Best of the Brewers Journal

03.04.20

Back when travelling was still a thing, we journeyed from Glasgow to Leeds on a beer-filled adventure. Joining our pals Tim & Jon at Brewer’s Journal, we gave a talk at their Brewers Lectures series. We jump at the chance to speak at these events. There’s always a great crowd and we get to be starstruck by our favourite brewers. (Yes there is a free bar, but it’s not just about that, thank you).

It’s also a great opportunity for us amateur beer lovers to learn a few things from the experts. Here’s a round up of some nuggets from the day.

 

1. The future is NALAB

brewers journal - lallemand

Robert Percival from Lallemand loves talking about sugar structures. He kicked off the day by introducing my clueless self to a new phrase: NALAB. For all you fellow beer newbies out there, that is No Alcohol or Low Alcohol Beer. As the current culture shifts towards more healthy lifestyle choices (mindful drinking, balanced with sport and fitness) more and more breweries are opting to produce beer that is Better For You.

Erdinger (my placebo beer of choice during Dry January) have been running this angle for a while—focusing on the isotonic properties of their beer and even sponsoring sporting events. Having said that, I didn’t see a single hand go up when Robert asked how many folk were currently cooking up a NALAB product. So, either it’s not catching on quite yet…Ooooor everyone is pretending it’s not catching on yet.

 

2. Bigger isn’t always better

brewers journal - northern monk

With such a saturation of craft breweries out in the world at the moment, it’s easy for smaller breweries to feel the need to up the ante. Grow grow grow and sell sell sell. However, Luca Lorenzi, director of growth at Northern Monk, turned this idea on its head by asking the audience to first ‘define what growth means to you’. Then get a good team around you to help make that happen. For Northern Monk, that led to pretty much doubling their sales for the past three years, whilst keeping community and family at the forefront of their journey.

 

3. Craft = Community

brewers journal - brooklyn brewery

At the Brewer’s Congress event we attended, we got schooled by Gabe Barry from Brooklyn Brewery in the history of all things beer and community. This time around, she emphasised how breweries can serve their communities, acting as a platform for bringing folk together. Craft is more than just brewing beer, it’s creating a space to build a community. Now it’s time to bring people in and diversify who gets to be a part of that. With breweries leading the way and changing the world for the better. In conclusion, this made me want to start a brewery immediately.

 

4. If in doubt, DIY.

brewers journal - pressure drop

After we took to the stage to reveal our top tips for designing a beer brand, Sienna O’ Rourke from Pressure Drop followed up. Sienna shared her own play on the top tips she used to create a striking identity for Pressure Drop in-house. Pressure Drop had a turbulent start as an emerging North London brewery and Sienna came on board to pull their visual identity and marketing together with a DIY approach. She established a bright and bold style, creating photos, artwork, collages in-house with the wider team to build a robust look that fits the bill for the ethos of the brewery. Showing that to find your vibe, sometimes you need to look inwards first.

 

5. Beer Goes Beyond Beer

brewers journal – cloudwater

The final speaker for the day was Paul Jones from Cloudwater. Everything he said transformed the audience from beer-drinking brewers to enlightened pioneers. We didn’t even get the chance to take notes on what that involved. Sorry, you just had to be there.

Ultimately, we go to these events aware that our knowledge of beer and brewing only extends to a small area of the industry, and we learn more every time. It’s a great atmosphere, with most craft breweries more than willing to share their story, learnings and give a leg up to the next craft brewer along the road. Or even the knowledge hungry design studio round the corner.

This system of support and community feels more important than ever in this bonkers climate we find ourselves in. Many of these breweries are independently owned, with small teams, who will seriously feel the impact of closed up pubs and tap rooms over the next few weeks. If you feel like getting stocked up whilst you sit in your pyjamas on zoom calls, here’s a helpful list of how you can do exactly that.

Northern Monk have discounts across their cans and cases of Faith on their online shop. Plus for every 12 pack sold Northern Monk are donating £3 to the NHS to support their work on the frontline. Keep the Faith indeed!

