CASE STUDY #1
This is a brief based on the creation of a micro-brew in 2014. From title to coasters, I was the sole creative mind behind this project.
Welcome to The Good Shepherd Case Study. I will begin by outlining my decision making process and idea synthesis and then begin to display some early proposed stages and edits. Finally, I will show the finished products. This project had a lot of moving parts, so at points multiple pieces were being refined to ensure the brand had one unified voice.
Often with projects of this scale, there will be a more sequential and orderly completion of the different levels of branding. This job began with the typical first steps and then branched out in many directions simultaneously. This was due to the short turnaround time and the amount of different pieces that had to be created. One problem that arose with having to work in this manner was that there were times where one of the pieces would have to be scrapped because of how nicely another component was developing. Or an unexpected moment of inspirational bliss washes over you and takes you down a new path, which then requires an updating of all the other parts. That, in some instances, was also the beneficial aspect of working like this. With everything being fluid, meaning there was no commitment to any concrete style or treatments, I was able to constantly make improvements to everything from the logo to refining the color palette.
My main goal with this brand was to pay homage to the college town where I paid my way through school by bartending at a few of the local establishments. Shepherdstown has a very distinct personality. I felt there was an aesthetic I could capture there that could personify exactly what it is that makes this town so unique and cool.
The Creative Brief:
It starts with the creative brief. This is the agreement between the client and designer of what is to be completed. Normally, an initial consultation is scheduled where I can meet the client and speak about the project. They will present the problem and I use this brief to propose how I can fix it. In this instance, we established that we would brand and design packaging and some promotional pieces for a launching of a micro-brewed beer.
The beer was to be visually and conceptually inspired by the town of Shepherdstown. How to interpret the town creatively was left exclusively up to the designer with agreed revision meetings scheduled in staged increments to ensure proper direction with the client. The completion date of 90 days was also agreed upon.
After the initial consultation, I will write up the creative brief to be signed by both parties to make sure there are no misunderstandings and to clearly outline schedules of production. Cost estimates are also established. The deliverables are clearly defined to justify cost.
six pack carrier
full page ad
promotional rack card
Before any pencil touches paper, I start with research. It could be assumed that beer is a subject that this designer is fairly well acquainted with, however, it is sure folly and indeed hubris to think that there isn’t more information available to you. There is so much beer, I mean information, available to learn from that 90 days might pass very quickly.
My first angle, and ultimately the purpose of this beer is to make money and maintain profitability. It is important to understand and be ahead of industry trends and being armed with this knowledge helps justify decisions to the client. The beer enthusiast climate right now is focused on the micro-brew segment. Artisinal qualities and varieties are prized commodities. Along with all things digestible, organic and local are important to consumers of beer. Sustainability and environmentally conscious products are a genuine reflection of the politics of Shepherdstown. I see these as long term trends and forecast these to be valuable assets for a long time. The target audience would be the beer enthusiast that is well-informed and seeks all these qualities.
I also like to explore the market to examine how competitors are displayed and marketed. I prize myself on originality, so distinguishing our beer is very important. I determine what icons and colors to avoid here. I also like to see what is successful and to try to determine if the visual language of the product drives the appeal or if it’s simply the qualities of the product itself. Colors, type materials, patterns are all words in the visual language that speak to the consumer. It is important that the product introduces itself without a word even being read on the label.
Mood Board/ Style Sheets:
At this point I have some ideas. I know what to avoid. But I still need to boil down the essence of Shepherdstown. I am familiar with the architecture that runs the main street and it’s landmarks. The colors and materials of the edifices evoke a certain era. But there is also a bohemian hipster vibe from the college students, musicians and artists. I know that I want the price point to be somewhat reasonable yet high enough to reflect it’s quality. This small batch, artisinal nature also conveys exclusivity which adds more value to justify the price. The client recommended a mid-upper tier price point to cover the added expenses of the quality ingredients. I thought this would be a key point to touch on in the branding.
I am drawn to the Victorian type styles of popular bourbons and whiskeys. Ornamentation and Victorian type principles were also inspired by the architecture of downtown Shepherdstown. Established by primarily Irish and German in the early 1800’s, the town’s building have a distinct western/ Victorian motif. The vintage imagery and type are also a current trend which will give it a certain authenticity and coolness. Sepia imagery will accompany this type. Distress or “craft-like” imperfections should evoke old printing methods. Now it is time for some formal brain storming so I have something to provide the client in a follow-up meeting. A mood board will also be created to show textures, color-combinations, and even some preliminary logo sketches.
