Label designs that draws customers in and conveys the spirit of your brewery is the key to market success.
Beer label designs reflect the brewery as much as the contents.
First appearances can sway how people categorize you and more importantly, how they feel about your craft brewery and your product. Conveying the feel, vibe, attitude, and brewing prowess of your craft beverage through labels is tricky - but two Los Angeles area breweries have shown what a successful design can bring to the bottle.
Judging a Beer by its Cover
What is a beer label but the clothing that a bottle or can wears? The creativity that is on the inside of each brewery needs to be reflected on the outside, now more than ever as the number of breweries rockets past the 4,000 mark. This sentiment is felt deeply in the veins of breweries finding themselves in a newly burgeoning market such as Los Angeles. Here, players from outside the state such as Bell’s and Founders have entered the fray alongside a bevy of new start-ups in around the greater LA area.
Packaging plays an important role in how consumers choose your product. “Dedicating time and thought into your packaging process is crucial in such a competitive market," says Frances Lopez of the Los Angeles County Brewer’s Guild. “Everyone's trying to stand out on the shelf and when you're a younger brand trying to assert yourself in an industry of variety, you have to know that people really might judge a book by its cover so to speak,” added Lopez.
Designs that Stand Out
Eagle Rock Brewery, a Los Angeles craft brewing pioneer, is a prime example. Each of their labels, be on twenty-two ounce bottles or sixteen ounce cans, has a unique design feature: a diagonal tilt. Their logo is found on each, sometimes in different locations or sizes, but always easy to find, carrying at least a few words about the beer. In the early days of the brewery, the colors were fairly monochrome and simple. But with each new release, an evolution has occured, and you can see the confidence growing in their use of colors to make their point.
Designs placed differently from the competition can capture the attention of a buyer.
This has culminated in the duo design for the four-pack cans of Umlaut, a pilsner-esque beer, and Doomlaut, the dark Halloween variant. Both lean heavy on color (dark yellow for the former and brown for the latter) as well as abstract shapes that could not be mistaken for any other beer on the shelves. All of their designs are done in-house by graphic designers: home brewers and Eagle Rock employees, Andrew and Lee Bakofsky. Eagle Rock has found that in-house designers saves time going back and forth with a designer who may not know beer, or if they do, might not know about the beer that will be put in the bottle.
Over on the Westside of Los Angeles, El Segundo Brewing Co. made a switch from their first label design to new a poppier and vivid label. The first design featured a circle in the middle with a changing graphic depending on the beer inside, composed mostly in a dark blue with black accents - but when their original artist was no longer able to continue, the brewery felt that "it was time to move on to a cleaner more brand focused look - and we were lucky enough to find a great firm right here in El Segundo that we enjoy working with, Boiling Point," said Tom Kelly who holds the dual title of partner and rainmaker for the brewery.
A beautiful design is the first step, but it needs to be transformed from the artist's conception and put into commercial use. Which is how Eagle Rock and El Segundo end up at the same place. What both of these breweries share is Labeltronix: an Anaheim, California-based label manufacturer. Labeltronix takes those designs and provides labels in a variety of physical formats from glossy to matte, to die-cut or embossed, that best suit the design and use needs of the brewery. That eliminates the need to buy unneeded amounts of labels and also allows for flexibility if changes need to be made or different versions of the beer are created and slated for market.
When the brewer is not there, the label has to be the salesperson for your brewery. “Craft beer is a premium product in every sense of the word and packaging is a big part of that," said Lopez. Both the design and the physical label have to get that point across and it is no easy trick, one that author Daniel Bellon speaks to in his book Cool Beer Labels, “it’s a niche design for the few.” But those few are demanding, vocal and opinionated about that beer inside as well the label outside.
If you liked reading this artilce, you may also like: How to Build Your Craft Brewery Brand.