Pressure Drop are championing their community and reaching out to support business that will be affected by COVID too. They’ve created a pay it forward scheme—for every order of 15 cans or more they will pay forward £25 in credit to the independent pub, restaurant or retail outlet of your choice. Awesome.

Cloudwater have teamed up with local business Higher Ground to offer veg box delivery and tasty vegan meals through their site.

Brooklyn Brewery are doing an awesome job of sharing resources to support NYC communities and you can still grab your fix from BeerHawk if you aren’t stateside.

Yeastie Boys are offering shipping in the UK for all their beers. Plus they are donating £2 from every single case they sell to #COVID19 Emergency Appeal—a fund to provide grants to hospitality workers suddenly facing hardship. Absolute champs.

North Brewing have an awesome 20% discount for NHS workers and free local deliveries!

You may also have seen a taster of our upcoming rebrand for Stewart Brewing… Their current beer labels are about to become vintage collectables, quick—order up!

Fyne Ales are also keeping Scotland well supplied, with regular offers and discounts on their beautiful designed (ahem) online shop. You can currently get 12 x 330ml bottles of Perfect Silence for £25.

And if you can’t choose, there’s always beer box deliveries that do the choosing for you. Like Honest Brew, Hoppily, BeerBods or Beer52, who even do a cool mag to supplement your beer knowledge too.

So, cheers to that! I’m off to buy more beer.

Remotely Interesting: We’re Going to Manchester

13.01.20

With a decade behind us, it’s now the 20s and we’re looking forward. As a small team and creative business founded by two blokes who’d done the whole Big Agency thing, flexibility is integral to keeping us afloat. We’ve made work/life balance integral to how we operate and how we grow our business.

From unique internal processes and flexible working hours to annual fishing trips and a weekly beer o’clock we’ve figured out a few things along the way that work for us and our team. When we keep the balance with everyone, it keeps us on an even keel at the same time… and stops us from being left high and dry. Too far with the fishing trip metaphors?

What I’m trying to say is, that there are a few things we bear in mind as we grow our team and expand our horizons.

First up, we try to maintain a sense of purpose behind what we do. What’s the big picture? Are we proud of our work? Are we making positive contributions to the world? This might come in the form of side projects that add value to what we do in a different way. Or it might be working with clients who are literally impacting the world in a positive way. Whatever it is, we like to dream big and beyond our humble graphic design studio status.

An arrangement of burnt tortilla chips. Inspiration everywhere.

Secondly, we keep an eye on our company progress, but not in the traditional sense. Success is often measured in terms of profit margins or hours worked, but we’ve found that allowing the O team a wee bit of extra time each week to work on ‘fun stuff’ can lead to unexpected results. Results we wouldn’t have achieved otherwise. Allowing Tessa her sketching hours, Jonny his random 3D animations and me my nap time (only almost joking!) means there is learning and growing happening over a longer period of time. It might not be measurable in the same way, but the results are tangible.

We also want our team to have freedom; to balance their personal and professional lives; to solve problems how they want; to structure their workday so they can be their most productive. It’s about working smarter, not harder, and if that means taking time out to attack the woodpile? Well, who are we to judge?

All of these ideas are helping us to become a company that embraces the future of business and the importance of work/life balance. A key aspect of this balance has been our ventures into remote working. There’s no argument that remote working is on the rise. Over the last couple of years, both employees and employers have seen the advantages and started remote working schemes. This enables employees to have a flexible schedule and work from any corner of the world where they feel most productive.

Alongside productivity and balance, creating opportunities for employees creates opportunities for business at the same time. When I moved to London, it meant meeting with some of our bigger music mogul clients much easier. Since opening our USA branch of O Street, we’ve worked with some amazing folk — including a maverick distillery owner, a new cannabis brand and a national fabric dye producer. These are projects that wouldn’t have come knocking at our door—we branched out.

So what’s next?

We’re expanding again, this time to kick-start a fledgling O Street hub in Manchester in the North West of England! Our creative designer Tessa Simpson will be taking the helm, going back to her roots and tapping into (not entirely) unchartered territories. We’re excited to revisit some of our previous projects down that way, continue collaborating with folk we admire and to grow our creative circle.

