Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Brew Company Update

I spent about fifty hours pro bono making beer labels for Ray to look at. I expensed a bunch of those $3-$9 boutique beers, some domestics like Bud and Coors, and a few antique labels off eBay. I like to do a bit of research, let the ideas settle into my subconscious, and then stay up all night a few times when it's silent in the house, just letting the mouse go wherever it wants. I had some really nice vintage woodcut techniques going on, and even created a new typeface that evokes Copperplate but isn't obviously based on it. You could have seen any of my comps on any shelf in any liquor store.

I dropped them off in Ray's mail slot, since he wasn't around, and figured I'd hear from him later that night or, at the latest, the next day. I even skipped a few trips down to The Smoke with Beef (The Tenmen were the house band for a week) just because I figured he'd call and want me to come over so he could talk about getting the artwork into production. A week passed, no dice. I didn't contact him because I don't like to force people to say things about the work if they're still thinking about it. The ball was in his court.

After another week I started to worry that he hadn't gotten the package of comps, so I stopped by and knocked on his door. It swung open, so I wandered in. I heard him talking with Petey in the kitchen, so I headed that way, but then something in the living room caught my eye: huge stacks of cases of beer. Excited that he might have used my labels and just forgotten to tell me, or wanted to surprise me, I went and popped one of the boxes open.

I couldn't have been more shocked if I'd found my own disembodied head staring back at me. There they were, twenty-four gleaming brown bottles of beer, with...with the ugliest, most amateurish labels imaginable. The thing was, he and Petey had spared no expense: there was intricate die-cutting, foil embossing, even a hologram. I'll try to describe it.

In the center was a 3D hologram of a log cabin, about the size of an egg, and when you turned the bottle a little Abraham Lincoln came out and waved. On either side of the hologram were these low-res GIFs of eagles and barley that Ray had obviously gotten off the Internet and enlarged, and around these were gratuitous gold foil circles. There were typos in the copy about "authentic micro-brewwed flavor" and "rich, sophisitcated aromas." The thing that really killed me, though, was the typography of the title. Or rather, the lack of it. You know how sometimes a computer will replace a missing font with a version of Courier? That had happened to them here, so instead of whatever it was supposed to say, the text had overflowed the printable area and just said "HONEST AB."

I was so pissed off that I walked into the kitchen and glared at Ray. He acted like nothing was up and went, "Hey, Téodor! Long time no see! How you like our new bottles?"

I bit my lip, took the high road, and asked him if he'd gotten my label samples. He looked at me quizzically for a second and then said "Oh! Those other beer labels you scanned for me? Thanks, yeah! They gave us all kinds of ideas! How you like our new bottles?"

I didn't know whether to be flattered or to hit him on the head with a pan. Apparently my labels were so authentic looking that he'd assumed I had just given them to him for reference. I eyed a hefty skillet that was hanging from the ceiling rack, but felt the temper ebb. After a bit of explanation, he realized that they had all been for him, and he laughed and slapped his forehead while cutting me a check for two grand. I figure my stuff will get used after they sell out of this first batch, but the way things go with Ray, he'll probably win some sort of conceptual design award with those horrendous hackjobs and keep them in production.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Brew Company

Just got back from Ray's. He's really got something on his hands with these incredible new concept beers he and that Oregon Petey guy have been brewing. That Belgian fig/nutmeg lambic, Meyer lemon weissbier, crisp fennel/mint ale, roasted plum/brown sugar stout, chokecherry caramel barleymead, even this incredibly subtle toasted sesame single-wort that goes amazingly well with sushi....

He showed me this horrible logo he and Petey had sketched up. First off, the name they chose for their brewery is awful: "Rayle." Like "Ray" and "Ale." That was misstep number one. Secondly, it's set in the Copperplate font. Weinhard's wore that one out about fifty World's Fairs ago. Thirdly, well...who cares. It has no legs and it's not gonna fly. I'm going to set up some billables and creatively consult for them until they have a first-class ticket to slap on their packaging. This is good stuff and it shouldn't look like first-generation hackery. Given their druthers, these guys'd probably suggest a tie-dyed label concept and approve some second cousin's shaky line drawings of a jester riding a penny-farthing.