Brewing Design

Brewing Design

Local craft breweries use can art and imagery to define their brands and stand out.

Seventy percent of consumers go to the liquor store without a plan for which of the dozens of kinds of beer they’re going to purchase; the average time spent from shelf to register is only a minute and a half, says Surly Brewing Co.’s vice president of marketing, Bill Manley.

That’s where design comes in. “Obviously the beer has to taste good” or people won’t buy it a second time, says Tony Buckland, Able Seedhouse + Brewery’s commissioned can designer.

But each of these Twin Cities breweries has a slightly different way of doing it, a strategy they think communicates a brand message most quickly and effectively.

“Everyone’s trying to cut through the noise,” confirms Indeed Brewing Company’s creative director, Andy Kiekhafer.

Manley agrees. “You have to have a brand personality or some tiny little story that resonates with a consumer so quickly that they are instantly drawn to it—whether it’s colors or text or the name of the beer, or something quirky on the side of the box or can.”

Surly’s cans are consistent with its brand image. “Most of our flavors are pretty bold and intense and kind of in-your-face, so we tend toward that more aggressive branding,” Manley says. “Bold colors and big, bold designs.”

For Modist Brewing Co., it’s about being as “off-the-beaten-path” as possible, says director of marketing Daniel Paul Wellendorf. “We make alternative beers, so when it came time to give our beers a look, we wanted to go a very nontraditional route,” he says. Modist commissioned graffiti artists-turned-graphic designers.

Indeed’s designs started with local artist Chuck U. Today, the brewery considers the two brands almost inseparable in people’s minds.

The continuous challenge is achieving the balance between standing out and maintaining brand recognition. Manley believes Surly could be better at it: “We’re trying to pull it back a little so that there are some easier clues that give people a quicker read that, ‘Yeah, that’s a Surly.’ ” —Tess Allen