Most of all we’re excited to see one of our employees, who joined us a fresh-faced junior, continue on as an O ambassador. Tessa will be spreading the word, branching out into new markets and continuing to work on all things O Street. We’ve invested a lot of O Street’s ethos in Tessa and she has grown into a formidable creative force who is ready to venture onwards to the next step, flying the O ST banners.

Tessa is moving as of March this year, camping out with the wonderful Creative Concern at their Oxford Road studio space to start off with and exploring all Manchester has to offer. If you’re based that way, we’d love to hear from you. Friends, collaborators, clients — drop Tessa a line at tessa@ostreet.co.uk and go grab a cuppa with her. She’s just as smiley in real life!

—David

Is Logo Design Dead?

08.02.19

A social media post made a splash when designer Mirko Ilic posted an image featuring the vintage logotypes of several famous fashion brands alongside their new logos. His caption simply read, “Interesting logos are being replaced with boring ones. This are the people why are destroying respect for graphic design.”

The post immediately caught fire and was soon being debated across the internet and mentioned in industry leading podcasts such as The Observatory. Reactions tend to fall into two camps:

1 The redesigns are legible, in the tradition of Modernism, and that’s dandy.
2 Graphic design is dead.

We’d like to propose a third option:

3 Brands used to set themselves apart with a logo, but now they’re now differentiating themselves in new and interesting ways.

First, a look at the two initial camps. With its roots in Bauhaus universalism, capital-M Modernism—not to be confused with its generalized cousin ‘contemporary’—stresses legibility. In typography, this tends to express itself in simple, geometric sans-serif typefaces. With Modernism, creativity is thrown in the trash in favor of simplicity and straightforward communication. It’s all KISS (Keep It Stupid Simple), a tagline thrown around so much you don’t need to look far to see it in the comments for this debate:

Modernism has its place in design history, but it’s important to remember that it was a specific movement in the arts and advertising. While there are Modernist principles that will live forever, practicing Modernism like it’s 1960 has become an aesthetic; a statement in and of itself. Many of us are just suckers for its legacy, look, and feel. Some days I’m one of them.

But we have this other camp to contend with: graphic design is DEAD. Burn your black turtleneck and dig your grave.

For many designers, what makes them relevant is their creativity. They’re just as much artists as they are communicators, and graphic design is their opportunity to make a mark on the world. To apply that unique artistry to a brand, and set them apart from their competitors, is the best thing you can do for said brand. Postmodern design took the rigid rules of Modernism and burned them, and in their eyes, for good reason.

Sadly, in these designers’ eyes, brands are embracing cheap Modernist tricks, and buying easy sans serif logos for five bucks. Lazy designers are selling them boring crap, and killing the industry with ‘blanding’.

There’s your two camps.

At O Street we straddle a line between these two theories of practice. Sometimes, you’ve just got to communicate something so nobody shoots their eye out. Break out the Modernism. At other times, we’re itching to dig into our messy art supplies or crazy 3D digital skills, and it’s also the right thing for the client. So, we ride the line between chaos and order. Let’s call it the Design Tao.

What’s most important for us Design Taoists® is asking: “why?”. No matter the brief, the best solution starts with this simple question.

And there’s a big “why” with this logo debate. Something is driving brands to embrace these simple redesigns, so what gives? This brings us to our theory, or third camp: as brand touch-points get more interesting, logos simply hold less weight.

During the age of Modernism, all brands pretty much had the same ways of reaching their audiences. It was the quintessential ‘brand’:

– Business cards
– Letterhead
– Print advertising, and later television advertising
– Interior design

Today, it’s probably more like:

– Handheld video content
– Personal social media engagement
– Five second Youtube ads before someone hits ‘skip’
– Spacial design, specific to events and ‘happenings’ for maximum impact

Now, obviously people and brands still hand out business cards now and then, and it’s wise to have a card that’s considered and well made (call us if you want one!). But the landscape has changed, and the terrain where most engagement happens is totally foreign to the design world of decades past.

Brands have realized that logos are no longer the key identifier of their brand: interactions, digital and personal, now reign supreme. For a modern day brand operating on the world stage, a static and stable—that is, boring—logo may be necessary so that crazy things can happen on the periphery where the engagement is at. For every designer who’s sad they’re not being paid to make crazy logos, there’s a very happy designer out there making crazy motion graphics and video content.

