Every new project that comes in to ZoCo, we get pretty pumped about. Starting something new is always exciting. But every once in a while we get one of those projects that we go crazy for. Where we just have to be as creative as possible and get to come up with something incredible and brand new.
Back in July 2015, we worked with Compton Construction to design a pitch for them to build BrewDog‘s first US brewery. You can see the entire project here (it won a Gold Addy!) but the part that excited us the most was that we were essentially designing for a beer brand. It was actually a mix of the Compton brand with a BrewDog spin but still—designing a beer label (or any alcohol label) is one of those designer dream projects. Or maybe that’s just us. We really like drinking.
So Compton brewed a beer just for the pitch and we designed the label for it. The beer was called “This is a Bribe” and used illustrations relating back to both construction and brewing. In the end, we created a label that would look beautiful on the shelf of a grocery store, but unfortunately this beer was only for shipping off to bribe BrewDog.
While this was our first step into beer brand design, it wasn’t Compton’s first brewery pitch. They’ve actually done work with many local breweries in Columbus including Lineage, Four Strings, and Land Grant.
So in honor of our work with Compton and their great work with breweries, I’ve put together a list of my favorite beer LABELS in Columbus!
Land Grant’s logo is unassuming but I love what’s been done with the cans. They actually released their first 2 cans only about half a year ago, and a third one since then, but they seem to have a good formula down. When you see one, it’s obviously from Land Grant but the one-color illustrations on the side relate back to the name of the beer. The names are actually my favorite part of this brewery. My favorite beer, 1862 Ale is named after the year the Morrill Act was passed. Luckily, they explain the reference on their website: “It called and provided for one great state university in each state of the Union and inadvertently led to tailgate parties, marching bands, fight songs and Bowl Games.” So universities>football>tailgating>beer. Get it?
Wolf’s Ridge has a similar strategy to Land Grant. The logo is simple but recognizable and the label is customized with a one-color illustration, like the moon for their Clear Sky Cream Ale. Wolf’s Ridge bottles are BRAND NEW as of a month ago and their new logo was only released in December, so in my opinion, they’re off to a very strong start. I should also note, the material they use for their bottle label is a matte soft touch label paper that feels soft but incredibly durable (sorry people who like to peel off their labels). It reminds me a lot of the paper we print our business cards on at ZoCo. Beyond the two types of beer Wolf’s Ridge sells in stores, they’ve also sold a 22oz bottles of beer with more elaborate illustrations that I’m a fan of.
As far as branding goes, Four Strings is more unpredictable. Their logo involves a clover sometimes and a ram skull other times. But I admire their creativity in their labels from their Vanilla Porter and Suncaster Summer Wheat with their hippy vibes to the Switch Blade IPA that makes me feel like being in a biker gang when I hold the can. It all works with their message of “killer beer.” Branding rules are important but what’s the point of being a brewery if you can’t have fun?
The beer itself at Actual is already uniquely creative with the brand’s science theme and the Brewers calling themselves beer chemists. It would have been easy for the labels, designed by Mira Lee, the wife of Actual’s founder, to be over the top sciencey. Instead, all of the labels have artwork with a toned down art nouveau look. Every illustration is different but the branding is consistent, and any chemistry references are subtle. I especially love the science puns in the names of the brews like “photon light lager.” Not all breweries are lucky enough to have such a talented in-house illustrator.
Basic is good if it is done right. These can labels from Seventh Son aren’t overly complicated but their simplicity makes them stand out on the shelf. The retro swirls reflect the S mark from their logo in the front and is pleasing to stare at, especially after drinking one or a few of the beers. Seventh Son isn’t always consistent with their label design, sometimes using local artists to design for special releases, but the swirls seem to be their go-to and it works for them.
Columbus Brewing Company
This last design was the first Columbus beer I bought consciously because I wanted to try a Columbus beer. I was just getting into craft beers and it looked like just the type for me.
Little did I know, the packaging was done by Columbus’s own Jeremy Slagle. He also redesigned the rest of the brewery’s packaging including special labels for other seasonal beers that are equally creative and eye catching. But Summer Teeth with that adorable grinning sun takes the cake for my favorite beer label in Columbus.
Honorable Mention: Rhinegeist
Although not a Columbus beer, this Cincinnati native definitely deserves a mention. These color block labels are consistent in brand from beer to beer and only change color (or pattern) to reflect the beer. Their
cute badass skull logo is something I want on a sticker and the label, though simple, is bold and clean. It looks professional in a craft beer kind of way.
I can’t guarantee this will stay a comprehensive list of my favorites for long–there are new breweries popping up in Columbus every time I turn around. And that is a great thing because I love seeing the incredible design that comes out of this city connect with the equally incredible beer. It makes me proud of Columbus. And who knows, maybe one day you might see a local beer on the shelf with a label designed right here at ZoCo (hint hint).