By Clementina Verge
The long-standing axiom about a picture being worth a thousand words is proving true more than ever in a culture where images are vital to building brand trust, emotionally connecting with customers, and increasing product visibility and profits.
Zeb Mayer, a Litchfield County designer and illustrator whose art has enhanced countless products, knows this well.
“A visual brand is the best way to truly connect with consumers and customers,” he notes. “It’s about creating identity, a voice, an aesthetic. Something that pops off the shelf, that is fun, but also genuine to the client.”
Born and raised in Roxbury, Mayer grew up surrounded by art. He learned how to draw at the kitchen table, taught by his father, Mercer Mayer, a children’s book author and illustrator best known for the beloved Little Critter series.
By 19, Mayer began taking drawing seriously, and enrolled at Western Connecticut State University where he earned a degree in marketing. In between, he has worked in hospitality-driven fields, and today, his functional art blends a variety of styles resulting in uniquely beautiful and intricate designs.
“I am exactly where I should be,” he reflects, “combining the two worlds of illustration and art with that of branding and graphic design, and helping small businesses brand themselves.”
By day, Mayer creates under the auspices of Box 8 Creative, an award-winning New Haven-based, “full-service creative agency dedicated to building powerful brands” across industries; on evenings and weekends, he is a freelancer.
“I can’t stop doodling,” he jokes, “and I try to have as much fun as possible with each project.”
The passion behind the art and the desire to push creative boundaries, however, are taken incredibly seriously. Something as simple as a label sets the entire tone for a business, relates Mayer, a trustee for the Washington Art Association & Gallery for whom he has curated numerous exhibits.
“I meet with clients so I can understand their needs, their style preference for a brand, and what they seek aesthetically,” he explains. “It is very important to create something complex, beautiful, and accurate.”
Whether a product is chocolate, a restaurant menu, clothing, or an event poster, a visual brand captures personal or corporate ethos, tells a story, and leaves a lasting impression on customers, Mayer relates.
His portfolio ranges from surreal illustrations, to water colors, and ink drawings. His artwork has graced everything from magazine covers, coffee products, event materials, and restaurant merchandise, to more than 50 beer labels for Connecticut breweries including Alvarium, Legitimus, Front Porch, and Snow Republic. He welcomes opportunities to collaborate with new clients, transforming their brands and products into memorable visual stories.
Having achieved his creative dreams and thriving on continuous opportunities to push boundaries, Mayer encourages young people to “not buy into the ‘starving artist’ mentality,” highlighting the value and need for drawing in design.
“If it’s commercially viable, your artwork can be very rewarding,” he says. “Get obsessed, get invested in art and your passion.” —zebmayer.com