An example from the post that set off this debate is Burberry. Their old logo was elegant and iconic. Their new one? Boring as heck; the unveiling even included incredibly self-aware email screenshots about how quickly it was made.

What’s not boring as heck is the accompanying pattern, arguably ugly but certainly not stale. The ways that it will be applied are dynamic, exciting, and interesting. The logo itself? An afterthought.

So there’s our third camp argument: logos are just being swept aside for more interesting audience interactions. Of course, we could be wrong. Maybe brands are just skimping on quality design so they can use up their budgets on celebrity Instagram posts.

We’d rather not be wrong, but if we are, you can bet we’ll ask: “why?”

Why have just one logo?

17.01.19

Logos can be boring. Being stuck with one can be especially yawn-inducing. Don’t you wish we could have lots of logos to play with—get some variation in there to keep things interesting?

Most logos these days do have variations: different colour combinations; screen/print versions; animated versions; even responsive adaptations for different screen sizes. There’s also the more old-school approach of having both a logo and a logotype (think Nike, sometimes with the word and sometimes just the swoosh). This is all fine and dandy, but I’d classify all these options as variations of one logo.

Even our fluid typographic logo for the Scottish National Portrait Gallery would likely count as one logo if you had to choose. Why do we limit ourselves? Consistency. Yeah, I get it, and I agree in most cases. With limited budgets and a saturated market, brands need elements that make them easily memorable (what marketers often call ‘strong brand recall’).

Did you need to see that old scripted logo to fill in the blank? No? That’s brand recall.

As illustrated above, we reinforce brand recall with more than logos. We establish tone of voice, colour palettes and image strategies to establish recognition even when the logo is hidden. If we have a wider colour palette, then we often lean more on the other assets for consistency. You still with me? For example, if the colours keep changing in your ads, we’d probably need to make sure the logo or type was prominent and more consistent.

If we accept that principle, then surely if everything else was pretty strong in your applications, why not mix up the logos a bit? Sound crazy? Would it ever work? …well yes, actually, it already does: look at Major League Baseball teams.

Baseball teams aren’t happy with just having one logo, and they’ve proved it with their garb for over 100 years. America’s past-time and oldest sport has a rich visual branding history. The Home team will most often just have their logo on their shirts (a blackletter ‘D’ for Detroit), but when they play away from home they’ll change that to their city name. They’ll even change the font.

They will have a cap with their initials on it when playing Away (Cleveland Indians) but roll out their cheeky (and controversial, but that’s another discussion) face marque when playing at Home. It’s obvious, really—when playing in Cleveland they don’t need to remind the fans what city they are in—why not have a bit of fun instead of using the same old logo?

Could this approach work for corporate brands? For example, do long-time employees really need the name of the company emblazoned on every page on their door entry card? How about simply their name in the brand’s typeface, or better yet, their own personal version of the corporate logo? Some brands already do this a bit in the public sphere; Google famously mix up their homepage, changing the logo to celebrate certain dates.

Packaging of course is another example, where instead of one monolith logo, we often see a range of visual identifiers, arguably, different logos. Another client O Street have worked with is Dewars, who have a logotype for Dewars and one for John Dewar & Sons Ltd; they also have a signature and even a Celtic knot.

Our recent branding for McHenry Brewing Co has a bunch of different logos. It may be dangerous for a new brand, but in the context of beer we felt we had the scope to be playful. Okay, we’d been watching a lot of baseball, but with tight control of the core brand red-orange colour we felt we were in safe territory to maintain consistency, too.

I guess this comes back to a common theme in our work at O Street: questioning established norms. Do we really need to do it that way because everyone else does it that way, or should we focus on what that particular brand needs to achieve first and come up with a new way of delivering that? Also, do we need to be that precious with the brands we make? Can a bit of variation actually help add personality without damaging the brand?

We’re looking to find out. Are you?

