As a designer and student of the arts and crafts, I’m more than happy to see the popularity of hand-made items on sites like Etsy or in the local businesses centered on artisan items like furniture or hand-carved musical instruments, and even in the farmers market and the craft brew industry.
In graphic design, I am occasionally attracted to the popular “vintage” look of a label design or a logo, but only if it has some authenticity to it and isn’t just another computer graphic “scuffed up” to look like a relic from a different age. But how do you stand out from this design trend? Try a different direction to stay unique.
One direction worth mentioning is the Odell Brewing Company’s lovingly designed and illustrated beer labels. Besides being clever visual concepts, their package designs recall hand-inked drawings, lithographic or wood block prints, illustrations by Howard Pyle or even a hand-painted Pennsylvania German wedding certificate (called a fraktur). The illustrations by Mona Caron, and the concepts by TBD Advertising of Bend, Oregon, create a visual brand which sets a craftsmanship tone and reflects the hands-on work of the small, Colorado brewery.
Part of what is reflected in designs like this is that traditional art processes are still important. This is epitomized in the redesign of the Guinness logo and the re-crafting of the brand’s harp icon. The new design replaces the simplified harp icon in favor of a design that shows an admiration of craft and skill. The team at Design Bridge consulted actual harp makers in the creation of the new icon to help more clearly distinguish parts of the harp such as the soundbox, pillar and neck of the instrument.
They further collaborated with a letterpress print studio to help delineate the design of the harp form by testing out printing techniques such as embossing, foil stamp and metallic inks. The physical printed object was studied for it’s reflections and shadows before finishing the final digital version of the logo. The design is unexpectedly tactile for what we are used to in the digital logo design world.
This detail in the icon relays to the consumer a commitment to craftsmanship in the brand as well as a nod to the heritage of the Dublin company which started in 1759. What often drives icon and logo design to the usual computer-generated simplicity is design trends and the need to fit the many sizes of screens in our lives today. All logo and icon designs need to maintain a certain simplicity, be scalable, be easy to identify, have some novelty and make the brand immediately apparent to the user.
With so many glassy, smooth, light-emitting screens in front of our eyes and fingers these days, it’s refreshing to see some tactility and craft put into design and illustration that recognizes and celebrates the processes and skill of the craftsperson. These label designs and logos are beautifully designed and illustrated, identifiable and memorable.
Cheers to that!