February 4, 2011

The Session #48: Can Art Case Study - 21st Amendment

For this month's Session, Simon Johnson of The Reluctant Scooper asks us: Cask, Keg, Can, Bottle: Does the method of dispense matter?.

For those of you who have read this blog, you know that I try to keep Sessions art-related. You may also remember my fanatical love for the can as canvas, and my failed attempt to get to go to Canfest to creepily espouse this love to various brewery personae (curse you, Lost! Someday, my social media prowess and creativity will equal yours!)

So it's no surprise that I'll be casting my lot with can lovers for this month.

But it's never a bad time to look at good design. San Francisco's 21st Amendment Brewery is one of the more recognized and successful canners, and they have some art we haven't looked at, so I'll use them as an example of why I believe cans are superior.

Let's look at their Christmas beer offering, the Fireside Chat.
The art is actually titled: "FDR 'Beer Geeking' with an elf!" Pretty cool idea, and I'd argue that this scene would be tough to reproduce in a bottle label. While a can does provide more space, the fact is that a bottle label (even a big one) has a de facto frame around the edges of the label, whereas a can-vas seems less bounded. For a work like this, which has a deep space and implies a large room beyond the image, that lack of a boundary can make a real difference. As usual, great use of color palette by 21A; all they need is orange, red, and brown to create a vibrant, warm image.

Then there's the text-based Monk's Blood
This is one of those instances where the slightly larger space of a can, combined with the 360-degree viewing, makes a real difference. As a bottle label, you'd squint and try to read this. As can art, you hold the can up and turn it continuously to get the full image.

Let's look at one of their redesigns, for the Brew Free! or Die. Here's the old:

And the new:
Right, so in addition to matching the style of the other beers (because they use the same artist, methinks), it's obviously way more engaging as a piece. Lincoln really seems to come right out at us, and the avalanche and fist add energy and life (again, use of depth and a limited color palette). This piece really uses the can-vas much better than the previous design, drawing on the lack of borders and the breadth of a surface that requires rotation to see all of it to make it seem bigger. Looking at the old label, it's pretty standard and would look the same on any container.

Lastly, out soon/now for a couple months, the Bitter American:
Again, consistent and restrained color palette, and an emphasis on foreground/background distance. But the real cool thing here is the use of the can as empty space (in this case, quite literally). In our increasingly ADD cultural aesthetics, we sometimes forget that one of the things you can do with a big canvas is not use more of it, giving a feeling of emptiness or serenity. Use a deep blue hue to make the image cool and calm without being dark, and then, as I believe Michelangelo taught us, it never hurts to add a monkey in a space suit. Also, on a non-art note: CHEERS to 21A for creating a "session IPA." This beer clocks in at 4.4% alcohol, which is awesomely light and drinkable in the dense world of overhopped West Coast Imperial IPAs.

So that's 21st Amendment, yet another example of why cans make for better design.

Go Steelers.

1 comment:

  1. The 21A packaging art that has come out recently, in my opinion, is some of the best in the industry. Excellent choice for this month's session.