How to Pass the Nine Foot Test


Here’s how to pass the nine foot test:

1 Catch the eye
2 Put brand first
3 Test for legibility

A brand where we recently put the nine foot test to work was Full Circle Brew Co., where we had the advantage of A/B testing can designs as we developed them against craft beers already in the market.

But what exactly is the ‘nine foot test’? It’s a simple idea. When a person stands three meters away from a shelf at the pub or shop, your product should stand out and your branding should be recognizable. That’s it.

And while the idea is simple, execution is a different matter. That’s why we’ve got a few tricks to help beer cans and whiskey bottles sell in a crowded market. Not surprisingly, they’re timeless design tactics.

1 Catch the eye

Whether it’s bold colour, a geometric layout or an unusual material, the first step is to catch the eye. Take this whisky for the otherwise traditional Glenglassaugh; in a market where the ‘proper’ whiskies tend to play it safe, the circular and textured tree illustration grabs your eye.

2 Put brand first

A strong visual brand helps loyal fans find your product. When we branded Fyne Ales, we created the ‘farm house’ graphic to anchor every can, bottle and cask tag. Even when product names and auxiliary graphics change, the brand consistently attracts repeat customers.

3 Test for legibility

A poster or billboard is only effective if it communicates from a distance while the user is moving—treat your products the same. Put your label designs up on the wall and walk by to see if they can be read at a glance. Wherever you can adjust typography to make it more legible, do it. We recently used this test for McHenry Brewing Co.’s new crowler cans to help introduce them into local markets.

While there’s no surefire way to win the battle of shelf recognizability, putting nine foot test to work will give you an advantage. What’s your favourite example of a product that pops off the shelf?

Cool things brewing in London — women in the beer trade


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…

Attitude Sickness


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.


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.


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.


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

GDFS Live 2–day Project


Graphic Design Festival Scotland is a week-long programme of talks, learning and making. O Street took part as mentors and led a group of young designers in taking on a two day competitive brief.

IMG_7079 Graphic Design Festival Scotland

After introducing O Street using every available facial expression, Josh represented the studio as a mentor for the two-day project. The competitive brief, set in the context of autonomy, was dangerously simple: start something.

Such an open brief is a scary one for designers. We live by rules, grids and guides. Designers fancy themselves problem solvers, but with an open brief, you need to FIND problems that need solving.

So how did Josh and his gang tackle the brief? We took a walk.

Graphic Design Festival Scotland, The Lighthouse, Glasgow. Photo By Stephen Hughes


In a busy, bustling room buzzing with creatives, things were feeling claustrophobic. And so, we read the brief, read it again, then left for a walk and a chat.

A chat about the brief? No! We talked films, politics, colonising Mars, chocolate covered pretzels, skinny jeans; we talked about everything under the sun that wasn’t the brief. After a while, after talking openly about things they cared about, our designers had come to find problems that needed solving. They identified problems in this world that could be helped by starting something.

Graphic Design Festival Scotland

While the team were given direction on graphic design—the theme of the festival, after all—Josh made it clear that they wouldn’t be spending hours upon hours picking over fonts, colours and crafting tidy little logos. We were going to challenge ourselves.

Throughout the two days, we emphasised getting out of our comfort zones; getting out into the street and talking to people; challenging our perceptions of what design really was; working in a way we’d never worked before.

Graphic Design Festival ScotlandGraphic Design Festival Scotland

Our group came up with some amazing projects; one of which even won second place in the overall competition. Lisa and Lorna started The Walk Up, a non-profit focused on supporting sex workers in the UK. They were intensely informed on the subject and created a powerful brand toolkit to represent the idea.

THE WALK-UP._Page_04 THE WALK-UP._Page_01THE WALK-UP._Page_03Graphic Design Festival ScotlandTHE WALK-UP._Page_02 THE WALK-UP._Page_10

This video features explicit language and references sexual violence—to watch, enter the password ‘ostreet’.

Other projects from the O group included a campaign to reverse the law banning gay people from donating blood in the UK, an organisation to facilitate apprenticeships in the digital age, and a daring, abstract series of happenings centred on personal empowerment.

We’re proud of the quality of work from all our troops and the massive success of GDFS.

