Some Thoughts on the Current State of Beer Design

Budweiser Can Redesigns

Miller High Life Rebrand

Earlier today, Under Consideration posted a new rebrand for Budweiser, certainly one of the most popular beers in America and product of one of the largest corporations. The rebrand, in my opinion, seems like a lot of hard work for a rather uncomfortable looking can.

The first thing that seems really weird to me is that the rebrand was done by JKR, which is a London based design group. For a beer that’s German in nature, but is advertised as America’s favorite beer, having a bunch of British designers handle the rebrand seems odd to me. There are plenty of talented designers here in America, for example, Aaron Draplin bringing a clean edged look to a classically busy beer can?

As for the rebrand, the bow tie, as Armin Vit put it so well, is now the main symbol for the brand. But this bow is so, completely awkward looking, I can’t imagine why this was chosen to define them. I should clarify, because it’s not only a bow, it’s an overly busy script that’s layered on top of a bow, peaking over the edges. It’s not the logo isn’t well crafted, because the details in the design are really impressive, but I have no idea who they’re trying to market to. The only thing I can think of is that the bow is fast looking, perhaps reminiscent of NASCAR? This isn’t a great guess, but it’s the only one I’ve got.

Generic Beer Cans

When I think of beer rebrands though, one of the most successful one of the last few years is Miller’s High Life rebrand, which in my opinion was perfect. They took the essence of the brand and breathed new life into it. When I look at the Budweiser rebrand I see too much noise and a whole lot of red.

Then I see something like the generic beer cans above, which are from the collection of Mary & Matt as seen over on Sight Unseen. These were seen in the classic movie Repo Man, starring Emilio Estevez. They make me think of the simplicity of packaging, which is why I thought I’d take a crack at simplifying the can, as you can see at top. The rebrand is on the left, mine is on the right. Is it better? Not really, but it shows you how much clutter there is on the can. Plus having your logo sideways seems so weird to me.

These thoughts mostly pertain to large beer manufacturers and don’t even begin to touch about indie breweries, a lot of whom do a great job with their branding. The thing is, you don’t see indie brewing company logos plastered on ads and in convenience stores, you see major corporations logos. Who knows, perhaps this rebrand will turn out to be a success for Anheiser Busch?

Bobby

14 Comments Some Thoughts on the Current State of Beer Design

  1. Brennan August 5, 2011 at 3:13 PM

    I’d be curious to see the actual statistics pre and post rebrand when these big companies decide to take such a plunge.

    I suspect, and you mentioned on it, that the target market of… shall we say redneck? types probably respond better to the NASCAR style design. They certainly aren’t minimalists, anyway.

    While I as a fellow designer appreciate your white space version, not everyone can be Vale Ale (an Australian brew with gorgeous branding) and ultimately, it’s what the people buying the cans like, not us.

    Either way, I support your cause.

  2. Bobby T. August 5, 2011 at 3:47 PM

    They should probably start on what’s inside the can before redesigning the outside.

  3. Jeff August 5, 2011 at 4:26 PM

    It’s also worth noting that Budweiser is not even really American anymore. It’s owned by InBev, an international conglomerate based in Belgium.

    Buy a local American craft brew instead of this nonsense!

  4. David August 5, 2011 at 4:28 PM

    I do like your minimalists approach to the redesign. However,
    you have dropped the crown from the design. The King of Beers with out a crown is not a king.

  5. Kimberly August 5, 2011 at 6:40 PM

    Nice job cleaning it up. Yours looks fantastic. I’d buy that beer. Not the one on the left though. Rubbish.

  6. Mike Laba August 6, 2011 at 3:38 PM

    Would love to know your thoughts on our very recent rebranding…good or bad…not looking for a high five convoy.

    New branding can be seen on our newly launched website (www.muskokabrewery.com)…old branding can be seen on our (yet to be updated) wikipedia page (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muskoka_Cottage_Brewery).

    All comments welcome.

    Love the blog.

    Cheers,

    Mike Laba
    Director of Marketing
    Muskoka Brewery

  7. jlo August 7, 2011 at 9:16 AM

    i agree, high life did a great job. i always advocate looking at the roots when rebranding – can you imagine having access to the budweiser archives? i mean, there has to be PILES of amazingness to pull from.

    draplin would be a perfect fit. i’d have called him ;)

  8. chris August 7, 2011 at 4:42 PM

    Is it sideways so that when your buddy’s drinking one, you see it legibly horizontal? That’s what I always assume about sideways logos on containers that must be poured to be consumed–maybe an intentional link between tying the image of the brand to the exact point of consumption/enjoyment?

    But now, unfortunately, they’ve chosen bowties as the elicitor of a craving for Budweiser.

  9. Bobby SolomonBobby Solomon August 7, 2011 at 6:29 PM

    @Chris – The sideways thing is a good hypothesis, but I don’t think it’s quite right. If you look at the position of the logo it’s directly below the opening, so they’d see the side. Maybe this is wrong on the mock-up they made, so that could be a reason as well. Pus I’d say that the can is mostly on a table, not being drunk.

  10. Eva Facebook August 8, 2011 at 12:50 AM

    Great post! This piece reaffirms that when it comes to food and drinks, packaging is as important as the product inside.

  11. Kjell-Roger August 8, 2011 at 1:04 AM

    Interesting post Bobby. I agree with what your saying. However I agree with Brennans take as well.

    I also definitely like your design better. At first when I saw the picture of the cans I was thinking how much nicer looking the clean version was, and why did you not like it, before I read that is was your design. Good work.

    @Mike Laba: Good work on the rebrand. Much much better than the previous ones. I like the clean design on Cream, Mad Tom and Craft bottles. Thumbs up.

  12. Ryan August 8, 2011 at 7:29 AM

    Don’t forget that the clients may have run this into the ground. JKR has done some great packaging work, but it takes those British agencies over 2-3 years to get a project finalized with lots of back and forth revisions.

  13. Marshall August 11, 2011 at 1:29 PM

    It’s interesting that your take is almost opposite of Armin’s take on the rebrand. Your can design eschews the red space but also the a lot of the detail and ornamentation. Armin argues that the visual essence of Budweiser’s brand IS the superfluous ornamentation and the contrast between red and blue. The large white space looks good, but it gives off the air of something sophisticated, Belgian, something like Stella.

    Budweiser’s current positioning is more or less “party all the time” absent of any sort of emotion or value, but it wasn’t that long ago that they evoked more of an emphasis on tradition. If you look at the timeline of cans on Brand New, excluding the first 3 and the most recent, the 8 in the middle are more or less the same can, and more than any sort of aesthetic value, that sense of being unchanged is what they lost in this redesign, and the only remnant of that is the ornamentation in the red space of the can. The real culprit here is the bow tie and the loss of blue.

    On the other hand, the yellow/blue/red and the classic A-B logo on the first can is kinda hot. Almost wish they went that route.

  14. Adam August 23, 2011 at 4:26 PM

    Bobby, Good thoughts and good can design. Check out this page of old Beer cans I put together a few years back. A friend of mine gave them all to me. YOu’re sure to find some inspiration. And please excuse if this page looks/acts broken. I ain’t so hot at javascript.

    http://www.adampeckhoward.com/play/beercans/index.html

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