August 2, 2011

Pow! Smack! Whoosh! American Brewing Company!

One of the Seattle area's newer breweries is American Brewing Co.. If you clicked on that link, you can see their Website is hardly a monument to design, but I thought their first three labels were worth a comment, because it's a fairly good look at how to use a consistent brand and theme while incorporating differences for specific products.

Okay, we'll start with the obvious: PLEASE STOP REPRESENTING YOUR BLONDE ALES AS BLOND-HAIRED YOUNG WOMEN. Just stop. But that aside, it's not bad. The woman is fully clothed, not a supermodel, and the movement of the hair into her face adds to the swirling feel of the background. That background is the basic building blog of American Brewing's design, as we'll see. It may seem a bit overdone, like one expects Batman to be flying out at us with his fist outstretched, but it is eye-catching, gives us movement and interest with five real colors, and has a splash of difference with the hop chain in the top left. Details are helping: The sharp slanting of the bottom and top bars, along with the fact that some radiating beams overlap those borders, give it a dimensionality. There look like there are some readability issues with text, especially the tiny TTB info at the top, but one solution to federally regulated information is to pretend it's not there. The lettering in the swirling radiating lines is totally unreadable and needs to be fixed, but the color scheme matches the beer, and the star logo embedded in her shirt will be back.

One of their first beers was the Breakaway IPA (good name):
Less swirly, more striking, this gives the squat, foreshortened hockey player a nice hard-charging effect. No overlap on the bottom border except for his skate, and now we've got two (2) hop vines, to let us know it's a hoppy beer, I guess. Color scheme here obviously fits the name of the brewery, and here our star is flying away at top left like a chip of ice (or a puck he's missed?).

By the time we look at the label for the Caboose Oatmeal Stout, we can identify the theme as a major part of the branding. Color reflects the beer here, and the star is on the side of the caboose. The jagged radiating strips make it seem like a runaway, out of control caboose, perhaps, but at least we're paying attention. Top border is there, but almost obscured by brown bolts, and the one thing overlapping the bottom is curiously the UPC code.

On their own, they're not the strongest designs, and they overdramatize pretty mundane subjects, but together they form the basis of an identifiable brand that clearly communicates its products while keeping some design elements consistent. As anyone can see, that is not a given in the craft beer world. They need to fix some things with readability and make their website better, but this is a brewery we might keep an eye on to see how their brand evolves.


  1. The star is represented twice in each graphic. The floating star and the 'in character' star. You mentioned all the in character star except the star folded over the top of the hockey player's stick blade.

  2. Good catch. I definitely missed the one on the stick of the hockey player. Nice recurring image; I love the use of easter eggs in branding.