The name “The Good Shepherd” was the first thing established. It is a clever twist on the town’s name and has quality built into the name. The idea of the shepherd leading the sheep appealed to me. We want our customer to be distinguished and independent minded. Not someone who follows crowds. The shepherd also reinforces the agricultural aspect of the town and area. I want to use wood and brick textures to reflect natural and architectural themes. These all give me plenty of ammunition for my mood-board and logo sketches.
I decided early that this brand was going to rely heavily on the type so deciding on a typeface was the first order of business. My first instinct was to use a slab serif to emulate traditional western style. There are many small boutique signs that are mostly hand-crafted dotting the main thoroughfares of town due to a tow ordinance on signage. These were very inspirational on my approach to the logo type. Color was not a concern yet because I like to make sure the logo works in two values before expounding on that. There are many instances where logos have to work at small sizes or are limited in the printing capabilities so this is always a decision I make early.
I lucked out when I found and immediately purchased the charcuterie type family by Laura Worthington. It had a beautiful handmade quality that still maintained excellent legibility. The type in the family was also very varied and eccentric, which totally reminded me of the locals. Week-enders from DC, college kids from out of state, long standing families with money older than the civil war, farmers, and dead heads all standing elbow to elbow at the bar. I, personally, love the expressive nature of type. Much of my work will testify to this. Some designers feel (quite strongly might I add) that type should be a utilitarian device that plays a supporting role in composition. I prefer to think of type as a stronger visual element that should be playful. It should work in harmony with other imagery and have a playful interaction with the other elements.
The Halo Problem:
My momentum halted slightly when confronted by halo options. I loved how the striped letter forms worked with the yellow oval. But, where to place the halo and what kind of halo gave me pause. Since the logo type was going to be arched the lowered “G” offered a resting spot that made sense. The prettier geometric halo did not work against the round letter without overlap which would provide legibility issues at small sizes. The geometric halo also borrowed too heavily on religious iconography. Religion would take the brand away from our demographic. The irregular, narrow halo was chosen for it’s organic, natural quality.
Another issue occurred to me at this point– where and how will this logo work with our product? I sketched outlines of the deliverables and determined the most strategic vantage points for logo placement. This gave me time to reflect on packaging which is good to start preparing for early because when you factor in that production could cut into possibly a third of our allotted time, there isn’t much left for conceptualizing. In my sketches I saw that my horizontally oriented logo would have trouble in circular settings like the bottle cap. I was also sold on having a lamb as part of the brand to suggest independence and innocence (and it’s cute for the ladies).
Bud Light has a “BL” secondary mark, Budweiser a crown. Heineken and Newcastle use stars. Harp has a harp, of course. I think the caps with the secondary marks are more successful than the forced logo-marks. The cap is valuable real estate and deserves special consideration. These things end up everywhere.
So the next decision was to use a graphic lamb or realign the letters as Bud Light did.
In respect to color, I was originally leaning toward the school’s colors of blue and gold (you will see this later in the first label comps). This idea coincided with the decision to utilize the halo icon. West Virginia University was immensely popular throughout the state and already used that color system. I had a working logo once the tag line was placed under the arch. Wing-like forms were made to mimic thestroke and form of the halo. The logo required a dark value if it was not going to be contained in a dark container for contrast. It had to contrast from whatever background it would be placed in for optimal visibility. The halo would require a second value that was neutral with the background yet complimentary to the logo type. I could not get around the halo being a yellow tone, because it would not register correctly. So, earth-tones were decided upon. Shortly there-after I decided to use sepia photography to commemorate the local landmarks. I would base the color palette off of this. I wanted a dark brown to act as my dark value. I wanted a middle neutral brown. I also wanted a second vibrant color for highlights to work with the gold which is where the orange came in. The fifth color (the first brown above) came after much refinement in the process as I mixed different spot colors to get the right visual harmony.
I designed the packaging while still refining the logo and color palette. The color palette is improved in each stage of these bottle label comps. Also, dimensions change as I reconsidered the original bottle I had chosen for a taller, more slender bottle. I wanted a longer neck for more label opportunity. I had decided on three panels: a front, a back and a neck label. It is my perception that bottles with a single label come across as commercial and mass produced. Foiling, clear labels, and artificial label papers were to be avoided so as not to give the impression of a mass produced beer.
