Label design is a complicated beast. There are so many things you can try, so many things that need to be balanced, and so many possible approaches. Walk into your local bottle shop and you’ll see everything from 90s pastels and Saved By the Bell-esque patterns to oil painting-style artwork to… well, blatant IP theft. There are SO many ways to present your brewery and your beer that it can be tough to know where to start.
For our label refresh, I knew I wanted something bolder (and more colorful) than our past labels. And I wanted to try something we’d never actually done before: create custom labels for each beer. So, without further adieu, allow me to present the results, courtesy of Ryan Wheaton:
If you remember our very first labels, you know that this is a VERY different look from where we started. Up until now, our labels have been super simple with very little variation from beer to beer. We had a nice, clean template we’d update with new batch and beer info for each release. They were straightforward and easy for us to update ourselves.
After about a year with this original design, we tweaked things a little, but kept the same shape and same simplicity.
It wasn’t exactly what we wanted, though. The labels were tough to photograph since the beer name and info wrapped around the bottle so much, and it was easy to lose them on a shelf surrounded by other beers. So we approached Ryan for a redo.
Ryan’s revamp included moving all the most important bits to the center of the label, so everything a beer drinker would most want to know was front and center. (And yes, it was WAY easier to photograph). The die-cut around our logo at the top of the label added a little extra character, and emphasized our logo. It was super easy to tell at a glance that this was a bottle of Cleophus Quealy beer.
We had this design for about two years before I started thinking about a change. We’d done a lot of growing and evolving over those two years--we put a lot of energy into our barrel-aged and sour beers, decided to only bottle our wild, fruited, and barrel-aged beers, and had started re-visiting past recipes more consistently than we had before. With so much time, thought, and effort dedicated to our barrel program, it felt like time to update our labels to reflect how special the beers they represent are.
We use a lot of fruit and spices in our beers, so the first idea that crossed my mind was highlighting ingredients on our labels. Our brewery name and our beermaking philosophy call back to European traditions, specifically those brought to the US by immigrants from Germany and Belgium. In keeping with that theme, I looked to illustrations done by Victorian-era naturalists for inspiration.
I did a couple super rough sketches of ideas, then got in touch with Ryan to talk about getting this refresh rolling.
About two weeks later, he sent the first round of design options.
Ryan had the idea of expanding the die-cut shape from our previous labels and letting our logo shape act as a sort of window, filling the whole front panel. I showed the team the first rounds of design, and it was pretty much unanimous that we all liked that look best, especially when combined with the saturated, full-color center.
With the shape and artwork decisions made, it was just a matter of nailing down details.
From there, it was time to talk to our trusty label printer (shoutout to Scott at Custom Label), who talked us through material options. We ended up printing on metallic backing, so the labels are a ‘lil shiny. Pops of copper around the center artwork and in some of the label text make it feel extra polished.
We’re all super happy with the new look, and can’t wait to get started on the next round. Thanks again to Ryan and Scott for all your work on this project!
Jessica (and the CQ team)