No Logo

The blackboard at the Drapers.

One of the many interesting things about our local, The Drapers Arms micropub in Bristol, is the lack of branding for beers at the point of sale.

Instead of the cus­tom­ary row of hand-pumps with dec­o­ra­tive pump-clips (which have grown big­ger and fanci­er over the course of the past few decades) the Drap­ers has a rack of casks with beer names chalked on their black jack­ets, and a black­board declar­ing the name, brew­ery, ori­gin, style and ABV of each beer.

The pump-clips are there, actu­al­ly, tacked on the wall behind the bar, along with those for beers com­ing soon, but a deter­mined squint and spec­ta­cle push is required to dis­cern any details. Most peo­ple, we sus­pect, think they’re just part of the decor.

The black­board approach encour­ages cer­tain unusu­al, quite pleas­ing behav­iour. For one thing, peo­ple often ask each oth­er for advice: “Excuse me – what’s that you’re on? It looks bloody good.” And we’ve nev­er known a pub where tasters are so freely offered and  as glad­ly tak­en, and where such gen­er­ous time is giv­en to con­ver­sa­tions about taste and pref­er­ence.

Which brings us to our main point: the lack of obvi­ous brand­ing seems to push peo­ple – and cer­tain­ly forces us – to focus on the beer.

We’ve always been quite open about the fact that, being human beings with a full suite of emo­tions, nur­tured in late 20th cen­tu­ry cap­i­tal­ist soci­ety, we are eas­i­ly swayed by pack­ag­ing and mar­ket­ing. Of course we chal­lenge our­selves and attempt to over­come this instinct to super­fi­cial­i­ty but if we’d seen this pump-clip, for exam­ple, we might have let our gaze pass over it in favour of some­thing else:

Ramsbury Belapur pump-clip
SOURCE: Rams­bury Web­site.

It’s not bad but it does­n’t sug­gest that this beer is any­thing spe­cial. It’s a bit cheap and a bit staid. But at The Drap­ers, a lev­el play­ing field for the graph­i­cal­ly chal­lenged brew­ery, we went for it, and were real­ly glad we did. It’s a thor­ough­ly decent beer we’ve had sev­er­al times since, and Rams­bury have been added to our men­tal list of brew­eries always worth a go.

On the flip­side, there are beers that, divorced from very smart graph­ic design and win­ning blurb, are eas­i­er to assess objec­tive­ly. In plain brown wrap­pers it’s eas­i­er to dis­cern that a slight­ly bland pale ale from a hip brew­ery taste much like a slight­ly bland pale ale from a micro-brew­ery found­ed in 1983.

We gen­er­al­ly argue for more infor­ma­tion rather than less (see tomor­row’s blog post) but some­how the omis­sion of this par­tic­u­lar type of infor­ma­tion – the visu­al – real­ly works for us.

The Big Session Comeback Tour

Beer mat from the Hausbrauerei Altstadthof, Nuremberg.

We haven’t tak­en part in the ses­sion for a cou­ple of years, most­ly because we found our­selves strug­gling to fit in an oppor­tu­ni­ty to, e.g., drink a par­tic­u­lar type of beer before it rolled around.

Any­way, it’s time to get back in the sad­dle so here we are again to talk about the art of beer labels, caps and coast­ers, for this mon­th’s ses­sion host­ed by Hop­Head­Said.

We have a par­tic­u­lar inter­est in com­mer­cial design and illus­tra­tion and when it relates to beer, all the bet­ter. We’ve post­ed about it on more than one occa­sion and have been real­ly enjoy­ing this excel­lent blog about beer brand­ing recent­ly.

The image above is one of our favourite bits of beer-relat­ed design and, per­haps not so coin­ci­den­tal­ly, comes from one of our favourite brew­eries.

What’s not to like? There’s sans serif typog­ra­phy (we have some sym­pa­thy with the Hel­veti­ca nerds), a sim­ple colour scheme reflect­ing the flag of Fran­co­nia and an equal­ly sim­ple graph­ic. All of this reminds us vivid­ly of their pub in Nurem­berg and their beers, all of which are also sim­ple, unpre­ten­tious and clean.

You’ll note that the image above is a bit rough. It need­ed some restora­tion because this beer­mat, along with a stack of oth­ers from Ger­many, the Czech Repub­lic and Bel­gium, lives in our kitchen and gets used every day. It’s a lit­tle bit of Nurem­berg we can enjoy every day. As a result, it is cov­ered in beer stains.

Mind you, that Satan cap art isn’t bad either, and nor are the twin labels for the Brooklyn/Schneider col­lab­o­ra­tions.

Branding tips for small breweries

A mocked up label for Rocherfort 10 using Comic Sans.
What if Rochefort 10 did­n’t have a taste­ful, sim­ply designed label?

It’s easy to laugh at and crit­i­cise brew­eries with bad brand­ing (real­ly easy) but we thought it was time we actu­al­ly tried to be help­ful.

So, here are some tips which might lead to a series of more detailed posts lat­er in the year.

1. Use a pro­fes­sion­al design agency. If you think you can’t afford to, then look again at your bud­gets. If it increas­es your sales, it’s a good invest­ment.

