Boost your brewery's sales with a graphic design that stands out from the competition.
Logos can be used on any of your brewery's merchandise.
In the world of craft beer brewing, developing your brewery’s brand identity is just as important as making and selling great beer. Encompassing everything from your personality and ideals to your inspiration, hopes and dreams, this identity is what makes your brewery yours.
Most often, your visual identity will be a consumer’s first interaction with your brewery and your beer. Whether at a beer bar or beer festival, in your taproom or on a T-shirt, this type of branding will be one of the greatest factors in a consumer’s choice to try your beer over another.
As such, your brewery's visual identidty should resonate through each and every visual element of your brand—logos and signage, marketing collateral and packaging—to create a distinct and recognizable image that sets you apart from your competitors.
To build this image, we look to the world of graphic design.
Giving Your Business a Face
As a brewery, your logo is used everywhere. It’s going on growlers, glassware, tap handles, T-shirts and hats, your website, social media and much more. Long before you get started brewing and selling beer, your branding will be the face of your brewery, with your logo being one of the first stops on the journey to building this image.
“The sooner you start with your logo and image—the sooner you get it online and let people see it—the sooner you can start getting the attention you need to launch your brewery. Even if it ends up changing, you still have that buzz, and that helps with everything,” says Michael Figueira, founder of upcoming brewery Flux Brewing Company in Tucson, AZ.
Figueira largely credits Flux’s early attention from his local scene to his brand identity. Flux has been involved with multiple collaborations with local breweries and developed a prominent following since first announcing its intentions to open last year.
“Everyone jokes that Flux is the most popular fake business in Tucson. We’ve had a lot of coverage because we created a brand identity early on and pushed it. We’ve marketed ourselves and let people know that we are coming, and we have people excited about our brand.”
Of course, designing a logo takes time, energy and money—resources most unopened breweries have in short supply.
The Cost of a Good Graphic Designer
When it comes to early brand design, especially designing your logo, you can spend anywhere from nothing by doing it yourself to thousands of dollars by hiring a firm specializing in craft beer marketing.
The U.S. Small Business Administration states that though most start-ups dedicate only 3-5 percent of their projected gross revenues to marketing, businesses with revenues under $5 million should allocate more like 7-8 percent of their revenues to marketing.
On the low end of graphic design work, many web-based logo design firms have packages beginning at just a few hundred dollars, while marketing firms specializing in craft beer may charge notably more—well into the thousands—but may also better understand your needs as a new brewery.
A recent survey of primarily freelance graphic designers by the design magazine HOW reported hourly rates beginning at just $20 and peaking at $150, with freelancers generally offering the lowest rates.
“When you’re starting a brewery, everything costs something, and costs are everything,” says Linette Antillion, co-owner of Pueblo Vida Brewing Company, a Tucson, AZ brewhouse that opened in 2014. “Money was a major factor when we had our logo designed the year before opening, but we knew that we were going to have to spend money to get something that looked professional and that would be usable in the ways we needed it.”
Finding a graphic designer who understands your brand and product—and in this case, preferably one who understands craft beer—should start with leveraging your network for tried-and-true designers. If you have a positive relationship with other breweries in your community, consider asking them for references.
“Who you choose is going to fluctuate based on so many different things. Your budget will obviously weigh in, but there are so many other factors,” says Antillon. “Our philosophy on contracting work is to always get three quotes. The best designer may not be the cheapest, but you may have a connection with that designer you don’t share with the others. Having that face-to-face meeting with a few different people so you can connect with them—and look beyond the price tag—is critical.”
Whether you decide to go with a freelancer, web-based firm or local company, be sure to explore a designer’s portfolio in full, get a quote for your final product and establish a time line before signing any contracts. The design process can take anywhere from a few weeks to months depending on the span of your project and your designer’s workload, so be sure to plan for varied turnaround times.
Working with Your Graphic Designer
Once you have selected your designer, you’ll have your first design brief. This is where you communicate your goals, explain how your brand imagery will be used, discuss your demographic and budget, and introduce design themes you’d like incorporated into the final deliverable(s). Consider asking yourself some of these graphic design questions or perhaps sketching some of your ideas out on paper before going into your first meeting with a designer to help convey your vision and ensure a smooth and speedy workflow
“If you’re at all artistically inclined, try sketching your logo out—come up with some fun ideas even if you’re just drawing crude artwork,” suggests Mike Figueira. He has been Flux's only graphic designer up to this point but still considers contracting an outside designer before opening.
