey has been burned into our collective memory. Recently, branding and design studio Lodge 26 was tasked with creating special edition packaging for Filson’s Smokey Bear Collection.
“With its long history and Smokey Bear being one of America’s most beloved characters, it was important for us to not alienate its following,” says Lodge 26 Project Manager Amy Thompson. “We wanted to create something that would, not only honor the close relationship between USFS and Filson but celebrate Smokey Bear’s storied past.”
The collection features a limited edition Smokey Bear watch by Shinola, a book detailing Smokey’s storied history, vintage postcards, a bandana with fire prevention tips, a water bottle, a Smokey t-shirt and cap, and a Pendleton wool blanket, all of which comes in an elegant package.
Created by the United States Forest Service (USFS) and illustrator Albert Staehle back in 1944, they sought to teach the public about fire prevention, and the first iteration came in the form of Smokey pouring a bucket of water over a raging campfire. There was a fear by the USFS and park services that wildfires would be difficult to put out since so many firefighters and men were overseas fighting in WWII. Even the attack on Pearl Harbor left many wondering if another bombing campaign would hit large swaths of forests along the West Coast.
Not only is Filson's Smokey Collection a worthy celebration for a unique icon, but it chronicles a history that’s deeply felt and etched across the packaging. “We were aware of the partnership with the USFS and the production of the Limited Edition Smokey Bear watch early on,” says Amy. “Since we had previously worked on some Smokey Bear projects for them, we were approached to create something extra special for the packaging.”
“We worked closely with Filson’s creative team to come up ideas,” she adds. “Once the idea was established, we did sketches and illustrated mockups of what we thought this packaging should look like. We had limited usable assets, so for some of the pieces we wanted to feature, it meant recreating them in order to bring them back to their original glory.”
The retro details and feel of the project made it an immediate favorite of the studio, and while time-consuming, recreating a number of the vintage posters was a highlight. But it was not always easy going as any piece of special packaging involves a great deal intricate details.
“We learned several things from a production standpoint,” says Amy, “like the type, weight and quality of the paper that can be used to assemble a packaging like this. But the most important aspect of developing a project like this is the effectiveness of the relationship between all the parties involved. Having the confidence and trust from the client so they allow you to create and take risks, as well as working with vendors that are, not only excellent executioners but also consultants and mentors in the process is key.”
All in all, it’s a timely tribute to a true American icon. Just last year, 56,000 wildfires gobbled up more than 9 million acres of land in the US. If there was ever a time to not only celebrate Smokey but reignite the fervor behind his message, it’s now.
Bill McCool is a freelance writer based out of Los Angeles. Though new to the world of design, he has always been a storyteller by trade and he seeks to inspire and cultivate a sense of awe with the work and artists he profiles. When he's not winning over his daughters with the art of the Dad joke, he is usually working on a pilot, watching the Phillies, or cooking an elaborate meal for his wife.