August 16, 2011

So Much to Report, Including a Critical Look at the New AHA Logo

Man, lots going on this fine week, in the Pour Curatorial gallery and beyond.

First, a big hearty cheers to our friends overseas who have shown this blog some love recently. Firstly, there is this excellent post by Allgates Brewery on beer branding. Then there is this mention by Pumpclip Parade's Jeff Pickethall, who is a critic of some of the worst art and branding of the UK's real ale scene (a pumpclip is a real ale equivalent of a tap handle, for US readers). Jeff wrote this excellent piece in the Guardian that addresses the issues of poor and tasteless branding in an eloquent way.
Best of the year, according to people.
  • Other good analysis in the recent flurry of branding conversation came from Mark Dredge of Pencil & Spoon and Boak and Bailey's
  • Unrelated but related, Lew Bryson noted potentially literal dilution of a brand by breweries who change recipes to get under the 3.2% abv limit of some states.
  • Nice breakdown by Adam Nason of the numbers from the Craft Brewers' Alliance. Kona is growing, but the recently rebranded Widmer and Redhook are not seeing results.
  • Apparently the Collectors of Canadian Brewery Advertising awards a best label honor every year. This year, it went to Springs' Olde Sailor IPA. I think it's nice, but not revolutionary. Still, one can see what's appealing about it for those who collect (and usually are more traditionally/ historically inclined)
  • The Brewers Association has unveiled a new committee designed to help brewpubs, particularly with server education. Given the mission, I'm a little puzzled by how many larger brewery names are on the panel, but it'll be interesting to see what they do.
  • The big news for me is that, on Friday of this week, I will embark with friends (including the notorious Jim Shan of Philly Beeraholic fame) on the Trail of Beers. It is a three-day tour of central PA and NY, hitting more than 20 breweries for visits. Day one gets us from Eastern PA to Ellicotville, NY via the Route 80/45 corridor; day two is the Finger Lakes and Ithaca; and day three is a descent back to PA through Route 15. It's an ambitious roadtrip, but will let us get to a lot of non-exporting beer producers in the area. Obviously, I will bring you the highlights, but if you're in one of those areas and want to meet us for a pint, feel free to shoot me a line.
Okay, our art today comes via the American Homebrewers Association, which this week unveiled its new logo. Let's look at both:
So as you can see, it's a dramatic change and shift in look. The old logo was much lighter and had only one graphic element, the grain sheafs, to go with a serif font and a (strange) MT Extra established date. The new one is a contained circular logo with less stylized grains more elements enclosed in a much more concrete form. Per the release from Gary Glass, Director of the AHA:
The new logo incorporates several graphic elements that represent the fundamentals of the hobby, including a hop cone, a barley stalk and a tall glass of beer, on a circular background that evokes the shape of a bottle cap. The AHA staff and our graphic design team worked hard on this redesign, and we're thrilled with this new visual representation of the AHA, our members and the broader homebrewing community.
First, the bad: I'm not in love with the whole bottle cap thing. I saw a gear, which is already too common a motif for industries that do not use gears. The color scheme is the same brown-and-yellow/orange we see everywhere in craft beer. It's not bad (and yes, I get the thematic links), but i'm seeing too much of it.

Now the good: The addition of actual beer things, like a glass and a hop, was important and necessary. It could no longer be the logo of a breadmaking store. Also, they've fixed that font issue. Most importantly, maybe, the new logo is much more versatile for merchandising. This will look A LOT better on shirts, hats, growler bags and tattoos bumper stickers. It's confined and definite, and looks like a logo. As an AHA member, this makes me look more serious and less geeky.

Mostly, that is the big point we take from this. Before, the AHA logo was one of a loose group of amateurs, a true grassroots (barleyroots?) movement with a governing name and acronym. Now it has the logo of a clear, defined, present entity. It's branded and ready to do business, lobby politicians and do whatever else associations do. This transition is a coming of age, graphically speaking. Most of what we want a logo to do is convey an identity, and the design team at AHA has certainly achieved that, turning the look of their organization from one of loose amateurism to one of serious and united craftsmanship.

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