Mistakes Breweries are Making in Branding – Part 2

This will be an ongoing series of posts! Check back for other posts under the same title as new topics come up. I won’t pick on any particular brewery, and I don’t want to be overly negative, but I think starting with what’s wrong can help shed light on what might work better!

See part 1 – A logo is not a brand here

Unusable Logos

Coming from a design perspective, or from a business owner perspective, everything (almost) revolves around your logo. As a designer, it is the most fundamental concepts of design that must come into play to create an identity that is unique, legible, scalable, balanced, and can work in a system. I do want to emphasise system here, more on that later.

I’m using “unusable” as a blanket term for logos that are hard to read and use in various applications.

Legibility

I have seen so many brewery logos that looked like an attempt to look cool. “Let’s put a hop here” “What about flames in the background” “I want an image of my dog, on a skateboard, riding over the moon” Yeah, silly for sure, but gets the point across. 

This is always a good test to consider: If someone drove past your brewery in their car and had a 3 second snapshot to read your logo on a sign, what would they read?

There must be very clear elements that work together, and the more simple the better. (less things to try and remember!)  In most logos and applications, I imagine you want your name to be the most legible element.

Be very cautious of overlaying your name over a complex scene. 95% of the time it doesn’t work (science backed, lol)

I always think about getting a logo embroidered and how that would work. Stitching on embroidery is not super detailed, and I could imagine you might want a logo embroidered on a hat or shirt eventually?

Bad Logo Designs

Logos that are hard to read, not scalable, use too many colors, and have backgrounds that are too busy

Scalability

How does your logo read printed on the side of a pen? Or, printed a bottle cap, or bottle opener? 

I have fallen prey to this issue, so this is a really easy mistake to make. Typically when you are designing or reviewing a logo, you are looking at it on a screen or printed at larger sizes. Details look great when they are 6 inches wide, but how do things look when they are 1 inch wide?

It can be tough, but sometimes you have to toss out specific details on your logo to make sure it looks good at very small sizes. You can find a balance of less detail that looks good large and small.

If you have a super detailed logo, you might be able to keep that bad boy around for certain applications like a wall mural, possibly t-shirts, but for your core brand identity, keep it scalable!

Colors

Brewery branding has definitely stepped up game since 10, heck even 5 years ago. As mentioned with legibility, how many logos get overly complex with color? Clouds, beer, hops, wheat, wood, metal, lightning…all have their own colors! I can sum up creating logo designs and implementing logo colors in one easy statement.

Your logo must work in one color.

As just mentioned about legibility, think about production and applications like embroidery or screen printing for shirts. 

I tend to start designing logos in one or two values of black or grey. When it comes time to implement brand colors to a logo system, I often find that more than two colors really starts to make the logo overly complex and less legible.

Fonts

There are so many fonts! 

Curly, swirly, jagged, rough, whimsical.

A logo should represent your brand and concept or story behind that brand. So, yeah, if you’re a medieval themed brewery, your logo should represent that look or feel. Getting back to the core concept of legibility, your fonts and logo need to be readable at a quick snapshot. As mentioned in scalability issues, we need to make sure your stylistic fonts can be read at small and large sizes. 

Many fonts created by more novice designers suffer from balance, weight, and spacing issues. Certain letters might look heavier, or more narrow, or spaced funky by default. If it is a font you cannot live without for a brand identity, a designer (or person with the right eye) will need to make a number of customizations to make it work.

Strokes, Shadows, Gradients, Embossed! 

Since the invention of desktop graphics software, those little buttons for special effects have been getting a lot of action. All I need to bring up here, is to be aware of all the issues just mentioned :)

Shadows or embossed looks can be created using solid shapes that fit into a design look, but typically clicking the button in Photoshop won’t create the ideal final logo.

You’ve got one logo

I will try to keep my pocket protector covered here, but this is a huge thing for creating a solid brand identity! I call the solution here a logo system, or some people these days are referring to this as a “responsive” logo system. Here’s the issue and the solution.

Issue: You have one logo.

Okay, maybe two if you’re lucky, but maybe they look totally different?

Solution: A set of logos created in various formats that fit within your brand aesthetic, and can be applied in a number of scenarios.

What about those custom pens you want to get printed? Or, your social media icon? On the side of your hat? 

A single logo that was created a more specific orientation, like tall or wide, can be doomed in these situations! How do you plan on putting a tall logo in a wide and narrow placement? I’m sure if you have a unique shaped logo, your feeling this pain.

I like to, at minimum, create 3-4 logos using mostly the same elements and aesthetic. Here are some ways a logo could and maybe should have specific logo versions for:

  • Square
  • Round
  • Horizontal
  • Very horizontal
  • Just a graphic icon (maybe with initials, but mostly graphical)
  • Just the words (often called a wordmark)

I can send you a JPEG

This is more of a technical problem than a design problem, but it can hurt your branding!

If you only have a small JPEG image of your logo, you will run into issues with printing and vendors trying to figure out how to reproduce your logo at larger sizes. If this is the case, some person running graphics might need to recreate your logo. Or, worst case, they scale your small logo large and it gets all blurry or pixelated jaggy.

Any reproduction of your core logos creates an opportunity for someone to mess it up.

Please have multiple versions of your logo on file and ready to send press, vendors, event partners, etc. For a website, you typically want logo files with a transparent background, in most cases a PNG file. JPEG logo images can work fine for certain applications, but typically you want to be able to deliver a vector graphic. I like to send PDF files of vector logos, because almost all graphics programs can open and use them.