Beer label design

Randy Mosh­er, a home­brew­er and com­mer­cial design­er, argues in his excel­lent book Rad­i­cal Brew­ing that a bad­ly designed label says to peo­ple: “I don’t respect my beer, so why should you?”

I think this is an inter­est­ing point. There are cer­tain beers whose labels I like almost more than the beer. A bad label can lead to a good beer being ignored; and a great label can make you try a beer you’d prob­a­bly oth­er­wise not look at twice.

There are sev­er­al dif­fer­ent schools of label design. Here are just a few.

1. Pri­ma­ry colours, gilt – “mod­ern but tra­di­tion­al”
Fuller’s and Cain’s. This real­ly works for me. Some­how sug­gests qual­i­ty. Fuller’s car­ry this style of gold and enam­el all the way through their brand. Cains – a great brew­ery, I’m begin­ning to think, from the two beers I’ve had – do it even bet­ter. All the bet­ter for being entire­ly ersatz!

2. Antique, brown paper – “found in a crate aboard a sunken Napoleon­ic frigate”

Guin­ness, Bur­ton Bridge Brew­ery and… er… us.

Anoth­er good style, and a good option for the skint brew­ery with no innate design abil­i­ty. Imme­di­ate­ly looks cred­i­ble, restrained and, again, sug­gests tra­di­tion. The down­side is, your beer can look like a jar of pick­le from a church fayre.

3. Quaint­ly ama­teur­ish – “my son is a tal­ent­ed design­er”

My least favourite school of beer label design, but often con­ceal­ing great beer. I’m not going to name names here, but you know the kind of thing I mean: cheap illus­tra­tions, names ALL IN CAPS; prob­a­bly in Times New Roman; pos­si­bly even clip art. OK, I will name one: Sier­ra Neva­da. The beers are great. The bot­tles even look nice – they’re at the top end of “ama­teur­ish” – but they look a bit cheap. Like maybe they were coloured in with felt tip pens.

If you’re brew­ing your own beer and want some inspi­ra­tion for your own labels, check out the Brew Your Own label design con­test win­ners, and also Randy Mosh­er’s own site.

6 thoughts on “Beer label design”

  1. Ha, you should see the dread­ful label I cre­at­ed in ten min­utes yes­ter­day for our Judy Gar­land Stout… fits your descrip­tion of ama­teur­ish per­fect­ly:

  2. It hap­pens the same to me.….i look at the label and most of the times i get caught by old timer labels. Mod­ern is not my style, i usu­al­ly don´t buy them (my girl­friend does so i always have the chance to try them any­way!)

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