Design Enlightened

From the original 1994 Amber Ale bottle to the graffiti-inspired can of Art Car IPA, Saint Arnold label designs have been as much a part of the beer scene in Houston as our beer itself. At some point, you’ve probably found yourself studying a beer label, hunting for easter eggs, as you enjoy a new release. These days, it’s near impossible for a new brand to succeed with lackluster design. Where do we start?

Generally, but not always, we begin with a name. We often brainstorm dozens of names before settling on one. With our new release Low Dose, the name came easy. It spoke to the beer’s primary feature – the low calorie, session IPA aspect – and we liked the simplicity. Sometimes a name just feels nice when you say it out loud.

With the name set, we ponder thematic and design elements. How can we interpret the beer visually? The Low Dose name led us down a trippy path, but rather than going full on acid trip, we chose the path of enlightenment – again a play on the low calorie trait.

Here we’ll start design work. Because it affects so greatly the overall feel of our packaging, we typically begin with the background. It’s important at this point to think towards the future. Aside from the packaging you see in the store, the design will live in countless applications throughout its lifetime, and it needs to be adaptable. A background that is seamless (meaning the pattern can be repeated infinitely without interruption) will come in handy when it’s time to design an awkwardly sized banner or grocery store display. The flowy, mind bending pattern of Low Dose fits the bill.

Next comes the icon, the element which often most literally represent the theme of the beer. A few options were presented for Low Dose, but the hop illustrated with its third eye open was the clear favorite. It captures the enlightened theme and the profile of the beer itself (hops!).

From there we focus on the area inside the circle behind the posing Saint Arnold – we call it the portal. This gives him a setting to live in. We debated several options for Low Dose, ranging from a woman in a classic yoga pose to a Dali-inspired scene with giraffe-elephant hybrids. Ultimately the bodhi tree of awakening fit best symbolically and stylistically. We’ll have to find another use for our giraffe-elephants.

With the primary elements complete, we move to final embellishments. Occasionally the Saint himself is edited. For Summer Pils, he’s wearing shades. On Lawnmower, he’s changed clothes altogether (revealing quite the guns in the process). With Low Dose, the touch was lighter – closing his eyes allowed his third eye to open in the hop icon, providing a finishing touch to complete the theme.

When the design is finalized, the process is far from complete. Other packaging formats are created. Files are made print ready. Proofs are edited and approved. Promotional materials are made available to our sales team as well as our distributor and retail partners.

Fast forward a few months and the fresh design is packaged and distributed – ready for you take in while you enjoy your first sip of a new beer.

Published September 28, 2020