Jon Johnson, also known as BRFC (pronounced “bear-face”) is a Kitchener-based freelance graphic designer and screen printer with a product line. During his career, Johnson has partnered with countless KW-based businesses and organizations by offering creative work – and Waterloo Brewing is proud to be on that list. This month, Waterloo Brewing is releasing limited edition glassware, designed by Johnson. Additionally, The Waterloo Brewing Beer Store will house a small pop-up shop of items from the BRFC product line, while supplies last.
Johnson didn’t intend on being a graphic designer. The Laurier grad actually studied English and Film with the intent to be a teacher. But his love for Waterloo Region kept him close by, and after graduating, Johnson took a job as a projectionist at the Princess Cinemas and a janitor job at both Starlight and The Jane Bond.
During this time, Johnson was reading design blogs and becoming more interested in vintage design. When a job opened up to design Princess Cinema’s film guide, Johnson figured he’d put his hat into the ring.
“I was like, hey – I can learn things on computers. Maybe I can do that job,” he said.
At the same time, there was an opportunity to design posters for Starlight and The Jane Bond, so Johnson just started asking for opportunities to practice his newfound skill. It was then that Johnson met Marc Lecompte, now owner of The Princess Café. Lecompte had just started a zine called Caterpillar and Johnson, who loved cut and paste layout, helped out. Caterpillar opened to door for Johnson to be creative in other ways, too.
“[The first products I made] were for Caterpillar, so I learned how to screen print so we could make shirts for us to sell as Caterpillar merch. This gave us money to keep making our zine,” Johnson explained.
Johnson then started making products he wanted for himself, like coasters and handkerchiefs. His first craft show was in 2010, and since then, the BRFC brand has only gotten bigger.
“My personal product line has always been things I want to own and rep. I did coasters because they were something I wanted in my house,” Johnson said.
At the same time, Johnson was discovering more and more his love for KW’s craft beer scene. He would spend weekends with friends at various local breweries. While the breweries had their own merch, Johnson wanted to create wearables that showed a love for the industry as a whole. This sparked Johnson to start his “Drink Local” series, which included t-shirts, hats, glassware and other items with the catchy slogan.
“I was super into design, I was super into the design of beer, I was super into small businesses doing cool things and supporting local – craft beer combined all of those things,” he said. “That just drew me in.”
As more businesses expressed a need for Johnson’s services, and as more people wanted to buy BRFC items, Johnson’s creative outlet became less of a side hustle and more of a career.
“My dream, at some point, started to be freelance design. I thought if I could slowly get enough freelance work then I could do that full time. [Then] I started seeing it coming together,” he said.
The BRFC x Waterloo Brewing collab beer glass is a unique design that is reflective of Johnson’s latest inspirations. Inspired by vintage 70’s souvenirs, this glassware is meant to be summery and fun, while evoking a 70’s beach vibe.
“I was excited to be approached by Waterloo Brewing and excited that they wanted to support local artists,” Johnson said.
The new collab glassware, as well as other items from the BRFC collection, will be available for purchase in the Waterloo Brewing Beer Store from now until mid-summer, while supplies last.