August 19, 2010

Cigar City Label Art Roundup

One of the undoubted success stories in recent craft beer invasions has been Tampa's Cigar City Brewing. Florida as a state generally made pretty mediocre craft beer for a long time, but there's no question that Cigar City is now one of the leaders in a state whose craft beer scene is on the rise.

Right, right, but what's their art like?

Their specialty beer series is called the humidor series, in keeping with the name and theme. They age their beers in cedar (the wood used for keeping cigars). The label for these beers:
As you can see, the first thing that jumps out at you is the color scheme - all reds, yellows and browns. The sepia-toned images give you the sense of a brewery steeped in history. The ornate H continues the old-timey thematics, and we see plenty of elements pointing to an antiquarian image, from the curving frame to the ribbons around the logo.

Let's look at one of their beers (incidentally, one I got to try last night):
Maduro is the name for a dark tobacco leaf used to wrap certain cigars (yes, I was into cigars for a while) that give it a darker, roastier flavor. In the label art for the Maduro Brown Ale, we see some similar elements: a consistent earthtone color palette (this time brown, black and gold), a penchant for historical imagery (crown, wheat stalks, Gothic text), and a reference to cigars (the background and tobacco leaves that form the circle frame. Well controlled, and conveys the dark roasty flavor of the (delicious) beer.

But what about a departure? Well, there's the white-oak aged Jai Alai IPA:
Less old-timey than the others, to be sure. Here we see some blurred action photography of a jail alai player, offset with a neon hop and some 1970s-style lettering. The "White Oak aged" is stamped on oak leaves in military stencil lettering. Again we see a warm color palette, though this veers toward bright rather than earthy. I think this is less successful, in part because there's too much going on. I get that it's not easy to tie together the hop of an IPA, jai alai, white oak aging, and the established brand of Cigar City, but maybe they didn't need to. Really, how many people are going to want this beer without knowing those elements? So keep the branding, and focus on just one other element, while trusting your consumer to read the rest in appropriate font. At the very least, they should have moved the "White Oak Aged" thing off to the side; in its current location, it blocks the movement lines suggesting that the jai alai player flung the giant hop as he would a ball. Notably, this is the one label we'll look at that does not use symmetry or framing around a central element.

Back to good stuff, with the Guava Grove:
Now isn't this more fun to look at? Back to a very Floridian color palette with earthy greens, brown and khaki. Just a nice image that might be off a country club logo, some nice classy lace elements for framing, and a small, tasteful reproduction of the logo, all on some faint guava background. Nice, deep, clear and interesting.

Of course, some people also like Russians:
See? It wasn't a non-sequitur. Marshal Zhukov's Imperial Stout label is fun, because it has the Kremlin and vaguely Cyrillic typeface. But even when they're having fun, we see the limited warm color palette, the framing around a central figure, and the affinity for history.

All in all, I'm liking what I see from Cigar City almost as much as I'm liking their beer. They seem well-grounded in the basics of strong design, but willing to play with elements as the mood strikes them.

No comments:

Post a Comment