GSA Winter School in the Highlands

27.02.18

In January, students from Audencia Business School’s MSc in Management and Entrepreneurship in the Creative Economy (MECE) programme travelled to The Glasgow School of Art’s Creative Campus in the Scottish Highlands for the International Winter School. The event is a two-week intensive experience that brings together design practitioners, students and scholars from all over the world.

O Street have had links to Audencia since we created illustrations to help them communicate their course structures.

At this year’s Winter School, the students were tasked with researching contemporary interpretations of heritage. O Street’s David Freer was asked to talk to the students about both new models of working in the design industry and projects that dealt with ‘contemporary interpretations of heritage’.

The design industry has surely changed since O Street first started. Emerging technologies affect both the tools we use and the mediums we employ. There has also been a shift from fully integrated agencies to smaller boutique studios. With these smaller studios now working for bigger global brands, collaboration and the very definition of what ‘design’ means is being re-examined across a spectrum of services.

When it came to discussing ‘heritage’, we presented O Street’s redesign of the new RBS bank notes, a piece of work that will be in Scotland’s pockets for the next 30–40 years. In this project, not only did we have to think about presenting the heritage of the nation in an engaging way but we had to balance aesthetics with a timeless narrative that would remain relevant for decades to come.

Further to this, our work with cultural brands positions O Street in a unique place to understand how heritage can be used as a way to inspire, engage and excite.

Speaking with this new generation of designers reminded us how creative and powerful our industry can be and reassured us of the importance in harnessing their talents and providing them with the opportunity to really make a difference in the world.

“International Winter School is an opportunity to do something that is fundamentally different,” explains Dr Gordon Hush, director of the Innovation School at the GSA. “We’re actually engaging with communities; we’re engaging with real people and we’re doing it in an international context.”

As Dr Catherine Morel, associate professor of marketing and head of the MECE programme at Audencia, describes: the International Winter School atmosphere allows students to fully inhabit their creative and innovative potential. “Students have space to think and create,” she says. “It’s a marvellous place to be.”

Thanks again to both Catherine and Gordon for inviting us to participate in this year’s Winter School.

Attitude Sickness

10.01.18

When I arrived in Colorado, I thought I was good to go: thoroughly hydrated and ready to plow through the altitude sickness. And boy, was I wrong. After a few hours of throwing up my guts, I required some serious adjustments to get well.

While getting a hand from some seasoned Coloradans, I learned there was really a science to acclimatizing up in the mile high city. Eat these certain things, perform those certain actions, and you’ll get through it. Within a day or two I was physically feeling like myself again—but not mentally.

Moving to a new place, disoriented and homesick, I realised I’d gotten over altitude sickness only to be stricken by attitude sickness. I needed to get myself right, so I turned to the ways that got me acclimated to the altitude.

Hydration

We’re mostly made of water, and lots of it does us good in more ways than one. If you’re really dragging mentally, treat yourself to a day of heavy H2O consumption. You might be surprised that not just your body—but your brain—were begging for some oxygen from the liquid good stuff.

Routine

Steady bed and rising times, consistent recreation and exercise, and taking meals at regular times will get you through any rut. It’s also one of the most difficult things to do. Write your routine down. Tell someone about it. Don’t beat yourself up when you fail, just ride the wave and get back to it.

Train high, rest low

Mountain climbers employ this strategy to acclimatize. Climb, come down a bit to rest overnight, and day-by-day go incrementally higher until you’re at the top. You can do the same with sorting yourself out and getting things done: take a bite out of a big goal, come back down to a more comfortable level to recover, then go out and take a bigger bite.

Feed yourself

To recover from altitude sickness, I was given foods high in healthy fats, like avocados and nuts. Your brain also thrives on this good stuff and it gives you loads of energy, keeping you feeling full. Whether or not high fat foods work for you, avoid processed garbage—you are what you eat.

Prioritize

What really matters? Get a piece of paper and write down all the things demanding your time. Circle the ones that will really, truly help you get to where you need to be long term, and cross out the ones that don’t—banish those time-wasters from your life, and take that time to work on what matters.

A couple weeks later, I’m doing my best and feeling acclimated in more ways than one. Am I at the top of the mountain? Naw. But I did write this essay.
–Josh P