“Get an idea of what you want your brand to be and then take it to a graphic designer who can really harness what you are trying to say and make it into something awesome.”
Linette Antillon describes the process she and partner/brewmaster Kyle Anderson went through when having Pueblo Vida’s logo designed:
“About a year before we opened, we went to a design firm with an idea of what we wanted our logo to embody. We brought some logos that we loved—not necessarily what we wanted ours to look like, but images to convey what we liked. We wanted something that expressed our local scene and was true to our name—the whole idea of Tucson being the ‘Old Pueblo’—so we gave them keywords like ‘rustic,’ ‘used’ and ‘faded,’ but also asked for something that would be relevant to other markets if/when we expanded outside of Tucson.”
The Graphic Designer’s Journey and Product Delivery
A good designer will do his or her own research following the design brief and look at competitors to ensure that your design themes will stand apart. Depending on how involved you can and want to be in the design process, making yourself available for dialogue during the brainstorming and conceptualization stages can be extremely helpful.
“Most of our meetings were brainstorming sessions where we kicked ideas back and forth,” says Antillon. “When we first met with the designers, we discussed what we were doing and what we wanted our brand to evoke. Their design team put together different sketches based on what we gave them and our keywords and we discussed what we liked and didn’t like from each one.”
After coming to an agreeable design sketch, your designer will move into the drafting stage, using graphic design programs like Adobe Illustrator to create a digital image known as a vector graphic that can be rendered at any size without losing quality. This is where your branding comes to life with different fonts, colors and arrangements. Your designer may contextualize the images with mock-ups of branded merchandise and marketing collateral and include color variations and alternate arrangements of major design elements. A written description of the project may accompany the project as well.
Following any subsequent revisions—this is your opportunity to fine-tune any elements of the design that do not perfectly meet your needs and expectations—the designer will finalize the project.
Delivery will likely come as a package of file types that can be used for different outputs, including high resolution files for printing, lower-resolution images for web utilization, editable project files, transparent images, alternate color schemes, etc.
Anticipating Graphic Design for Your Brewery’s Future
As your brewery grows and your product offerings expand, you may find that your visual identity system—logo(s), color schemes, typography, etc.—needs to be supplemented or altered to meet new needs. This will become especially important as you introduce new product brands (i.e. new beers) to your lineup.
“To keep your brand fresh, I’ve learned that you need to revisit your logo and branding to keep up with the times,” says Figueira, whose wife owns a hair salon in Tucson that recently underwent an extensive rebranding process.
“I think a lot of breweries currently have fallen behind and are long overdue. I look at some big brands and their branding is outdated. Their beer is great but the branding doesn’t resonate with new audiences.”
Unplanned revisions of existing designs or development of new ones can burden your brewery with unforeseen costs, cause brand confusion and hamper the release of new products. On the other hand, rebranding can also be a great way of reenergizing a brewery’s image and bolstering recognition. Take for example New Belgium, which rebranded its entire image in 2014 with a cleaner look that echoed its watercolor label aesthetic from the previous twenty-two years while focusing more on the logo and brand name.
New Belgium's redesigned brand identity.
The good news is that premature redesigns and rebranding can be avoided by researching and choosing the right designer for a lasting relationship. An experienced graphic designer will recognize your current and future needs and help you plan for them so that when the time comes, you aren’t stuck with a design that doesn’t fit on a piece of merchandise or closely resembles that of a competitor.
“We were super happy with our first logo,” says Antillon, “but after being open for a year, we realized that we needed a secondary logo that met some of our other design needs. We have a fairly long logo—it doesn’t fit on everything perfectly, or get cuts off at the edges—so we actually contracted a new designer to help us create a circular logo after the original firm we used closed.”
“Looking back, it would have been nice to build a relationship with a designer who we could contact as our needs required so we could have these revisions made sooner. From a budget standpoint, it’s worth looking at contracting graphic design work as a long-term relationship rather than as a one-time expense.”
As your brewery moves from a garage project towards its commercial realization, graphic design is just one of the many topics you will need to explore as you begin to build your brand identity. A powerful platform to express individuality and express new ideas, your branding and visual identity should be inspired by the same forces that first propelled you into the booming craft beer world. Regardless of the scale of your brewery, developing a captivating image will be instrumental to realizing your craft beer dreams.
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