Making a beer label: Start to Finish

Sour ales have starting becoming more and more popular recently, and certain breweries like Wicked Weed have opened specialty serving houses to distribute these rare and exotic beers.  My last post talked about the emergence of the craft beer market, and some of the styles becoming prominent in label design.  Over the last week I’ve made a label for a sour ale, and wanted to show my process and my passion for this type of design.

I’m a college senior, and soon will be graduating hopefully heading into a promising career in graphic design.  Recently I’ve been focusing on stepping up my game and refining my style to show off what I can do, and the process of creating this beer label allowed me to do just that.

When I started the project I knew that I wanted to incorporate one of my illustrations, and have the rest of the product be themed around it.  Pen and ink illustrations my favorite thing to do, particularly expressive faces and characters.  I had several cartoons I considered using but ultimately decided to go with the one seen below.

 

sourdraft7

Immediately I thought this face would look great on a sour beer.  But I wasn’t sure where I wanted the overall theme of the label to go.  I started my drafting process by taking this image into illustrator, and manipulating the color schemes.

Using the paintbrush I created three layers of color, and was then able to easily change the color scheme by simply selecting new colors for the individual layers.  Below you can see some of the initial draft ideas.

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To help myself and other visualize a more complete color scheme I next added a background layer.

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At this point I started showing peers and friends my ideas to get some critique.  Most people liked the green and light blue colors, but thought the darker schemes took away took much detail from the illustration itself, which is the core of the design.  I decided to go with skin tones on the face and just use color in the background and text.

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The next step was adding the details the make the make the illustration a label.  I created a document with the dimensions of beer labels I had measured.  I created a grid system to use in the background of my workspace so that all of the content would line up perfectly.  After researching the legal requirements for my label, and what the content was going to be, I ultimately produced the label below.

SourAleLabelFinalV2

Soon I’ll be printing and mounting this label onto 12.oz bottles, creating versions for growlers, six-packs, and pint bottles.  Once those are done I’ll photograph the whole set and upload the images to my new online portfolio @zhollingworth.wix.com/portfolio.  I’ll be continuing to refine and enhance my style through drafting and practice by making more fun crafty beer labels.

New Market for Designers in Craft Beer

Recently I found a post written by designer Chris Spooner that showcased 30 creative beer labels from various microbreweries. With the revival of craft brewing in America, a whole new market has begun to open up to designers. Many of these smaller breweries are relatively unknown and use logo and label design to stand apart, resulting in some fantastic art. I love label design, and have had the chance to create one myself, and it was the most fun I’ve had doing a project.

With this in mind I picked five beers from the list that I thought were great designs and representative of modern styles of label design. There are three distinct styles I found that are very appealing and tend to be the most prominent amongst label designs.

  • Text Focus Style

IndHed Craft Beer by Industriahed Co.:

indhed

This beer label is entirely oriented around the typography and color scheme. The smooth flowing lines give the design energy and movement, and the use of cursive has a sense of sophistication about it. Perfect for craft beer enthusiasts. Using yellow and white for a color scheme keeps it simple, bright, and easily recognizable, perfect for trying to catch a perusing eye in the beer aisle.

The rest of the design is simple. On the bottle itself there is light design and white text to differentiate the type of beer. Another creative idea is to wrap the bottle in colored paper packaging. Very few beers add elements outside of the simple label or box design, so just adding the colored wrapping allows IndHed to stand out on the shelf.

PangPang Brewery by Snask:

pangpang

PangPang is another text-focused label that uses simple element to create an effective design. PangPang labels are broken down into two basic parts, the constant and the variable.

As pictured, each of the PangPang brews has the same label consisting of the PangPang typography and the miniature beach scene in the corner. On every brew the color changes, and so does the typography for the name of the beer itself.

Manipulating these simple elements keeps the PangPang aesthetic consistent throughout the various designs, but by changing the color and the same type each beer develops its own identity.

  • Minimalist Style

Prohibida Craft Beer by Modesto Granados:

prohibida

The design for Prohibida Craft Beer is simple, and elegant. The bottle is wrapped in a white label, and features a red “X” simple typography with the beers name. On the back of the label is a simple text box, with the beers description. The design comes off as very clean, yet the use of red makes it feel exciting as well. Because there are so few element in the design your eye stays put on the bright red “X” which then gets associated with the beer name located just below the “X.”

Shilling by Moodley:

shilling

Shilling is the beer label with the least actual label on it. There are a total of three elements to this design, and it has no background so the brown bottle provides the backdrop. A small crest is featured at the top of the label, followed by the name Shilling written in simple white text, and then a small set of sub-text with a short quote.

