Ask any beer lover why they choose the beers they drink, and they ll tell you it’s all about the taste. That may be true, but you need to see a beer and order it before you can find out what it tastes like. Today in Britain there are over 2,500 breweries, most of whom brew an ever-changing range of different beers. On the bar of any decent pub, or shelves of a good bottle shop or supermarket beer aisle, the choice can be overwhelming. The design of a beer label, pump clip, bottle or can has to do a lot of work to stand out, get noticed, and suggest to the thirsty punter that here is a beer they will enjoy.
In this lavishly illustrated book, acclaimed beer writer Pete Brown traces the history of beer label design back to the UK s first-ever trade mark and beyond. He explores the conventions of successful beer design (and how they are now being shattered) and explains the tricks and secrets of great design in a compelling and highly readable narrative.
BEHIND THE BLURB
Before I was a writer, I worked in advertising – and enjoyed it for a time. I was fascinated by the idea of brands: originally a simple mark of ownership, they evolved into carriers of additional meaning. At first, they were symbols of trust, of consistency and quality. Every tin you buy with a Heinz logo on it, every Cadbury’s chocolate bar, is going to taste the same as the last one. If we like that taste, we remain loyal to most things that carry that logo.
Then, brands took on a more abstract sense. If lots of people who are like you all think that a certain brand is cool, then by extension, in their eyes, you’re cool if you wear it. Over the last thirty years we’ve all learned to use this abstract quality of brands, whether we do so consciously or not. We use brands and logos to build an idea of ourselves that we want to project to the world.
After Bass became the UK’s first registered trade mark, beer brands developed certain stylistic conventions that remained unchanged for most of the 20th century. In the 21st, craft beer tore up the rulebook of how successful beer branding was supposedly done. It set itself directly in opposition to conventional design to prove that it wasn’t part of the mainstream. That led to an extraordinary explosion of creativity. Not all of it works as successful commercial branding, but most of it is gorgeous to look at. And this branding revolution has affected the whole beer market, inspiring even staid mainstream brands to rediscover the craft and art of design.
There are two or three books that explore this in the United States, but none so far in the UK. There are beer memorabilia books for collectors, and there’s some lovely old stuff in here, but this is the first time contemporary British beer branding has been explored outside a couple of design industry blogs. The book answered a call for an idea that could be turned around quickly and written without leaving home – it’s entirely a product of Covid-19 lockdown. But the reaction and stories we got from over 200 brewers we spoke to in the making of the book was truly inspiring, and made this rather chunk of lockdown a fun experience.