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OUGD601 — Craft Beer Label Design Trends

"Do you need a paper or poly label? Estate look or high gloss? Laminated label or varnish or raised varnish?

All of the available label design options could drive a brewer to cracking one open instead of settling on the right mix of paper, coating, colors, etc.

We asked our label sources to talk about what trends they are seeing and what options they recommend.

Green Flash West Coast IPA by Oaks Printing. 
Green Flash West Coast IPA by Oaks Printing.

“We offer brewers a variety of cut and stack label substrates — 60# C1S, wet-strength, metallized and specialty papers to differentiate their look in the industry,” said Gwen Chapdelaine, marketing director with Fort Dearborn Company. “Other brewers will use a matte, gloss or a combination of both coatings to achieve a specialty look and feel.

“At the outset, our question is ‘what is the essence of your brand?’ What are you trying to convey from the promise of your brand? Is it more of a sepia look and feel? High, vibrant color? If they have a label already designed, we make recommendations on substrates — material that goes on to label that enhances the brand,” said Mike Lane, chief executive officer with Lofton Label. Lofton usually advises craft breweries to stay away from foils, stamping or embossing, which can add more of a wine look, and additional costs that might be in a wasted effort.

When it comes to substrates, some labels are designed to look crafty on uncoated paper, some are designed to be on shinny metalized paper and others use a coated sheet, according to Rob Stevens, vice president of sales for Oak Printing. Pressure sensitive can also be produced on a wide variety of materials such as metallic, clear and wine label stocks. Other quality issues to keep in mind, according to Stevens, are repeatable color reproduction, trimming and die-cutting accuracy in each print run.

“The design and creative aspect is really brand specific,” Stevens said. “There seems to be a trend with some brands to move toward a crafty look utilizing uncoated papers and matte finishes.”

Lane noted that trend as well — the stamp of a “craft” look for the craft beer. Because of that, Lane said brewers should be looking at other ideas to set their brand apart from the crowd.

“It’s a medium to convey brand information on, and while it may be an earthy or natural or a raw look you want, you don’t want to look like all other beers trying to create the same look,” Lane said. “We say spread it out a little bit and look at other options. There are a number of ways to use materials and design to convey the essence of your brand.”

Thirsty Dog paper label from Atlas Labels and Packaging
Thirsty Dog paper label from Atlas Labels and Packaging

Jack Wright, president of Atlas Labels and Packaging, said he’s seeing breweries get more creative with color and shapes. “We have seen an uptrend in matte finishes as opposed to gloss. We still recommend the gloss laminate,” he said.

Wright believes a common misstep brewers make in the design process is not choosing a full color option. He recommends a four-color process and pressure sensitive labels produced at a high density preferably with 150 line screens or higher.

“With only 10 seconds to get a consumer’s attention, they should be an attractive colorful label with the variety of beer easy to read,” he said. Atlas is continuing to add new products for breweries, such as keg collars, and works with more than 500 craft breweries.

Most label companies have a consultative or creative element for brewers unsure of what options to choose or the best visual path to venture down. Lane said about 25 percent of the time, Lofton Label is either starting from scratch or adding substantial value of design to the label itself for the craft brewing industry."


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