Shilling in an extreme case of minimalism, but nonetheless is reflective of the trend to move away from over complicated, hyperactive designs.

  • Illustrative Style

Kada Brew by Marko Danilovic:

kada

Kada Brew is my favorite from the group, using detailed illustrations for the focus of their label designs. Each label features the Kada Brew text, but the background color and art change. In the three brews shown in the image, we see three different cartoon animals. Creating characters for each beer is smart not only because it allows for an artistic label, but also because it makes the beer relatable and seem to have it’s own personality separate from the others.

Treat Designers Like Everyone Else

This week I was shown this video “What is Spec Work?” by a professor of mine, and it got me thinking.  Spec Work is cover language that means working for free.  The video makes a few good points on the topic, that I think all young designers should keep in mind.


The first is that you should never do free work for established companies.  If you are needing more material for your portfolio then start by finding smaller projects for family, friends, and local businesses, and do them for dirt cheap if you need to.  Most professional designers get paid somewhere between $80-$400/hr so asking for $30 bucks to design a flyer isn’t breaking anyones bank.

There are two common ways that companies try to get spec work out of designers.  One is by asking multiple designers/firms to create sample work.  The other is by holding contests.  Ideally you won’t ever find yourself in this position, because the best work is produced when both the designer and the client are working together to produce a final product.  In this way, you as the designer get to do great work and get steady income, and your client gets a design they can be proud of because their feedback was a part of creating it.

We talked about how to avoid this, and the power of the all-mighty contract.  Contracts make sure that both the designer and the client are invested in the project.  And makes both parties clear on exactly what is to be expected.  By taking this step you make sure that the work you create is safe, and that terms remain the same over the course of the project.

The point of all this is to take yourself seriously as a professional.  When you’re just start your career, understanding how to evaluate your own talents is crucial to establishing your brand.  Most of what we do as designers if fun, but you have to development some business savvy to go along with the passion for design.

The Value of Design

We can learn an incredible amount about our own work by examining that of our betters. Animagraffs is a site run by entrepreneurial graphic designer Jacob O’ Neal. I came across the site and found myself being captured by skillful use of his minimalist and colorful design style. After looking at the rest of his portfolio and learning about him as a designer, I thought his lessons would be worth sharing, in addition to his very inspirational content.

The first thing I came across about O’ Neal was a series of motion graphics explaining how car engines work. I’ve been proudly called a car nerd in the past and loved the content of the page, so I explored further into the site. O’ Neal had done a series of projects, including the mechanics of a car engine, the firing mechanism of a handgun, the movement of a tarantula, and how to pull off the perfect moon walk.

ecoboost-turbo

O’ Neal’s style is simple and bold, which makes is fantastic for understanding complex ideas. I began thinking of how useful motion graphics are, for a wide variety of industries. Furthermore, it got me thinking about graphic design as a form of education. Through this lens I think can learn quite a bit from designers like O’ Neal about both style and our industry.

As designers our purpose is to take complex, multi-faceted ideas and simplify them into simple relatable designs. We will be hired throughout our careers to communicate the ideas of your clients to the public. Our designs can and do actually educate people about the ideas were representing.

moonwalk

O’ Neal mentions in his portfolio that he’s a self-made success, and chose the entrepreneurial path to being his own boss. I’ve found that many designers share common feelings towards starting their own business, but often fear failure or the risks involved. Regardless of your choice of career path, I think O’ Neal shares some wisdom for everyone.

O’ Neal seems to have found his niche for design. His ability to use design to simplify complex mechanics and structures is incredibly useful, and valuable, and he highlights it.   If you’re planning on starting a design company, then to get business you will have to communicate the value of your work, and the same goes if your looking to get hired for a company or freelance.  For a young professional designer I found two major takeaways.

  • Educate clients on the value of design, and it’s purpose for educating the public.
  • Find a niche that works with your strengths and style, and highlight that work to increase it’s value.

3 Creative Design Sites to Keep Your Art Fresh

In the world of each artist there is something that exists which I refer to as “The Wall.”  At a certain point, we all find ourselves mindlessly staring at our work, and asking what to do next?  In times like these I’ve found it’s helpful to turn to outside sources for some new inspiration and challenge.  This post will discuss three blogs that I’ve found that provide inspiration and keep my designs from getting stale.

Abduzeedo:

Abduzeedo has two basic benefits: inspirational material, and tutorials.  But they cover an immense amount of content, across all types of art and design.  The various collections on the site provide an immense amount of inspirational material for readers.  For designers looking to add some handy skills to their resume, they offer tutorials in Photoshop, Illustrator, and several other software programs.

