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.

 

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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.

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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.

Ignore Everybody: 3 Tips for the Creative Type

I recently read a book by cartoonist Hugh Macleod titled “Ignore Everybody: And 39 Other Keys to Creativity.”  The book was a brief, comical, and incredibly worthwhile read highlighting 40 lessons Macleod has learned over the years working in creative industries.  After reading the book, I found some of my favorites and thought I’d share my insights.

1) Ignore Everybody

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In a field where feedback is key, this can seem like an odd idea.  Paying attention to constructive critiques and taking inspiration from other design is part of the process.  Macleod means that when you have a great idea, it can often change the balance between you and your peers.  As a result sometimes your favorite ideas will get a lot of early questioning.  Macleod stresses the importance of an artist having a well formed idea, and keeping the goal of the design in mind throughout the work.

2) Keep Your Day Job

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I’m planning on working more than one job at a time in the coming years.  Some people see this as a bad thing, for a while the idea of having to work a job and freelance on the side was intimidating to me as well.  But Macleod’s perspective is that keeping a more steady (even if slightly boring) job is more than worth it.

First of all keeping a steady job means steady income, never a bad thing.  But also it means that all of the jobs you take on the side can be the most most fun jobs, where you can keep your original ideas your own.  By having both as a source of income, both become relatively low pressure because you aren’t entirely dependent on either.

3) Honesty Works

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This one is simple.  He is saying that people know when they’re being sold to, and tend to really hate it.  When someone is speaking to a crowd, it’s different than having a personal conversation with them.  This is true for your ideas too.  The strongest ideas speak for themselves.  When an idea is great the truth is most convincing, and it doesn’t need selling.

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.