A craft beer's label is its introduction to the world, a way to alert customers that this is a product they should try immediately. In an industry that runs largely without TV commercials, and where new entrants to the market are constantly trying to establish a foothold, label design is hugely important.
The process of designing and printing a craft beer label is an intense process of brainstorming and quality control. Companies can't afford to fail in their efforts to generate engaging and exciting visual identities. Furthermore, these small companies are simultaneously competing with their independent peers and worldwide beverage giants. They must prove their worth against micro- and macro-brews alike.
A recent Lansing City Pulse feature focused on the increasing pressure small breweries have felt in recent years when designing their packaging. As of now, there are nearly 6,000 small breweries in the U.S. alone, which means that the sheer number of rival brands vying for attention is considerable and always growing.
While the beginning of the craft beer boom brought on brands that tried to get attention by being progressively more ridiculous and over the top, modern branding is about aligning the idea of the brand and particular product with the way it looks on store shelves. Visual cues such as colors and graphic elements can give strong impressions that lead consumers to try something new.
New micro trend: Look macro
Small breweries have recently discovered an underserved market, according to Bloomberg. These brands are developing high-quality versions of the beer styles put out by large breweries. Instead of creating beers that have complex characters or serve as deliberately difficult acquired tastes, these brewers are creating brews that can be "chugged" and enjoyed casually. This demands a very specific label design philosophy.
Bloomberg reported that one such brew, Chug Life, is adorned with labels that thread the line between approachable and upscale. The elements involved are simple and minimal, skipping the elaborate illustrations that have appeared on many craft beer bottles over the years. They are made with a classic lager look, perhaps evoking the way some of the major beer brands looked over the past century, but don't at the moment.
Focusing on a look
The exact combination of design cues that will work for a particular beer brand will be as individual as the product itself. The common need that every brewery shares, however, is a way to make these designs into physical, high-quality labels. This is where Optimedia Labs comes in, with printers such as the Primera LX1000 available in the U.S. store and Canadian shop.