Learning About Beer: Labels with LemonGrenade Creative

The name Thommy Long, or the name of his company LemonGrenade Creative, may not be well-known in Cincinnati beer circles, but it should be. Thommy and his team at LemonGrenade are responsible for more local brewery labels and artwork than any other company. I recently sat down with him to talk about designing beer labels.

Lemon Grenade Creative

The Process

The actual process of creating the label can vary between the breweries, but they generally send a name and style and he gets to work. If there is tight branding for the brewery, like Triple Digit, then he usually just updates that branding format with the new name.

td2

If they have a looser branding then Thommy and his team at LemonGrenade think about what the name means, play with some concepts, and send a draft idea back to the brewery. To see the real difference between these two approaches compare the picture of Triple Digit above to the variety in the Listermann labels below.

lbc1

Designing the Boring Bits

One thing that intrigues me is how designers work in the boring bits of the bottle: the UPC code, government warning, and bottle return rates. All UPC codes are set to a certain size so all Thommy needs to do is leave that amount of white space available for someone else to create the code and fill in that space. The government has regulations about what font the health warnings need to be and how much space they need to take up in proportion to the rest of the bottle.

An interesting part to the boring bits is the bottle return section. Ohio doesn’t have any bottle return. This means for any brewery only distributing inside this state, or states without bottle returns, that information can be cut leaving more space for designers to play with. Personally I’d love to see Ohio start a bottle return program even if it creates a pain for designers, but that’s an article for another day.

Beer Brands

Here’s a short list of a few of the beer brands represented by LemonGrenade Creative followed by some awesome artwork.

Taft’s Ale House Bad Tom Smith Brewing
Beer & Sweat Weidemann
Listermann/Triple Digit Beer Mumbo
Starkbierfest, Volksfest, Oktoberfest Queen City Drinks
Brewhaus Dog Bones Fibonacci

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Non-Beer Brands

They don’t just do beer though. They also do artwork for Gold Star Chili, Mercy Health, Fifth Third, Kroger and many more companies. I didn’t realize they covered so many other brands and so we got into a discussion about the differences. The biggest difference is that the craft beer industry doesn’t care who LemonGrenade works with. It’s not about competition to them, it’s about raising the overall awareness of craft beer. None of the bigger companies will allow him to work with any direct competitors due to conflict of interest.

Most of the craft breweries or other small companies like Greater Hamilton Civic Theater just shoot him an email saying “We’ve got a new thing coming out, here’s the name and idea, make us a logo.” Whereas the big companies send him strict guidelines created by massive ad agencies. Guidelines like no one looking straight at the camera or requiring a pure blue sky to be at least 60% of the photo.

“I work for the big companies. I work with the craft beer companies” – Thommy Long

The Craft Behind The Craft

The last thing I want to talk about is an upcoming art and beer fest that Thommy is working on putting together called The Craft Behind The Craft. The event will showcase the art, and development of it, from local beer artwork folks like Thommy along with John Patterson (MadTree/Warped Wing), Kevin Widmer (50 West), and Keith Neltner (Braxton). But it’s not just going to be an art show because this is craft beer! The area for each designer’s artwork will also have taps pouring beers from the breweries they’ve worked with. I love this idea and promise to keep folks posted with developments. The current plan is for this to happen this fall.

Full Disclosure: I reached out to Thommy to design the new logo for Queen City Drinks and asked him how much it’d cost. He said he’d do it for free in exchange for me writing an article about his company and their work in beer. Honestly, I’d have done that without the logo anyway because this is such an under examined and interesting part of the beer industry.

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