AIGA’s IDEA Series: Craft Beer

14 Jun

 On May 26th I had the pleasure of attending the launch of AIGA San Diego’s IDEA series. AIGA is a professional organization for folks in the visual communication and graphic design world. What was I doing at this event, you ask? Well, it was about craft beer. I’d gotten an email from Michael at Awesome Beer Drinkers, letting me know this event was coming up but he “…had no idea how it was going to turn out” I’d say it was a success. The hour-long panel discussion was moderated to look at issues of marketing and design in the craft beer industry. Panelists were:


Lisa Hinkley, co-owner and Director of Marketing for Green Flash Brewing

Mike Palmer, Creative Director of Stone Brewing

Tim Beckstrom, Designer at Ballast Point

Mark Martin, the VP of Beer at Karl Strauss


As a beer consumer, it was very interesting to hear perspectives on beer and the industry from people on the other side of the counter. I’d wager that everyone can think of a few beer labels that stood out as looking rad, but don’t give a second thought as to what goes into that radness. Turns out breweries have to decide if they want to have in-house people to work on graphics or if they want to hire out and trust an agency to represent their brand properly. Beyond making labels with pretty pictures and witty names, designers need to keep in mind that labels have to be approved by both the ATF and agencies of each state that the beer will be distributed in. Taking into account how the product will look on the shelf also comes into play. Lisa from Green Flash told of a series of beer bottles that would have had labels to fit together like a puzzle. Though the idea was good, it didn’t translate on the shelves so they ended up looking strange and bland.

Though label art and brand image are important, a lot of questions came up regarding advertising. The unanimous opinion seemed to be “we don’t advertise.” That’s something I’d never noticed before, but think about it for a minute. Can you name a commercial or print ad for most craft beer? Mike from Stone put it like this, “We don’t need to advertise and compete, the way we win is by being ourselves and doing what we know is right.” By leaving their promotion to word of mouth, small breweries put faith in their product, and more importantly in their fans. They frequently look to beer forums, blogs (hi!) and other social media as the best method of feedback. That means you are the market research for your favorite craft beers. You are the best way to help your local brewer succeed, so don’t be shy with your feedback and sharing the love. You’re helping grow the craft beer industry!

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