March 27, 2011

Different Approaches to Canned Branding

Canding? Candering? Brannery? Not seeing a great way to combine those terms.

You all know the love I have for can art. It's a whole surface to embrace, screw those limiting little labels, yada yada yada. The thing about canning breweries, though, is that relatively early on they have to make a design decision about how standard their can template is. That is, they need to decide whether to use different designs for different beers, and if so, how different those designs will be from one another. Losing variation can help keep design costs and brand confusion down over time, but it can also be boring.

First, let's look at Santa Cruz, CA's Uncommon Brewers' can for their Baltic Porter:

Now, what changes about the can from beer to beer is the name, flower, and some text/side panel. Otherwise, the cans look very similar. This is a great example of a brewery trying to balance variety with consistency. The fact that they use different flowers - but stay with flowers and general layout - keeps the cans consistent and establishes a common look, but also makes the cans different enough that there's no confusion. Normally, I like a 360-degree canvas, but in this design I like the right panel, with the one-color line illustration and hovering note under it, but appearing over the bottom info bar.

Let's look at Boulder, CO's Upslope Brewing Co, from the Dieline:

From agency Anthem Branding:
Our strategy for the Upslope Brewing Company cans was simple: create a compelling design that would immediately differentiate the brand from national labels as well as the glut of local craft beer. Each variety is numbered, and features a signature color against the can’s natural silver. The current varieties include a Pale Ale, IPA and Brown Ale.
First, they are not kidding about the glut of local craft beer. I was in Boulder for one day during GABF two years ago, and my JimShan and I hit 16 (!) breweries or brewpubs. Yeah. So, it's a crowded market. Upslope is maybe the most "corporate"-looking, design-wise, of the production breweries there. Their logo is sleek and defined, done in one color, and as you can see there's an emphasis on consistency (they just change colors to indicate which beer) rather than variety. Given the hippie culture in Boulder, I actually think it's a good market niche; the look is decidedly modern, restrained (compared to the bold, colorful designs of Avery or even Boulder Brewing) and no one's going to confuse it with Pabst.

The Upslope look is a little similar to the offerings from a mountain town in a different part of the country, Vermont's Moat Mountain Brewing:
Again, what changes are the colors and the name of the beer, but the overall look is the same. I think Upslope's is a little more successful, thanks to simplicity. I like things to read on my beer labeling, but they use a lot of space to give nothing more exciting than bullet points.

One more canning brewery using this is  a Washington, DC brewery called DC Brau:
As you can imagine from the names of their beers, DC Brau has a sense of humor. That comes through in the irony of using the font that looks a lot like many of the Soviet-style propaganda poster fonts, both on the capitol building outline on the can and on their site. One more time, the only things that change from beer to beer are the color, the name, and the text box. I understand the cost savings and brand value in keeping design simple and consistent early on (they are relatively new), but let's hope that sense of humor gets a little more room to play in the future. I do rather like the little diamond map of the District with the star indicating the brewery's location.

Finally, up in Maine, we have a bit of the other extreme, From Baxter Brewing:

As you can see, the only design template used is the "back panel" with the moose logo. I of course like the Pamola more, because the ridge on the bottom and the moon below the moose actually takes advantage of the entire can as design surface. While I'm sure there's some sacrifice in keeping things different, these designs are lively and simple, using large forms that can easily recognized from a decent distance away from the cooler.

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