I had dabbled in home brewing prior to being involved professionally with brewers and breweries; making damson gin and a superb elderflower champagne, as well as a Woodforde’s Wherry Kit. I made sure I branded each batch with some bizarre label with an even more obscure title. A lot of the labels I produced for my brews were a subconscious synthesis of all the TV and cartoons I had watched as a child, mixed with movies like Weird Science, DARYL, Karate Kid and Robocop, with a dash of Terry Gilliam meets Brass Eye with a hint of Monkey Dust. There were a few classic influences from my design idols like Paul Rand, El Lissitzky, Saul Bass, Neville Brody.
Alas, one day out of chance, I met the managing director of Sadler’s Ales, not in a pub or at a brewery, but at an NCT class, where parents-to-be learn of what lies ahead in terms of nappy changing and the correct foods and fluids to give a child you know nothing about.
I was very fortunate that we both clicked in terms of imagination, representation, vision and the added value of design on product. The latter is very important, because ultimately we are creating an identity that we need to be powerful enough to differentiate not only with the 100s of bottles that may sit on a shelf, but to compete with breweries with 20, 70, 1000 times the design budget we had.
The result speaks for itself, a unique product that stands out from the crowd through unique characters endorsing the myriad of beers on offer.
Ultimately the beer has to be good. If design is aligned to a great product, you are adding immense value. If the sales team is also moving in the same direction, you really have a winner.
A graphical label is not always the way forward. Typography is very powerful and at times, can be recalled a lot easier than an illustration. Getting the subject right is crucial. Read up and research what it is you want to transpose on the bottle. Recently I looked at a project concerning Mercian kings, and a Christian cross was suggested. Further research concluded that the Christianity had not reached this part of the British Isles. You would think that no one would actually sit and analyse the label, but that small bit of reading just helps get things right.
I am currently working with Fixed Wheel Brewery amongst other breweries. They are based in Blackheath. Again, a lot of reading about cycling, which thematically, is where the packaging revolves around. Big events, cyclists, cycling jargon, frame geometry, races… everything needs to be understood or at least have a good grasp of it. If you try and blag artwork on surface knowledge it will show, not only to the client who is passionate about cycling as he is about his beer, but those in the know.
The best advice I can give a brewer is, brew some quality beer. Then, think of a subject matter in your life time that has influenced who you are as a person and how, in some direct or indirect way, has influenced the product you are selling. It could be anything from Minecraft, to Elizabethan alchemists, to robotic villains, engineering components with a twist to programming terms….with a twist. Whatever it is, make sure whoever you are taking onboard, to look into the connection and the subsequent representation. Two, that they have read about the subject matter, and to present to you their interpretation before hitting the design packages.
Once ideas, vision and the all important estimate has been signed off start creating something inspiring to present to the world. Remember, that there is a pool of illustrators and graduates out there that need a chance. Help them follow their dreams and passion. Illustrators don’t have to cost a fortune. This only happens when the ideas put forward are not clear from the start. Remember that designers and illustrators are not magicians. They need inputs, sometimes these inputs need to be visual queues as we don’t all process information in the same way.
If your budget is tight, there are a lot of resources out there that are free and only require you to give the author some credit or donate an amount of your liking. This includes typefaces, graphic assets, photos.
Keep it legal, the last thing you want is to sell 1 million bottles or pints, and then have a copyright infringement issue at your doorstep. I have seen and keep on seeing examples of blatant misuse of images. Using R2D2 on a pump-clip, or Walter White from Breaking Bad on a bottle. I mean you can use a robot that is blue and white but say has looks like a cross between Hector from Saturn 3 and Optimus Prime. Or, in the case of a “Walter White” style character, draw a bald man, wearing glasses like Bret Sergeant Hart in his WWF days, pink leotards and all, smoking hops from a bottle fashioned like a bong… call it Lazy Days and a tag line beneath it… High in Hops.
Getting copyright and licensing right is not hard. Stock libraries explain what and how you can use the images. Normally you have a standard licence (with limited impressions or times you can print or reproduce the graphic) or extended, which in most cases allows for unlimited use.
However, with stock, or publicly accessible assets, there is the issue that someone else can use it and they have an equal right as you may have. Hence why illustrating or own graphics are best.
Over the coming months, I hope to add new observations on how to better your brand image, ways to market, ideas. I hope you have enjoyed this personal summary. Rachid Taibi • Creative Designer at The Upright One