Highland Gems: three places to visit near Aberdeen

28.08.18

It’s easy to knock Scotland’s tartan-carpeted tourist economy, but boy-o-boy can we do things well, too!

O Street are just back from a top secret new project in the Highlands (more about that soon), and it was with great delight that in the space of 24 hours we discovered three absolute gems to phone home about. Here’s three must-stops within a short drive of Aberdeen airport, whether you are here as an international tourist or a Lowlander up for a Highland adventure.

The Craigellachie Hotel

Home to the recently launched Copper Dog small batch blend (a point of pride on its own), this hotel also has two bars and a top notch restaurant. One venison burger and two craft ales down, I observed tattooed waiters working a packed, jovial atmosphere and thought to myself how unexpected it was to be feel so hip 4 hours north of Glasgow’s Finnieston. I can’t vouch for the hotel, but if the informal bar is anything to go by this place is a serious classy act.

The Macallan Visitor Centre

I’ve been to many distilleries in my time, but nothing quite like this. We all love the traditional distilleries (The Glenfiddich down the road from here is a great example), but driving into the car park at The Macallan you quickly realise this is a whole new experience. The strikingly modern architecture is almost hidden from a distance, created to sit un obtrusively in the wild mountainside. Approaching the main entrance by foot from the car park, the scale and size of the building is breathtaking.

Many other whisky experiences seem frightened to loose themselves from the shackles of traditional shortbread tin ‘Scottish-ness’, and for very good reason: it’s what many tourists and whisky drinkers want to see. With this new visitor centre, however, The Macallan have been brave enough to try something new, avoid the safe bet and present whisky in a brand new way. I loved it!

BrewDog, Ellon

We’ve been lucky enough to work with these guys in the past and are unashamed fans of what they have achieved. Somehow still positioned as craft, BrewDog have experienced meteoric growth—new breweries in the US and plans in place for breweries in Australia and China—that has turned them into a serious global beer player. In the current economic climate, it’s a Scottish business success story we should all be boasting about.

Approaching the brewery from the road outside the sleepy rural town of Ellon, massive brewery tanks tower over a huge complex of buildings that house BrewDog’s worldwide HQ. Inside their thriving office building you could easily be mistaken for thinking you are in the beating heart of a Silicon Valley business, or trendy east London tech giant. Further to the office building there are two taprooms, a merch shop and the soon to be opened experimental brewery Overworks. I’ll be coming straight back when that’s open!

So, next time you’re considering a weekend adventure, stuff Barcelona or New York and get your behouchies up to Aberdeen.

David,
O Street

(Actually) Fake It, Until You (Actually) Make It

19.07.18

Fake it till you make it the Orson Welles way: how he gave us a blueprint for getting creative dream projects going with Citizen Kane

A couple years ago, we found ourselves wanting to break into the world of beer packaging. We wanted to do it, we knew we could do it, but we hadn’t done it. And without that sort of work in your folio, it’s tough to get breweries to throw money at you to do it.

So, we faked it.

Fake it till you make it. It’s a cliche. And as usual, it’s a cliche because there’s some truth to it. Here’s a scenario: you’ve got a creative itch to scratch — an awesome idea you’re dying to bring into the world — but you can’t get the support you need to get it rolling, without having shown that you can do it. It’s a catch-22. Enter Citizen Kane.

When Orson Welles was thinking up his masterpiece, he couldn’t find the money to make it. None of the Hollywood big-shots would fund his project. So, he faked it. Welles scraped up some cash, built some DIY sets, and started filming. He created just enough to show execs that it existed. His vision was true. He could do it. They bought in. We know the result — arguably the greatest film ever.

We took a similar route to break into the beer industry. O Street created its own event series combining home-brewed beer, culture and experimental packaging. We were scratching a few at once, but the underlying goal was to create awesome beer packaging to show breweries:

It worked.

Not only did the series, Beertimes, become a beloved exercise for the studio, it won us a packaging gig with BrewDog. They were looking for a competent yet daring studio to do a brand and packaging revamp for their experimental beer series ABSTRAKT, and our DIY effort showed we could handle it.

Our takeaway from this experience looks something like this:

Now, we’re redesigning the brand entire fleet of beers for another landmark Scottish brewery. A body in motion stays in motion. Even if you’ve got to fake it to get it going in the first place.

