April 27, 2011

Contests and Beer Label Design

I like it when breweries mine local talent for their art, and one of the more popular ways to do that is with a contest.

Geary's has a contest every year that awards $5,000 and a year's supply of beer to a Maine College of Art student who designs the best label for their Summer Ale. 2011's winner is Morgan McAllister DiPietro, whose text-based design is quite summery:
Good design is often less about bells and whistles than it is about simple, clear, easy to understand content that is pleasant to look at. DiPietro's work is excellent, and scalable to all types of packaging. Hotlinked from her blog, here is some of the process work:
You can see the other competitors on the MCoA Facebook page here.

Here's an old one, Snoqualmie's December release, the Triskaidekaphobia:
Local Seattle artist sensei 23 won with this submission. Very graffiti inspired, and nice and vibrant. I will say that while I find superstition pretty silly, I'd be very scared of that number 13.

Cigar City recently teamed with Hampton Arts Management to hold a label design contest for their new red ale, the Tocobaga. Ten finalists were announced, but I picked a few I liked the best:

Alexander Kusminov's work was profiled by the DieLine as a student spotlight. You can click that link to see the full process and elements, including the . I love the use of the turquoise and deep red, and more importantly that the overall look is not totally distant from the existing brand and design standards of CC. It's a nice, restrained work driven mostly by typography and simple shapes.

Daniel Williams goes a bit more on the nose, drenching the fiber art patterns and pineapples in a deep red that suggests the character of the beer. I like the green and orange that he takes from the CC logo, which is central to the design.

Eric Swanson's work is powered by very nice shades of blue and red, with a nice depiction of a sky and a mountain of hops. There's a little bit of a Native American Ned Devine feel to this piece.

Okay, on to my favorite:
I like Ricky Peterika's work because it feels the most in keeping with Cigar City's existing design and branding portfolio. The difference between art and design is that, while there is great freedom and expression in design, its primary goal is to achieve a purpose. In this case, that's to sell beer, which would be best done by dovetailing into the existing branding work done by CC. Peterika's work lifts the CC penchant for rings and arcs of plant-like border, sepia-toned historical themes, and the use of strong lettering to stand out from the background. If not for the strange hashing in the background, one could easily confuse this with a label by the usual design team at Cigar City.

You can find all of the finalists, as well as the designs that didn't make it, at the competition site.

Lastly, Sixpoint in Brooklyn has a "Beer is Culture" design competition every year, and this year there are some really good submissions up on the Facebook page. As of today, it's down to six most popular, with a few more in there. I'll show a few of my favorites:
Both of these play on relatively recent tropes in design. The first one, by Cody McBurnett, hits the familiar theme of soviet/labor motif, down to the very soviet font. the second, by Melissa Schmechel, is a play on the infographic craze, this one helping us decide what to drink (hint: the answer is beer).

Scott Holloway's painting brings back the medieval-Renaissance practice of putting a skull in the still-life to remind us of our mortality and the finite nature of our existence. In this case, perhaps his point is that beer and culture will outlive all of us, just as they have for thousands of years.

At time of writing, in the lead with about 130 "likes" is Ryan Paonessa's  piece:
Digging into the history of Brooklyn, Paonessa's work mixes newspaper culture with the heroic labor influences of a Thomas Hart Benton, and centers it around beer, with a nice subtle use of the Sixpoint logo around the silent movie board font.

Last, I have to give a shout out to Em Sauter's piece, which is totally in-style and delightfully humorous:
You've got a few days left to go and vote with your Facebook "like" button.


  1. This topic has been discussed ad nauseum, but these contests undermine and devalue professional designers who actually charge for their time and talent. But things change, and soon a nice, free design will be as accessible as a free album on the internet.

    Man, Cigar City's logo is rough. They should host a contest for a redesign.

  2. I've heard that point, but awards and contests remain a pretty healthy part of every creative industry, and most contests like this carry a cash prize (5 grand and a year of beer is solid for a student). Most breweries are small businesses, and I don't think being unable to afford top-flight designers means that they are devaluing them.

    I think high-end creative talent will always be at a premium, but part of charging for one's time and money means that some will either not want to or not be able to pay it. It's a bit of a free market argument, I understand, but the work here is pretty strong, and I'd say the arrangement worked out well for the designers and the breweries that sponsored the contests.