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Robot Food is a design studio based in Leeds in the UK, with a team of 14 people. Their key belief is the importance of staying true to their brand ethos and looking to get better at what they do, not bigger.
The founder of a new microbrewery contacted Robot Food with the need for a full branding for his beer. Robot Food was so keen for the project that they reduced their fees so they would be given full creative freedom. As they put it: “After all, we are the target customers!”
How did this project come about?
The brewery founder, John, contacted us. I think he had read a blog post we wrote on beer branding. His idea was to call his new brewery ‘Brewery on the Hill’, but we felt we could develop something far more compelling, based on his story, and so it just happened!
So it seems you had a massive impact on this brands identity. How much say did you have in major things like the name of the brand and beers?
Most of the beer names were John’s suggestions, and we added a few to complete the range. The names formed the basis of the design, so this part of the work was a true collaboration between client and agency. We consult regularly, as we’re keen to stay involved and play a part in Vocation’s success. We’ve offered suggestions of local bars to target, too, so we don’t have to go far for a pint! We also do ongoing bits of design in return for regular beer deliveries, so the partnership works well.
It looks like you had a lot of freedom with these designs. Was the brief less constraining than other clients’ or did the company simply love your ideas?
We were keen for the project and reduced our fees from what we would usually charge, on the understanding that we would be given full creative freedom. The client had faith in us and, in return, he got a no-compromise brand identity that resonates with the desired audience. After all, we are the target customers!
You’ve done an amazing job of portraying something as complicated as taste through these designs. Did you simply get to sit down with a pen while sipping their beer?
Unfortunately, we didn’t taste the beer until the design was complete, as John was still setting up the brewery. We had to trust his tasting notes, and we collectively came up with ideas to include in the intricate illustrations that portray both the name and tasting notes of each beer.
Did you just learn about Vocation Brewery’s beers or did you broaden your exploration so as to have something to compare it to?
In our research, we don’t really focus on the competitive set. We learnt all we could about John’s back-ground and wrote the brand story, which informed the name. We then created mood boards that drove the design of three concepts and went from there.
The elements in these designs work so well together. What came first? Was it the tone, the colour, the font?
In order, it went tone, font, illustration, then colour. Positioning and tone always dictate the design. Once that’s set, the design usually comes easily. We worked on the variant names first, as we wanted them to be bold. We felt that if we make an iconic design, the brand name wouldn’t have to stand out. It’s therefore a brand for those who know good beer. For the font, Duke just worked, so we stuck with it. It’s bold and offers the contemporary vibe we were looking for, while working on a slant. The illustration is the intricate crafted element that supports the name, and the colours had to work as a range, so came last.
The illustrations have a very consistent and unique style. Were they all drawn by the same person to create this consistency?
Yes; Mike, who took the lead on this concept, has a great style. He drew it all in Illustrator, then traced what he had done. Choosing what worked best involved input from the wider team, and the four initial illustrations took about a week from concept, to vector, to pen. We wanted to balance handcrafted sensibility with bold graphic packaging design, for a brand that reflects traditional values in a contemporary and eye-catching way. One way was to balance monochrome line drawing with bold, colourful typography.
How did you go about producing the packages? What printing process and paper did you use?
We had recently met SA Labels, who do a lot of premium finishes. We knew that we wanted a simple, uncoated stock and decided to emboss the typography. We chose the colours as specific Pantones and left the paper uncoated.
How successful is the brewery now and what part of that, would you suggest, is because of the design?
There has been a huge rise in the popularity of good microbrewery beers and great independent bars. Vocation’s beers are as good as you can get, and the design seems to resonate with the desired audience. We’ve heard first-hand from bar managers that they can’t believe how good the beer is, and they love the design. I’m sure the beer would have been a success due to the taste, but the best bars demanding it so soon has to have a lot to do with the design. It’s great when a design matches the quality of the product, as it does in this case. We speak regularly with John and hear good things. It’s a great partnership.
To read all 20 identity project features, purchase Sample. on Pozible by 12 July 2015: www.pozible.com/project/197191
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