August 13, 2011

Adventures in Label Shapes and Characters with Jester King

So one of the posts I'll be putting up soon is on the use of shape in beer label art. Generally, most breweries stay boring. They stick to the rectangle, maybe with an occasional subtle curve in the top if they're adventurous. Part of this is just cost; it's not feasible to do a lot of different die-cuts if you're small, because you'd have to redo your labeler for every one of them. 

Of all the US craft breweries, Austin's Jester King Craft Brewery might be the one using shape in the most interesting way. Their labels are generally composed of a central image in a circle, with a horizontal stretch that includes a couple panels of interpretive text, and that wraps around the bottle to meet the circular frame on the other side. Sadly, I have not been able to find the name of their designer.

Here's their label for their Commercial Suicide, a 3.3% session beer:

Label copy:
Oi! We’d like to think those punks who hung out in Stoke-on-Trenth back in the last ’70s listening to Discharge and Motorhead would have had a good time raising a little hell with this beer. This is our tip ‘o the hat to them, saying thanks for taking the shots and abuse that made it okay to dress the way you want, wear your hair the way you want and live your life for yourself and those you care about. Protest and survive kids…
So there's some clever punk references happening, and the guy with the mohawk is a bit creepy but generally well-done. Readers by now can predict that I like how his hair and chin overlap the frame, making him pop out at the drinker. He looks back to the left, drawing your eye to the text, and as detailed as it is, the image thrives with few colors.

Here's the central image of their Boxer's Revenge:

Having an image this close up gives you a sense of how the frame looks like it is aged or decaying, particularly on the right side. It is a subtle change, but - in addition to simply adding visual interest - I imagine it makes the point where the label wraps around a little smoother. This horse continues the goofy/creepy theme we saw above. Check those eyes out.

Here's Drinkin' the Sunbelt, their collaboration with Mikkeller:
Nice fusion of the Jester King shape, satyr and style with the familiar Mikkeller mug shot profile motif. Around him, the sun-like disc helps give the circle a sense of movement it might otherwise lack. We know that the reference to the mug shot is intentional in part because he's the only character that doesn't look left.

Lastly, a close-up of their Black Metal:
Right, so again with the the creepiness that is sort of funny. Here you can see they've played with the metal frame. It is still unbalanced and asymmetrical (awesome), but they've added a sharp, medieval character to the grayscale work that fits the theme and central character well.

All in all, they have a nice blend of detailed, well-drawn figures that go well with their label layout. Both are just different enough to be distinctive without being too weird or alienating, and both create a real brand for Jester King that clearly communicates the type of brewery they want to be.

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