Ladies, Wine & Design / Here come the girls


Last week, our studio was taken over by the conversation series Ladies, Wine & Design. Facilitated by ilka, the series brings together a small group of women every month to drink wine and chat design, creativity, business, stuff, life and kind of everything in between… It’s basically the WI. But for design.


This month the talented Rachel Millar ran a workshop on sign-painting—taking over the studio to allow seven fellow lady designers and myself to get covered in paint and wine. All whilst trying to teach us a crash-course in hand lettering.


Rachel threw us in at the deep end, as she recommend it was the best way to learn. Despite the evening passing in a blur of wine and popcorn—helped along by some heady enamel paints—I managed to pick up a few things along the way. Here’s what I learnt:


1. Draw more letters.

Free-hand drawing letters was something some of the group had never tried before. Rachel was amazed. We are all designers and know our favourite typefaces and fonts—but it was necessary to work with our own set spacing and forms to create our signs, instead of drawing from an existing typeface. Really thinking about letter forms with only one reference sheet was a new kind of challenge; something that I think is good for all designers to do more of (it turns out free-form typography is pretty liberating).


2. Practise your lines.

We were started off using One-Shot paints to do some basic lines to get a feel for the consistency of the paint. We learnt how important it is to palette your brush properly before trying a stroke. The trick is to make sure you get just the right amount of paint loaded onto your brush. Too much means uneven strokes that bleed out; too little means irregular strokes with rough edges.


3. The lift and twist

Rachel showed us a specific corner stroke technique to really nail getting crisp sharp corners on your letter forms. It involves a delicate lift and twist stroke that sounded oh-so-simple when she explained and deftly demonstrated it… Turns out it takes a wee bit of practise to really grasp the movement naturally. But we all gave it a good shot, making sure we had the straight even lines pinned down first.


4. Set squares are extremely useful.

Being as anti-maths/measuring stuff as I am, I had previously thought set-squares were about as useful as a chocolate teapot. How wrong I was; I’m now on the hunt for a good adjustable one for the express purpose of drawing big letters on pieces of wood.


5. Sign painting is freakin’ hard.

I already had a pretty healthy amount of respect and admiration for sign-painters—but having dabbled in the craft for an evening, its about doubled ten-fold. Huge props to those out there with the patience and skill to create beautiful and complex hand-painted signs. It’s bloody difficult, but very rewarding when you do get it. Plus, just look how cool it is >


All in all, it was a bloody brilliant night and I’ll be keeping an eye out for Rachel’s next workshop—in the meantime you can see some of her work exhibited alongside a bunch of other lovely typographers in Navarah’s exhibition Good Type, held at Old Hairdressers, Glasgow on 27th November.

Making (and breaking) the poster grid


You can participate in contributing to the 2016 identity for Graphic Design Festival Scotland. In a pretty dang cool move, the team behind the festival have made available assets to make posters like one the below, by Warriors and Freytag Anderson.


As with most good design briefs, it comes with some rules: use this template, that grid, only these assets, etc. When we took to answering the brief, we acknowledged said rules…and promptly broke them.

GSFS – O Street GDFS – O Street

We wanted to push the brief, so we had a think and found inspiration in midcentury abstract expressionist Robert Rauschenberg.


While most of Rauschenberg’s work is full-on, one of his best known pieces is a seemingly blank page; Erased de Kooning Drawing, 1953.


Rauschenberg was interested in the physical rigour and meticulousness it would take to erase such a maximalist object. De Kooning, knowing his intention, gifted him a drawing thick with layer upon layer of materials. It took Rauschenberg weeks to erase it. A ‘typical’ de Kooning, Woman Standing–Pink, 1954-55, below:


Our ‘erased’ posters were quite a departure from the brief, so we also did a series of posters with a similar concept but different approach: taking the maximalist GDFS brand toolkit and making it minimalist by only using one design element.

GDFS – O Street GDFS – O Street GDFS – O Street GDFS – O Street

For our studio this was an exercise of how we like to work: both answer and challenge the brief. We find it’s good for us and great for clients if we end up in a place where we’re saying “we know what you asked for, but what if…”—it’s in the wiggle room where things get interesting.

GDFS is an international festival celebrating and challenging design. It takes place in Glasgow from 17–23 October. O Street will be there and you should, too.