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Additionally the site has links to interviews with artists active in the world of design.  They post news articles relevant to design and designers, everything from web design awards to book reviews.  Abduzeedo also publishes lists of weekly top sites to keep readers aware of what their peers are producing.

Wallpaper*:

The blog Wallpaper* is an interesting site to browse around.  Really it’s more of a culture blog with a design trend, but none the less its a great place to go for some mental refreshing.  They do offer an entire section dedicated to design, but not limited to graphic or web design.  There are tabs for art, travel, fashion, lifestyle, and jewelry as well.

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This site should be considered more for its use as a mental relief.  I find that when I get stuck in a project, it’s less often due to lack of know-how and more often due to dissatisfaction with the direction the piece is taking, or simple lack of inspirational ideas. By taking the time to look through news across fields of design and art, you can give your mind a breather and possibly come across an element of design you can use.

Cool Hunting:

The last blog I want to discuss is Cool Hunting.  Which is, by the way, very cool.  The main reason this site makes the list is just because of how fun it is to navigate.  The layout and interface of Cool Hunting is really an impressive piece of web design on it’s own.  Most of the content on Cool Hunting is links to external articles, but they offer material on everything you could imagine.  Scrolling down the page I see headlines for videos discussing threads from Sri Lanka, Nordic Skiing, and tips for traveling the world cheaply and uniquely.

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Whether or not you find an article to inspire you towards completion, Cool Hunting offers some seriously interesting stuff.  If you need some ideas as to setting up your own site, go play around on Cool Hunting and see how they’ve laid out their sections and the search menu.

Design Blogs: What You Don’t Know

We’ve been following several blogs in my Writing for Visual Media class for the last couple weeks to try to get a better sense of both what resources are available to us, and to be more aware of our own online presences. What I’ve come to discover is that there really is no one proper way of writing or presenting a blog, perhaps part of the medium’s allure. We read an article highlighting 20 distinguishable types of blogs and articles, and their various purposes. This post will discuss some of the articles I’ve come across and what they can provide for their readers.

Web Design Dev:

One website that I’ve been following is webdesigndev.com. The website and blog obviously focus most heavily on web design, from adobe tutorials, to CSS, to WordPress layouts, the site has information on everything a web designer might need. The site is what would be defined as a “list” blog, meaning most articles on the site are titled “top ten X” or “45 most popular Y” etcetera.

While some may find this a bit cliché, it’s actually incredibly useful when it comes to web design. Sites like this often provide quick how-to knowledge, and downloadable materials that expedite design projects.   The article I read was titled “10 More Illustrator Tips, Tricks, and Tools.” (Webdesigndev.com)

Graphic Design:

Another site I’ve been looking at is simply called graphicdesign.com, easy to remember. This site takes on a very different tone than the previous one. This site’s focus is information, on all things related to the industry of graphic design. The site contains a number of resources that provide readers with knowledge on all currents goings-on in the industry as a whole. On the homepage, readers can find a collection of blog posts, upcoming design contests, major design events, and trending articles. The site also has it’s own job board, firm directory, and school directory.

Providing some tutorials, the site also has instructional qualities, but this does not appear to be the main feature. However as far as keeping up with business trends in the design world goes, this site will do the work for you. The article I read here was titled “Norway Unveil Stylish Passport Design Illustrating the Country’s Identity.” (Graphicdesign.com)

The Design Blog:

My next blog is less serious, and has a much lighter tone to it. The Design Blog is an inspirational blog, meant to provide its readers with content of the highest quality to give young designers something to aspire too. A young designer, Ena Bacanovic, who seeks to give her peers something to aim for in their career, and to spread her passion for design with those who share it, curates the site.

In my mind these sites prove useful by popularizing graphic design and creating an greater appreciation for the practice. By increasing demand and knowledge of graphic design we increase it value. The site has very few articles, but an enormous amount of visual resources. (http://thedsgnblog.com/)

Gurafiku:

The last blog I want to discuss is called Gurafiku. This blog is a collection of visual research, qualifying it as a research blog. This site stands apart from the others though, because it’s focus is on the history of graphic design in Japan, and to compare Japanese design to western design.

This site again doesn’t post a great deal of reading material, with the vast majority of it’s content being image based. However by simply studying the designs, we begin to see the differences in style between western design and Japanese design. The curator of the blog, Ryan Hageman, categorizes posts by type of content and also by type of artist, making the search for inspiration somewhat easier. (http://gurafiku.tumblr.com/)