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Q&A: TALKING BEER PACKAGE DESIGN
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by TEX GRUBBS

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Senior Art Director Tex Grubbs shares his perspectives on the creative process, package design and honoring the craft mindset in Adrenaline's collaboration with Atlanta-native brewery Second Self.

As a Senior Art Director and resident illustrator, Tex Grubbs lends himself to be an expert in brand and identity development for clients both big and small.

He’s one of the designers behind Adrenaline’s collaboration with Second Self, working to rebrand the Atlanta-native brewery and design striking packaging for their drinks to draw eyes from across the aisles.

We caught up with Tex to ask him a few questions about his creative process, where he finds inspiration, and how to design packaging that stands out from the crowd.

WHEN YOU'RE LOOKING FOR IDEAS AND INSPIRATION FOR A PACKAGING PROJECT, WHERE DO YOU START AND WHAT DOES YOUR RESEARCH PROCESS LOOK LIKE?

Inspiration can come from anywhere. I’m always looking online, in magazines, in books, and in real life all around us, in our environment.

For Second Self, of course, we had to make a few research trips to the local beer isles. Greene’s and Hop City in particular sell a lot of craft beer, so we wanted to assess the competition.

TEX

HOW DOES THE PSYCHOLOGY OF COLOR, FONT, PATTERN OR TEXTURE COMMUNICATE A BRAND STORY THROUGH SENSORY DETAILS?


All those things you mentioned can work together to translate a brand successfully. They form personalities and create moods and tell stories. The better they work together, the stronger the brand can be communicated on multiple levels.

When you actually get to work in 3D, for a packaging job, it’s great to be able to take advantage of something tactile to add to the brand experience beyond what you just see.

WHEN YOU'RE WORKING IN 2D AND DESIGNING FOR 3D, HOW DO YOU CONSTANTLY CHECK YOUR WORK TO MAKE SURE IT TRANSLATES FROM THE DIGITAL TO THE PHYSICAL?


Lots of comps! Things definitely look different in your hands than they do on the screen. It takes a lot of testing and tweaking to get it right.

HOW CAN PACKAGING BE USED TO CREATE A THEATRICAL UNBOXING EXPERIENCE FOR ONLINE RETAILERS THAT SHIP DIRECTLY TO CONSUMERS?

I can’t say I’ve designed specifically for this purpose, but it all comes down to creating an experience for the consumer. It strengthens the brand when the packaging is just as desirable as the product itself.

When your order is presented like a precious gift, well thought out, down to the last detail, you create a sense of value, and importance, and pride, in the product and in the brand.

RETAIL ENVIRONMENTS ARE BECOMING INCREASINGLY CLUTTERED AS PRODUCTS COMPETE FOR SHELF SPACE. HOW DO YOU PACKAGE A PRODUCT TO COMPETE WITH OTHERS AROUND IT?

For Second Self, we researched and assessed and became very familiar with what was going on in the craft beer market. We wanted Second Self to stand out on the shelves, so we had to see what was being done.

We noticed a lot of hand-made labels. A lot of them were very busy and very cluttered. A lot of them looked like they had asked a friend to design their labels, which very much fits in with the idea of “small, local, craft.”

We knew that keeping things simple would automatically make the design stand out from the clutter. We wanted our design to be recognizable from across the room, so we simplified the art and the number of colors – only two main colors, plus black – to ensure immediate readability.

But, we still wanted to honor that “craft” mindset, which is why each label has its own custom illustration and typography. We also wanted to clearly communicate what each beer tasted like, hence our “Flavor Stack” found on each label.

HOW DO YOU WORK AROUND INFORMATION LIKE NUTRITION LABELS AND SKU'S TO CREATE A DESIGN THAT AVOIDS FEELING CLUTTERED AND BUSY?


You can handle that in a couple of different ways. You can incorporate it into the design, or you can segregate it. We did the latter. Since we wanted to keep our design clean and simple, we didn’t want to work anything extraneous into it.

The good thing about a can is that it’s a 360-degree surface. You’ve got the artwork front and center, the Flavor Stack next, and then all of the other things you have to include, lightly branded with brand colors and typography to blend in as seamlessly as possible on the “back side.”

CANS

HOW DO YOU DESIGN IN-STORE DISPLAYS TO CAPTURE THE SPLIT-SECOND ATTENTION OF BUSY CUSTOMERS? SPECIFICALLY, END-CAP DISPLAYS, BANNERS OR OTHER IN-STORE SIGNAGE?


I don’t do much of this myself, but the same principles we focused on for our label art can apply here as well: Simple, clean, clear communication.

We think our label art work is pretty eye-catching, so that could be a natural extension. In-store displays can be fun opportunities to do something really unique and fun to stand out.

FROM A DESIGN PERSPECTIVE, WHAT CAUSES SPLINTERED BRANDING EFFORTS BETWEEN PRODUCTS OR SUB-BRANDS? HOW DO YOU BALANCE BRAND CONSISTENCY WITH PRODUCT DIFFERENTIATION?


The simple answer is, don’t put individual product design over the brand. Everything should work together as a system in all the ways you mentioned earlier: color, type, pattern, and texture.

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