design pubs

Inside the Pub, 1950

Detail from an illustration by Gordon Cullen.
One of Gordon Cullen’s illustrations depicting an ideal modern pub.

Maurice Gorham’s best-known books on pubs are The Local (1939) and Return to the Local (1949), neither of which we have yet read. What we did acquire, thanks to a tip from Herb Lester, was a battered copy of Inside the Pub (1950), a pub designer’s manual which Gorham wrote with Harding McGregor (‘H. McG.’) Dunnet for the Architectural Press.

It’s an interesting book for various reasons but what leapt out at us were the opening lines of the introduction by J.M. Richards, on the subject of the alchemy of pub atmosphere:

If I were asked what are the qualities I would like to find in a pub I would say simply, ‘the right atmosphere’, and if asked to be a little more precise I would say that the right atmosphere is one which provides warmth, cheerfulness and a sense of seclusion and one in which the charm of the familiar is somehow combined with a sense of something intriguing just round the corner. A pub should make people feel at home and yet have the capacity to lift them a little out of themselves.

Later in the book, Dunnet says that many pubs built just before the war suffer from the lack of nooks and dividers, offering only a ‘large bleak interior’; they are sometimes ‘indistinguishable from post offices or banks’; they ‘deny the whole pub tradition and only succeed in discouraging the customer from joining his cronies round the kitchen chimney corner’.

We can think of a few pubs to which that description would apply.

design marketing

The Power of a Good Pumpclip

Magic Rock brewing pumpclip

When we went to the Craft Beer Company with a not-especially-beery mate last week, we got to see the power of branding in action.

Faced with a vast array of pumps, slightly anxious at too much choice, and aware of the queue behind him, our chum made a snap decision: he went for Magic Rock Curious. Why? Because the design stood out as professional, stylish and interesting. Because it leapt off the bartop shouting: “Buy me!”

Sadly, there was none left, and he had to settle for another beer suggested by the barmaid. As it turned out, it was every bit as nice as Curious, but we’d never have known that if left to our own devices, because its pumpclip looked like something from an A level art portfolio c.2002 — Photoshop for Dummies, posterise-everything amateur hour.

Design can’t be an afterthought, because, in the current competititve climate, it can mean the difference between a beer either selling briskly or quietly turning to vinegar in its cask. We punters — especially those of us who simply drink beer rather than obsessing over it — are fickle, superficial, shallow creatures.

breweries design

More Visuals: Beer Family Trees?

Extract from the Thornbridge Family Tree
Detail from the Thornbridge Family Tree (PDF link below)

After the more theoretical graphs and charts of the last couple of days (which required all our reserves of bullshit to navigate), today’s experiment is in an altogether woolier mode.

Pete Frame is rightly revered for his Rock Family Trees — vast, sprawling, beautifully hand-scripted charts showing the movement of bass, keytar and Moog players from one band to another, or within particular ‘movements’. This approach doesn’t just work for bands, though — Frame also used it to map the Monty Python crew, hangers on and chums.

Inspired by his approach, we’ve come up with a chart showing the comings and goings of brewers at Thornbridge (PDF, 76kb) and its place in British craft brewing in the last seven years. Is it helpful? Does it help makes sense of the connections between breweries? We think it does, actually — it highlights Italian and Antipodean connections; and not entirely surprising links between Meantime Brewing, Marble, Dark Star, Brewdog and Thornbridge.

But now we’d really like to see an even bigger version covering more breweries. (Narrated by the late John Peel.)


  1. We chose Thornbridge because they seem to have a revolving door, with people coming and going as often as members of Morrissey’s backing band and
  2. because they’re fairly open about who’s arrived and who’s leaving.
  3. With only their blog, press releases and Wikipedia for reference, we’ve probably made some mistakes — sorry in advance! We’re happy to fix them, but it’s the approach we’re really testing here.
  4. If you work at any of the breweries pictured, you’re probably feeling weirded out right now. Sorry. If it’s any comfort, at least you know how Peter Hook felt when he saw this.
  5. Updates: 09:45, 03/05/2012 — added James Kemp; changed David Pickering qualifications to mention Heriot-Watt; corrected spelling of ‘Heriot-Watt’.
Beer history design

Or How About Sparklines for Data?

Sparklines for Whitbread beer production 1902 to 1914

The graphic above shows Ron Pattinson’s Whitbread production data from 1902 too 1914 plotted as ‘sparklines’ using Excel 2010’s built-in function.

Sparklines are small line graphs without scales or labels designed to give a quick visual impression of a trend over time. They’re another Edward Tufte innovation and he apparently describes them as “data-intense, design-simple, word-sized graphics” — graphs that can be used like elements of type, without the need for plates or “See Fig. 12”.

But is the above graphic illuminating? More so than yesterday’s slopegraph, perhaps, but probably not as much as the traditional line graph below.

Whitbread production 1902 to 1914 as a line graph

Next: the Rock Family Trees approach to understanding the relationships between British breweries.

Beer history design

Slopegraphs to Visualise Beer Data?

Like Alan ‘A Good Beer Blog’ McLeod, we’re keen to see more meaningful attempts to visualise the sea of information that surrounds beer — that is, not just whizzy infographics heavy on the graphics but light on info.

In a recent post, Alan directed us towards the work of visualisation guru Edward Tufte, which led us to this excellent blog post on an early innovation of Tufte’s: ‘slopegraphs’.

So, here’s some of Ron Pattinson’s data, drawn painstakingly from the Whitbread archives, presented as a (crude) slopegraph.

Graph showing Whitbread beer production 1904 to 1914.

First thoughts? Well, it doesn’t show us anything Ron wasn’t able to express better in words (IPA up, Mild declining surprisingly early), but it might be useful to some ‘visual learners‘. And, as Charlie Park points out, aren’t slopegraphs really just rearranged line charts? (They certainly are the way me make ’em.)

The chart above was created in Excel and exported to a graphics package for formatting and labelling. It uses a consistent scale, hence the big gap in the middle, which is, in itself, illustrative. UPDATED 02/05/2012: removed bounding box — see comments below.