Guest Blog: Designing a craft beer label

Friends! Have you ever wondered what all goes into the design of a beer label?? Well, you're in luck.

We are the Northern, a local creative studio helped us create The Valley, a Fraser Valley Collaboration beer, made with our friends from Foamer's Folly, Trading Post, Ravens and Field House. Here's a little about their process...

Written by We are the Northern

Originally posted here:  


Have you ever been asked to design the label for the first ever Fraser Valley beer made by 5 award winning breweries? Well, we have! OH, THE PRESSURE.

In this blog we’ll take you on the emotional roller coaster (slight exaggeration) that lead to the creation of this label. And, at the end of it, we hope that you’ll walk away with some valuable intel that’ll help step up your design game – not only from a designer perspective, but also from a client perspective.

Alright, here’s where it starts to get important. As a client, you need to have a good idea of what you want, and what you view as a successful project outcome. It’s always best practice to deliver a brief that outlines who your target audience is, your aesthetic goals for the project, your high level ideas and design goals. Without this, you’re leading your designer on a wild goose chase and it’ll likely end in disappointment for the both of you.

As a designer, you should ensure your client brief covers everything you need to know about the design project so your billable hours are used to their full potential. If you don’t have confidence in what your client is after, ask more questions.

In the case of The Valley, we received a GREAT brief – complete with sketches, a mood board, and a solid briefing conversation to boot (thanks, friends!).

Ok designers, this is your moment to shine.

After receiving a solid brief, you’re going to need to translate that brief into a tangible, creative, aesthetically pleasing first draft (YOU GOT THIS).

Our reco? Doodle, sketch, vector image your brains out. At this point, there are no bad ideas. You’re a creative genius, a true aesthetic wizard.

When we designed our first drafts for The Valley, we went through so many different emotional states.

“Oh. This will be easy.”
“Does this look weird to you?”
“Well, this isn’t working is it.”
“What is the actual meaning of life?”
“Wait. Maybe that’ll work.”
“Oh, it’s coming together.”
“We got this.”

At the end of the day, fellow designers, trust the process. It’ll lead you somewhere beautiful (but may be a long, terrifying journey).

Once briefed, we discovered one major issue with what was requested for The Valley – the colours.

We were originally asked to utilize colours from each brewery to make up the colour palette of the label. They wanted a bright pastel vibe – but, when we sat down and actually applied what they were asking… it looked like a mashup of the Italian and German flag – nicht gut!

(Don’t get us wrong – we love Italy and Germany. But, in the case of this project, it really wasn’t the right vibe.)

The solution to avoiding designing an ItalGerman (we’re making up words now) Fraser Valley beer label, you ask? We pushed back with a visual element in our presentation that clearly articulated the issue, and our proposed solution.

So, a lesson for designers – push back when you feel your client is asking for something that won’t work well – but give them a solid solution when you do, so you don’t leave them empty handed.

It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for. You’ve prepped your design presentation, sent it off to the client, and have permanently hid under your covers until you hear the friendly ping of your email reply.

At this point, you’ve got to trust that you’ve done what you can to deliver on brief. If your client supplied you a solid brief that was true to what they want, and you delivered on that brief with your own, unique spin on it, you should be fine. But, don’t fret if your client comes back with a new evolution of ideas that may spin off their original thought. Your role as a designer is to accept and understand their ideas, but also push back from a design perspective when you feel your client may be in left field or taking the design in a way that doesn’t match their original strategy. Channel your inner Beyonce and communicate your clear, concise thoughts on their push backs. Your job here is to hear them out, but also utilize your hard earned expertise to keep them on the right track.

Thankfully, in the case of The Valley, the brief we received was true to what our client wanted. With a few revisions and tests, we were off to the races.

Well, for starters, high pressure projects are great, but also terrifying. Don’t take them on unless you’re ready, and when you’re ready, take them on with vigour. It has taken us 7 years of industry experience to truly feel comfortable taking on a project like this. Although the design came out simple, clean and straight forward, the pressure was real. Dealing with 5 separate companies, knowing this was the first label of it’s kind… you know we were a little nervous.

Thankfully, when you base your work in strategy, you gain more confidence in your design. In the case of The Valley – strategy was what kept us out of left field. There could have been SO many directions this could have gone, but we chose to stick to our guns, to our client’s initial thoughts, and it lead us to one beautiful label if we do say so ourselves.

Each part of this design represented something of meaning.

The colours? Representative of the ingredients and Earth elements that go into making hand-crafted beer.

The V? Representative of the beer name, and it’s sizeable significance of craft beer influence in the region (BIG, right?).

The order of logos? Representative of driving west to east.

Nothing in this label was random, it all was fueled by strategy. When strategy guides you both as a client and as a designer, you can’t lose. Sure, you may never feel totally settled on a design (the possibilities are endless!), but at the end of the day, you need to pull the trigger, trust your gut, and enjoy the wild ride that your creation is going to take you on.

You got this.