When I'm not clickity-clacking away on my keyboard, writing about beer, I'm click-clicking away on my mouse, designing graphics and exhibitions for the New York State Museum (You can see some of that here). I've been a designer for 16 years, but I haven't always been in the museum biz, in fact, I've had a number of run-ins with some beery projects over that time— I even worked for a now defunct brewpub in town, the Big House Brewing Co., doing their advertising and design. More recently, one of those run-ins was the logo development for the western Pennsylvania craft brewery Helltown Brewing. The brewery seems to be doing well for itself, (although I haven't had any of their beer—hint, hint) so, I thought I'd pat myself on the back, give a little unsolicited publicity to Helltown and tell you what goes into designing a brewery logo.
A year-and-a-half ago I received and email from brewery owner Shawn Gentry asking for some help designing a logo for his new place. Shawn explained that they named their brewery was a nod to the history of their town, Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania—where, during the late 18th and early 19th centuries the area had become a "wild west" of the east. Men from that area participated in the post-American Revolution, tax protest—and good old insurrection—dubbed the Whiskey Rebellion of the early 1790s. Booze and social unrest go hand in hand in western PA and the area continued to thumb its nose at authority well in the the next century—earning pleasant little Mount Pleasant the nickname Helltown. There's nothing like a cool back story to fuel the fires (pun intended) of logo design. Plus the ZIP code for Mount Pleasant ends in 666, so that's a little bonus, too.
Keep in mind, there's a difference between designing a beer label and a brewery logo. A good beer label should draw you into buying a beer you've never had—it's the hook. Yes, I've heard that "real" craft beer enthusiasts could never be duped into buying a beer just by the label or packaging, to which I say—horseshit. Package design in the beer industry is just as effective as any other industry. If is wasn't, then all beer would have white labels. Packaging design can be expensive, so why would a brewery spend the money if a great label design didn't work? Does great label design support a great beer or brewery?Absolutely. Will great label design help to re-sell a shitty beer. Nope. The product will dictate its own success, the packaging should simply support that achievement—but remember, the opposite is true as well—a shitty label will only hinder a great beer. Want to see effective label deign? Colorado's Left Hand Brewery is producing, what I think is, some of the best beer labels out there—and they make great brew, as well.
|A detail of the pin-up concept.|
Okay, enough self-indulgent deign theory—back to Shawn in western Pennsylvania. After a few phone discussions we decided that the Helltown logo, which could easily skew spooky, should evoke, instead, an edgy mischievousness—something a bit ominous but not Halloween-ish. Shawn initially liked the idea of a she-devil and I riffed on that, developing a George Petty–esque pin-up girl, with a devilish edge. She was the girl next door gone bad—complete with red skin, horns and a tail. It had a very graphic comic-book style to it, and I have to say it was cool, but it wasn't right for Helltown—at least not for its full identity. Back to the drawing board—so goes the logo development process.
|Figuring out the font.|
Best of luck to Shawn and the crew at Helltown. If your in western PA, try them out. let me know if the beer is a s good as the logo!