But, if the bud­gets just won’t stretch, and you real­ly must do your design work your­self…

2. Keep it sim­ple. The less fuss, the less can go wrong. It might look plain or even a bit bor­ing, but that’s bet­ter than cheap, crap­py or care­less. You can always rebrand lat­er and util­i­tar­i­an chic can cer­tain­ly work in its own right: Ker­nel have this nailed.

3. Be con­sis­tent. It will help your loy­al cus­tomers spot your prod­ucts if the clips or labels share cer­tain char­ac­ter­is­tics. For exam­ple, Pen­guin books’ vin­tage cov­ers were designed on a grid which gave a lot of room for manouevre as well as ease of recog­ni­tion for con­sumers. The eas­i­est option is to use the same lay­out and font but per­haps change one colour. Chi­may is a good exam­ple of this prin­ci­ple in action in the world of beer – three beers with basi­cal­ly the same label.

4. Nev­er use clip art or images stolen from the inter­net. Its cheap, but unfor­tu­nate­ly also looks cheap. In fact, unless you can pay a pro­fes­sion­al illus­tra­tor (and we don’t mean the frus­trat­ed water­colourist who works in your ware­house, or your broth­er who does some graf­fi­ti) it’s best to avoid illus­tra­tions alto­geth­er.

5. Three fonts to avoid: Times New Roman, Ari­al and Com­ic Sans. Every­one knows these fonts because they are used to death, and pro­fes­sion­al design­ers don’t like them much. Almost every­one in their right mind real­ly hates Com­ic Sans. If you can’t afford to license a com­mer­cial font – they are expen­sive – try to pick some­thing clear and classy. (This might come in handy and there are some good tips here.)

6. Before you start design­ing any­thing, think about your brand val­ues. Here’s a very sim­pli­fied process for work­ing out what those are:

- Sit down with some col­leagues, friends or fam­i­ly
– think about oth­er com­pa­nies (not nec­es­sar­i­ly brew­eries) that you iden­ti­fy with
– look at exam­ples of their print­ed mate­r­i­al, web­sites and prod­ucts and
– write down the val­ues those sug­gest to you. (E.g. green, car­ing, tra­di­tion­al, brave, fam­i­ly-friend­ly…)
– Then look at those val­ues (it should be a long list) and think about which also apply to your com­pa­ny.

Refer to that list when design­ing your labels, clips and oth­er brand­ed mate­ri­als: if your com­pa­ny is, say, pro­gres­sive and exper­i­men­tal, you prob­a­bly don’t want a oil-paint­ing of an Owl on your labels.

7. You don’t nec­es­sar­i­ly need a logo. Logos real­ly are the domain of the pro­fes­sion­al design­er because they’re so easy to get wrong (see here and here). If you must have one, then con­sid­er that many of the classi­est logos are real­ly just the com­pa­ny name writ­ten in a taste­ful font and then repro­duced, as a graph­ic, in exact­ly the same dimen­sions ever after. (More on this.)

8. Choose colours care­ful­ly. Black, white and maybe one oth­er colour is usu­al­ly enough. Ama­teur design is plagued by rain­bows and often looks like the con­tents of a pack­et of Smar­ties. Think about con­trast: the best option is usu­al­ly a light colour on a dark back­grounds or vice ver­sa. Don’t use ‘flu­o­res­cent’ pink, espe­cial­ly on a red back­ground…

9. Two fonts is enough – one for titles or logos, and one for body text.

10. Check your spelling, gram­mar and punc­tu­a­tion. Even a small typo can send the mes­sage that you are slop­py and care­less. Avoid excla­ma­tion marks, too: they will make you look hys­ter­i­cal.

Our cre­den­tials: none, real­ly, oth­er than that Bai­ley has worked in mar­ket­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tions for a few years and takes a pro­fes­sion­al inter­est in brand­ing and design.

Balsamic and bulldog clips

We spot­ted a cou­ple of inter­est­ing posts on Life­hack­er the oth­er week which we thought we’d share.

First up, the news that peo­ple pre­fer Bud­weis­er with a drop of bal­sam­ic vine­gar in, but only if they don’t know it’s there. This is anoth­er fas­ci­nat­ing exam­ple of the influ­ence brand­ing and pack­ag­ing – the blurb sur­round­ing a beer – can have on our per­cep­tion of its taste. It also makes us want to try adding bal­sam­ic vine­gar to oth­er crap­py beers to see if it might actu­al­ly improve them.

Sec­ond­ly, and less excit­ing­ly, bull­dog clips might be one solu­tion to the prob­lem of beer bot­tles stead­fast­ly refus­ing to stack in the fridge the way they do on TV. Bull­dog clips are the answer to so many of life’s prob­lems…

Pubco sets up pretend freehouses

UK pub com­pa­ny Mitchells and But­lers are appar­ent­ly plan­ning to open a series of unique “con­cept bars”. They’ll be part of a chain but designed to look like they’re inde­pen­dent.

The UK pub chain com­pa­ny owns, among oth­ers, O’Neil­l’s, Scream Pubs and All Bar One, but has clear­ly recog­nised (as we’ve point­ed out before) that big com­pa­nies and bor­ing­ly ubiq­ui­tous brands are going out of fash­ion. They’re not going away, though – just into hid­ing.

Inter­est­ing to see how this busi­ness mod­el works out. Our bet is that one of the bars will do bet­ter than the oth­ers and then turn into a chain…

Via Mar­ket­ing magazine/Brand Repub­lic.