Craft Beer Label Design

June 17, 2020
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    What Should You Consider When Designing A Beer Label


    While the coronavirus has slowed many of our daily musings, there is one thing that has continued to rise… our drinking habits. Zoom meeting at 11:00? Yeah, you could probably have a beer before that- and why shouldn’t you? After all, you haven’t left the house in a few days and if it was acceptable to wear that bathrobe you got from Aunt Gladys last year you would be wearing that thing everywhere! The point being, we have become accustomed to a lifestyle of not having to impress anyone but ourselves (and our partner who’s lived with us for 3 years who you’ve just now noticed has a weird toenail clipping ritual). We can forget that there are companies out there who still have to impress, now more than ever. I’m talking about the people who make your 11:00 am craft beer and, until now, were always hoping you would go to the bar to enjoy their craft. But times have changed and so have many brewery marketing strategies.


    Craft beer in the U.S. saw its resurgence in the 1970’s with the creation of the American Homebrewer’s Association and the opening of many inaugural craft breweries across the States. Their goal was simply to produce a variety of flavorful brews to be consumed by beer-loving fanatics. Fast forward to today and it seems impossible to go to the grocery store without being repeatedly punched in the face with fifty different styles of IPA. Some may find this phenomenon exhausting while other find it exhilarating, either way, the game has changed.


    We’re about to travel full circle to your 11:00 am, pre-Zoom, no judgement beer. What led you to that decision? Admittedly, I do love an IPA because of the variety that the style allows but even then, I’m faced with a wall of decisions. Do I go for the local IPA? The award-winning IPA? The fruited IPA? The cheapest IPA? The can with the coolest artwork IPA? With on-premise beer sales tanking because of Covid 19, breweries were forced to shift to packaging larger quantities of their product. This added even more options to an already crowded playing field.


    So how do you stand out on the shelves? Here are a couple of tips, tricks and observations for those looking to make their labels “pop”:


    1. Local Matters
      1. Restrict your competition pool to those who are in your immediate area by letting the consumer know you’re local. When given the decision to support a new brewery or a local brewery, most consumers are going to reach for the local option. This gives people a sense of helping their community and there is a strong association with ‘local’ and ‘fresh’. Try adding a clever way to say “locally brewed in [insert city here]” to your label so that folks know how close they are to the source of the product.
    2. Style Stands Out
      1. As our craft beer consumer becomes more educated, they become more aware of what they are purchasing. You’ll hear it all the time in a restaurant or bar, “what IPA’s do you have?”. Don’t be shy when letting the customer know what style you are selling. Don’t be afraid to be creative either! The point of beer is to brew both classics as well as experimentals- this can often lead styles up to the interpretation of the brewer.
    3. Price Plays a Part
      1. Of course, there is some limitations to what price point you can set, but based on a survey taken by Boise Brewing, price matters. As you are designing your label, take the price into account; a pricier beer deserves a label to match it. Less expensive product is often associated with a simpler package so that folks know they’re getting a classic, tried and true brew.
    4. Design Tells the Story
      1. Last but certainly not least, the story of the beer! Every single batch brewed has a story behind it and so does the artist behind the label. We’re seeing a departure from brand consistency as consumers are becoming less loyal and more frivolous with their beer purchases. The challenge for label designers is that every design still needs to contain elements that are consistent across the brewery’s offerings. Whether this is a logo, pattern, font or simply the layout of artwork, there needs to be some sort of recognizable feature so that when the consumer likes the beer, they know how to find it again.
      2. After you’ve chosen your consistent element then it’s pretty much an open canvas! Remember, you are competing against 30+ other designers to catch someone’s eye. Don’t be afraid to talk with your label printer about what they offer as far as effects- metallic shines, thermo-inks, matte finishes, etc. The goal should be to get someone to pick up your product to learn more about the story; there is a much higher percentage of a purchase if you pick something up to take a closer look.


    Always remember, you are an artist and while you may have to work within certain boundaries that doesn’t mean you need to restrict your creativity. Communicate with the brewery you’re working with and make sure you hit all of the key points then do what you do best! My final piece of advice, if you are stuck looking for an idea, find inspiration from the beer itself! Drink it in, literally, and let your mind travel to wherever that delicious nectar may take you…

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