When looking at portfolio sites, I'm always intrigued by process case studies where the designer pulls back the curtain a bit and you get a peek into their methods and madness. Hopefully a little bit more of the former than the latter. I thought I would share the path I recently took with a very fun and rewarding project for Saloon Door Brewing.
The owners of Saloon Door Brewing contacted me in August 2015 when the business was named Southern Draw Brewery. Still in the startup phase, they were beginning construction of their brewery and pub in Houston, TX, and in need of logo and branding help. Armed with their very detailed business plan, I worked with them to plow through a lot of answers from my branding questionnaire, taking several conference calls and a lot of emails. Through all this, I gained insight into who they were and where they wanted to go with their company and branding.
Being a craft beer fan, I've done my fair share of personal research over the years, but I wanted to make sure that I provided a unique look for them, so I immersed myself into beer branding, looking at what others were doing both locally in Texas and nationwide. Here is a little of that research:
They wanted a logo that harkened back to the Old West, so I looked at a lot of Western iconography and typography, including packaging, ranch signage, letterpress/block print posters and brands (as in the hot iron kind). We had a number of goals:
- The logo should invoke a feeling of nostalgia and fun of the Old West.
- It should be relaxed, not take itself too seriously but also project a sense of quality and craftsmanship.
- It should be welcoming and what customers turn to for a rustic, authentic craft beer.
Only after identifying all that, I began sketching and playing with ideas on the computer. Over the next couple of weeks, ideas began to come to the surface and I started polishing them up.
In the end, we needed a simple logo that would reproduce well in a variety of mediums. Seeing as how eventually this logo will live alongside other artwork for beer labels and packaging, I tried to steer the logo into something streamlined that wouldn’t compete with the beer personalities but at the same time had a personality that consumers could identify, want to buy and consume.
They identified the design that they liked the most and after a slight amount of tweaking the overall design, we began playing with color comps:
Then we got hit by the curveball. Through no fault of their own, they found out that there were some copyright issues with the language "Southern Draw", and they needed to change their name. In the end, they chose Saloon Door Brewing.
Seeing as we were now working with a very different name, it was decided that the logo needed to be changed. Not just a few tweaks, a complete overhaul. The new name was much more grounded with definite iconography to play with than the more ethereal "Southern Draw" and I sat down excitedly to try a second round of logos with a different focus. Sometimes you just have to roll with the punches!
I sketched up my first round of ideas, almost all of which called for completely custom hand drawn type:
The guys picked the upper left option and I further refined it:
Then after approval, I moved into the computer, where I completely redrew the lettering by hand, continuing to evolve and streamline it:
We also decided to design a SD monogram as an alternate mark for small spaces and supplementary materials, like growler lids. The client loved the end product (as did I) and we are now in the process of getting it out into the world, as they prepare for their grand opening, printing it on glasses, shirts, a mural on the pub wall, social media and a lot more. My favorite part of the process!
In the end, the name change was a blessing in disguise, as the second logo is far stronger and more interesting than the first draft. Sometimes things happen for a reason. Looking nothing like their competitors, my hope is that the mark helps them stand out amongst a growing field of competition in the craft beer industry.
As a designer, I learned a couple of things from this project:
- Never assume your first solution is the best. Being forced to restart the project presented an opportunity to go beyond first round thinking and ultimately ended with a better product.
- Don't let the process dictate a solution. At first I was hesitant to suggest a hand drawn logo as an idea, fearing that I wouldn't be able to pull it off successfully. Had I thrown that idea out simply because of that notion, we wouldn't ultimately have a design that was as unique. Push yourself as a designer to present ideas that not only challenge the client but also yourself.
If you're ever in Houston, TX, take a trip out to meet the fine folks who run the brewery and grab a few pints/growlers of their vanilla cream ale, citrus wheat, chocolate stout, IPA or any number of other styles that rotate in and out, along with some killer BBQ. You can find more information on their website: saloondoorbrewing.com.