The Different Stages of Bottle Labels:
Carrier, Tap handle, and Can
A six pack container for the bottles would be the next element designed. I had the bottle labels coordinate with the brown of the bottle and the sepia photography. The six pack container, however, was an opportunity to have a little more fun. I had larger panels to work with, for starters.
I wanted to repeat the sepia photography, stacked type, and textural themes that were already established. I knew wood grain would be an important textural theme throughout other pieces to compliment the etched type and natural motifs so I wanted to introduce that. I knew the logo-mark on the bottle would be covered by the sidewalls so I wanted a large call out space for it.
The carrier handle introduces the striping and color combinations which reappear in the can and tap handle, which were created simultaneously for synergy. I wanted the handle to provide a contrasting and interesting background to highlight the bottle tops. I repeated the design elements (striping, secondary logo, text) from both the carrier and can and repositioned them for the tap handle which was hewn from hand carved maple wood. I stained the wood and hand carved the varietal into the arm of the handle.
Six Pack Carrier
The brand’s name and successive imagery implies the beer’s quality. It boasts about being good. The brand is targeting a niche market of craft beer drinkers which include a wide demographic ranging from college sophisticates to retiree hobbyists. The niche definitely appeals to a certain sense of independent thought. Our consumer chooses not to drink the easily available and lesser expensive commercial brews that everyone else is.
There is a counter-culture aspect as well as an earned savviness one gains when developing the vocabulary to describe their tasting experience much like that of a wine enthusiast. The Good Shepherd helps guide you in the direction of a delicious beverage. In a world where everyone else is flocking for the big brands, they do so because they have been lead astray. This is the thought behind the marketing campaign, “For those who’ve lost their way...”.
The letterhead is very muted and understated. A stamp will be issued to brand the accompanying brown envelopes leaving a nice handmade touch. Paper choices should include linen and recyclable options and priority should be given to printers who work with non-toxic inks.
Whenever possible, Caslon Pro should be the preferred type family for standard communications. If this is not available an old-style serif such as garamond or even times roman when absolutely necessary. The charcuterie typefaces should be used primarily for display purposes in headlines or packaging.
I created the stationery to have a fun yet sophisticated feel. A certain modernity is offered by the elements that bleed off the page and the vibrant hues within the pattern. It is a contemporary identity that utilizes vintage ephemera that has relevance in the modern market.
That brings us to our conclusion. I think the first thing that stands out in my mind as I read over this (now being one year removed) is how I normally work in a reductionist method. I am very visual so I need to see how things interact. My brain came with built in instagram filters so when I imagine projects, they have much easier cohesion. My eye. however, is fickle and discerning. A 5% swing in the red value of a hue can make an image go from warm to angry. I love the final palette for this brand but it was a struggle to get there. Any five color system can be difficult, but in this instance it was maybe a little more so because I think that these are probably my least favorite colors! I never work with browns (whenever possible).
I notice in many of my early comps for this and other projects, the pieces are initially very "busy". This is a predictable side-effect of my playful, experimental yearnings. There is so much design out in the digital universe that is ticky tacky. Trends rise and become ubiquitous almost overnight. There is so much brand representation constantly bombarding us, that it can be overwhelming. Corporations are people and people are brands now and everyone and everything have some form of visual representation. I am unimpressed with the minimalist "flat" style that is the flavor-of-the-month. Designers have sacrificed beauty for clarity. I immediately recognize a stick figure as an unequivocal representation of man, but the Mona Lisa makes me think. I want to break the mold and I use every project to try at least one new thing. Sometimes this is a program, other times a color or type treatment, etc. There was about a six month period last year where I only allowed myself to use Helvetica.
I also sought to use vintage in a unique fashion. The vintage trend caught fire amongst "hipsters" over the last five to ten years. I wantedythis brand to use vintage ephemera, be cool, but not mustachioed hipster cool. I was also concerned about the religious undertones but I think I managed to avoid those pitfalls, as well. I think the lamb, despite the attachment to the messiah, and the halo, when combined with the other components, communicate rural more distinctly. The religion issue was not abhorrent to the brand, I just did not want that to be the dominant message and with so many reinforcing icons, it was a fine line.
The following is a gallery of photos shot on site at a local pub. Unfortunately, due to a scheduling conflict, they had to be shot before the completion date. So if you look closely, you can see the earlier version of the lamb. Thanks for taking the time to peruse this massive rundown and enjoy!