Getting stuck in—the magic behind making a brand

12.04.18

What’s the difference between visual identity and a brand? There’s a hundred ways to skin this cat in design thinking, but one theory is this: the former is a visual toolkit, while the latter embodies the spirit of its subject.

While an identity sets one apart from competitors, a brand captures a certain “suchness” which exemplifies their nature.

You know a brand has achieved this magic when you see it. Rather than identifying its presence simply by a certain colour, font, or logo, you know it from the way it visually speaks to you. It is wholly itself, couldn’t be anything else, and feels like it’s always been around.

How does a designer attain this magic? For us, one way is to get stuck in and really get to know a client.

The advent of modern technology allows us to work with clients around the globe, which is a wonderful thing. For example, our Glasgow studio will have a 4pm video chat with our studio in Denver (where it’s 9am) to chat about our work with a client based in Luxembourg (where it’s 5pm). While this is a great way to work in this day and age, attaining true brand magic is best done in person. So, we pile in our Soviet tank and head for the hills.

To design a brand is to know a brand, and to know it is to live it. There’s an art to truly understanding how someone operates, and it’s through lived experience that you attain it. We roll down the same roads as our clients, pull through their gate and smell the same misty air. And we spend as much time with them as they’ll tolerate.

These design residencies give us mountains of insight. It’s not just the big things—operations, what’s what, who’s who—but the little things that matter. Who makes the coffee? How long has that graffiti been on the toilet? Is there a story behind that broken window? Who is the cow named after?

You never know what little bit of real-world inspiration will be the thread that leads to the perfect brand concept. In our experience, it’s these tangible, seemingly innocuous interactions that lead to capturing a brand’s “suchness”. One little detail can be the spark that’s the difference between a visual identity and an unbeatable brand.

Not to mention, we usually get to drink their beer.

Cool things brewing in London — women in the beer trade

19.03.18

Last week we raised a glass to the women of the world, and it gave us a thought: what’s the state of women in brewing?

Having designed the What’s On Guide for Walthamstow Forest Council and their community arts project Making Places, we’ve had a sneak peak at cultural events popping up around London. That’s how we discovered Wild Women Week, a beer-soaked musical celebration for women that raises money for Girls Rock London.

Heading up some of the activity around this is Walthamstow’s own Wild Card Brewery, featuring super cool head brewer Jaega Wise. They play a central part in International Women’s Collaboration Brew Day, a celebration for female brewers worldwide, founded by Sophia de Ronde of Burnt Mill Brewery. (Can we get a ‘YASSSS.’)

Photo: Wild Card Brewery

As big fans of both beer and female empowerment in general, we thought this was all great and wonderful. Unsurprisingly, however, the topic of women in the male-dominated world of brewing is also an on-point political topic.

Sorry, fellas…women were there first.

Photo: Wellcome Images, operated by Wellcome Trust

The original brewing profession was women’s work—they brewed most of the ale in England. Regarded as a domestic chore, women planted and grew herbs, ground grains and boiled ingredients in a large black cauldron over a sweltering fires, all whilst running a home. This eventually led to an accessible (and often lucrative) side hustle for many women, leading to ale-houses and a few women gaining independence through their trade.

Back in those days it was vogue to wear large conical black hats, a fashion supposedly adopted by brewers as a way of being identified in a crowded market. A geographical identifier for thirsty customers was a broomstick hung over the front door. As mentioned, the ale was brewed in a big black cauldron…one can imagine where this is going.

In short, growing male-led urban guilds and the Church turned against these women. The trademark alewife identifiers became associated with fire, hell, brimstone and all other terribly bad things. At first the talk of witchcraft was seen as merely insulting, but as guild communities grew, and urban life increased, screaming “witch” at the sight of a woman brewing became easier and easier, thus turning a once profitable, accessible career into a form of devil-magic.

With the rising tide of witch-hunts and persecution by death, we can see why brewing beer became a less appealing craft for women.

Photo: Wiper and True Brewery

Thankfully, we’re now in an age where people have (mostly) ceased walking around shouting “witch” at women in the street, and there is a resurgence of women being interested in the craft. The good work of making good beer for all to enjoy can continue. Black hat or not.

We’ll drink to that.
> Tessa

( Psst. My current go-to: the limited edition alewife-tribute beer XX from Wiper & True Brewery. That beautiful windmill illustration above is from the packaging.)

Inspiration and images for this post borrowed from these awesome sites…
wildcardbrewery.co.uk
wiperandtrue.com
ancient-origins.net
medievalists.net