Correcting the course.
Anxious to try the variety of beers from our new client, I pick up a sample flight at their local tap room. First up, IPA. Yikes. It was definitely hoppy, but very disappointing. Not a good sign. I grabbed the wheat and took a swig, but something was off. Surely, the pilsner is going to wash everything down with a smile. I gulp with a grimace on my face and an unfortunate conclusion. Their beer is bad!
Since the 2 year old brewery’s inception, speed and determination has left them with trouble adjusting to the scale of its own operations. A lack of focus on the quality and consistency of their product has resulted in restaurants removing tap handles and liquor stores refusing to carry their product.
Sitting in our office, at Gardner Design, the client admits that sales aren’t where they need to be. “We’d like for you to redesign our beer labels,” the team expresses. As most designers would be, I was thrilled with the opportunity but I was torn inside knowing the quality of the product. Is there a way to correct the course of this struggling craft brewery? Can new design efforts alone change the negative realities of their product? In the short term, we might be able to pick up some speed, but this is a long race and we need to reach the finish line.
The decision to hire a new head brewer came as I discussed my first experience with their product. “We’ve hired a new head brewer and he’ll be here in the next month,” the client proclaims. What a tremendous relief!
We continued our conversation as it soon lead to our next steps in this situation. Rebranding is our opportunity to get a fresh start. I quickly address the core of their brand: the logo. I knew that re-identifying was at the heart of their needs. It’s the foundation of their brand and a north star for them moving forward. The current logo was simply too immature and didn’t tell a story of who they are, or at least one we could build on. We all agreed to move forward with a new logo and packaging design.
Gather raw data and define the situation
I began by gathering as much information about their goals and vision. They’d like to be an exciting brewery. One that makes great approachable beer with a variety of flavors that change throughout the year. The aeronautical theme is unique and needs to be evident since we’re located in Air Capital of the world. I added that we need to address the negative associations with the brand in some way and rebuild the confidence in our customers. We defined brand personality traits up front in this process, to help guide our decisions as we develop the brand.
Form raw data into useable information
I gathered all my notes from meetings, research about brewing, the craft beer industry, and different aspects of the aviation industry. I circled words that stood out to me while keeping the goals, vision and brand personality traits close by. I boiled this list of words down to a select few to move forward with.
I start on the left with a long list of words gathered from notes and research. I then start to eliminate and develop words further as I move to the right.
- Classic: Classic or vintage style aeronautical imagery to draw upon the heritage of their location in Wichita, Kansas, the “Air Capital” of the world.
- Technical: Modern in design aesthetic, engineering drawings to show precision, and thoughtful calculations.
- Small Aircraft: Crop dusters and small aircraft interact with the open plains more intimately than large airliners. The small aircraft represent the individual.
- Precision: Instruments convey reliability and the need to be perfect.
- Plains: Plains represent the location of the brewery in the Great Plains of Kansas.
03 Brand Theme
Transform information into visual ideas
I pulled together various images of aircraft, diagrams, instrumentation and and crop fields. I don’t consider these mood boards. Instead, their primary purpose is to help develop the brand theme. Later on, I found this imagery helpful in developing the brand visual language.
I often show these to the client when presenting the final logo options because it helps support our goals and justify our strategy.
Hand and computer sketching
I started with sketches by hand but quickly moved on to the computer. I played with literal airplanes, the letter A, wheat, hops, crop fields, and more. I just wanted to get the ideas out.
05 Final Selection
The final selection is a symbol of a small aircraft. The simple shapes are bold, rugged, and unique. The head on view conveys this essence of aeronautical instrumentation so that a message of precision and consistency can be communicated. All while the typography speaks of a classic industrial influence with a tough and modern font.
I then developed packaging for the cans that referenced the Great Plains and took on some runway graphics. The large “AERO” down the side is die-cut through the label to show the metal of the can which speaks to the technical aspect of an aircraft. Messaging on the can and other graphics take on an exciting and competent tone of voice, speaking a message of accuracy and precision.
Since the rebrand, this young brewery has begun to rebuild its reputation in the community. Beer sales are up, and additional brewing tanks have been installed to keep up with demand. Good luck Aero Planes!
“I proudly call their result ‘The Hellcat’ after the Grumman F6F Hellcat, the fighter plane that helped turn the tide of the pacific during WWII.”– Troy Bervig, APB Head Brewer