I design beer labels, beer packaging, pump clips, glassware etc and help breweries with their logo design and branding. I’ve done a lot of this since 2012.
So I’ve just watched Episode 1 of Beer Masters on Prime Video with James Blunt and Jaega Wise. I thought the presenters were good, the format is what we’ve seen before and know and love, it was all done really nicely and it’s a good concept. Tick, tick, tick. Also the explainer diagrams, typeface and graphics were EXCELLENT and the programme did a really good job of explaining the brewing basics. BUT there’s a couple of things that made me shout at the TV – but we’ll come back to that.
About Tom O’Boyle Designs and beer packaging design…
I was actually asked to be one of the graphic designers for this. They didn’t mention it would be on Amazon Prime Video or who was involved – just that I would be designing beer labels for a brewing competition on the spot. However my location was far from ideal, pay wasn’t great and I had existing work and clients that needed looking after – so I said no. I don’t really regret it but it would have been fun and I certainly could have done the work no problem.
I’ve designed for Hammerton, Cellar Head, Little Monster, Two Tribes, The Beer Collective and a whole load more in between. I’ve designed a lot of start up brewery’s branding, packaging and websites – so it would have been very familiar ground. The time constraints might have been a challenge but you just have to LISTEN to the client, understand what they’re trying to achieve.
What’s my beef?
Here comes some SPOILERS! The thing that really left me aghast was the simple task and the failure for people to stick to the brief. This is the no.1 thing you’re taught at school – ANSWER THE BRIEF! The task was to come up with a drinkable beer and they chose Camden Brewery to take them to as a demo. GREAT CHOICE! Their core 3/4 beers are everywhere in London and they’re drinkable and enjoyable for your Stella loving lad OR your beer snob. They sell A LOT of their core beer because it’s accessible FOR ALL and the design is simple and memorable. So I’m there thinking, “Great task! They can choose a well made bitter, a lager, pilsner, pale ale, IPA, maybe even a mild, a light NEIPA, red ale at a push, session, table beer or a subtle saison.”
What did they go for?! A Sour, a black IPA, a stout etc. Yes they were drinkable versions of those beers – but that was NOT the brief. They tried to be too clever, show off too much, put too much of THEIR tastes into someone else’s brief. As a designer (graphic or beer) you can’t do that! It’s not about you! It’s about the client, the client’s tastes, the client’s deliverables, the client’s audience/customers and their needs. The task: make a beer that ANYONE can pick up and drink comfortably. I think pretty much only 1 team did that – the Italians – Bravo! The Belgian’s sour was drinkable and obviously not very sour BUT it’s still a sour!
You absolutely HAVE to direct a client and steer them towards a better solution where possible but that is VERY different from completely missing the brief altogether. I’m not gonna start critiquing the packaging designers on the show. I think the front facing bottle width should be considered more carefully and panel expert Jamal Edwards said he wanted a font that is “big, bright and bold”. This wasn’t really answered – with beer labels it doesn’t HAVE to be big and bold. However if you’re making something that is going to fit the brief of an accessible, drinkable beer that can be consumed by the mass market – it’s a fair request.
But the designers have little time, they’re being watched over, their clients will have very clear opinions (right or wrong) and they don’t have time to build up a relationship with them to then persuade them to a better solution. They do a good job.
Going forwards the brewing contestants HAVE to do better in answering the brief and not put their own tastes and desires ahead of essential deliverables. For me – every single one of the teams failed the task other than the winners.
If you need a brief answering properly, if you need a designer who is going to design with YOU in mind instead of pushing their own tastes and desires – give me a shout. If you need any brewery branding and beer packaging – get in touch.
Check out my packaging page for some of my designs