Beer Labels and Logos for Inspiration
People definitely judge a beer by its cover. Your local bottle shop is a sea of strange brews, each competing for your attention with its label. The plumage on that pilsner is no mere decoration. Microbreweries in particular know that beers with great graphic design are the ones that get sampled and remembered.
Welcome to the Beer Garden
The graphic design on a beer bottle plays three roles in its success. First, it acts as an in-store beacon: the siren song of the label makes a beer stand out from the others, and the quality of its art makes an indirect case for the quality of the beer.
Second, the label design acts to influence the drinker’s experience. A drinker wants to like the beverage in a well-designed bottle; he’ll strive to have the experience promised by its art.
Third, a beer’s label acts as a signal to others. Beer has become a marker of taste and status. The beer you carry around a bar broadcasts your tastes to those around you. Carrying an expensive-looking, obscure, and appealing bottle can be the adult equivalent of jockeying for high school status with band tee shirts.
If the graphic design falls short on any of these three roles, there could be hell to pay. Take the example of Mike’s Hard Lemonade—its look is too well established to change, but the beer is perceived as more “lemonade” than “hard." The brand has poured millions into a television campaign which reminds consumers that their drink is not emasculating. In the process, the brand has only underscored its desperation to be taken seriously.
Beer label graphic design is a make-or-break component of a small-scale brew. You can count on them to be visually appealing and excruciatingly tailored to suit their market. Beer labels make a great source of inspiration when you’ve otherwise gone dry.
Let’s Play a Drinking Game
These mind-experiments will help you to make the most of your next trip to the bottle shop.
- Which beer label catches your eye first?
- Which labels do you, personally, like best? Which beers would you be most likely to buy? Are they the same?
- Do any beers seem geared toward women? Which labels do you think would be most likely to appeal to women, and why?
- What are the most common colors and palettes? Why do you think they are popular? Are the outliers effective, or do they detract from the beer’s appeal?
- What is the most common graphic design trend or art style or subject?
- Which features tend to be largest: lettering, logos, or illustrations? How do you think this is intended to increase the beer’s appeal?
- Think of your clients. If you had to choose a beer for each based on label alone, which would you choose?
To Your Health
A bottle shop is a competitive ecosystem, like a rain forest or the graphic design freelance pool. The fittest will prosper. Small advancements can yield a big advantage over the competition. Watching the battle of the beer logos can give your own work the edge it needs.