For this installment of Creatives in Craft Beer, we interviewed Harvey Shepard, the creator and curator of Oh Beautiful Beer, a blog that showcases design in the beer industry.
Who are you? What do you do?
My name is Harvey Shepard. I’m a Seattle-based graphic designer with an unhealthy beer label obsession.
What draws you to craft beer?
It’s the people. The craft beer world has an element of camaraderie that would seem completely out of place in any other field.
(And it doesn’t hurt that there’s some really, really incredible beer being made.)
How does craft beer inspire you?
I think it’s hard to not be inspired by craft breweries. They seem to be a group that’s never totally content. They are constantly pushing boundaries and coming up with new and unique challenges for themselves.
What about design pairs well with beer?
Brewers put so much passion, creativity and craftsmanship into their beers that it’d be a shame to not extend this to the labels.
Why collect or curate these designs?
Wine has always had the reputation for having the great labels. Originally, I just wanted to show people that beer could be beautiful too. Bringing attention to the talented designers behind these labels was an early priority as well.
As the site has evolved, I’ve tried to focus more on the storytelling aspect of the design. This is something I was able to get much deeper into when I wrote the book version of Oh Beautiful Beer.
What is your favorite label design? Packaging? Logo? Tap handle?
I get this question a lot, so I really should have a good answer prepared. It’s always tough to pick favorites, but let’s give it a whirl so that I don’t have to give some terrible version of “it’s like picking your favorite child”:
Bottle: Mikkeller’s It’s Alive
Packaging: Boulevard Brewing
Taps: Fort Point
What trends are you seeing in beer looks?
I’m seeing a number of trends developing as brands work to tell their story and stand out on the shelf. Some breweries, for example, are getting more innovative with their packaging. Just as brewers are using unexpected ingredients and methods, their packaging is utilizing new materials, containers and printing methods.
Ultra-minimal labels are also getting more popular. Nothing stands out on a noisy beer shelf like white space. On the opposite end of the spectrum, design with a handmade aesthetic is getting more and more popular. This look immediately tells the consumer that these are handcrafted beers—a far cry from the Big Beer machine.
Geometric patterns on cans are also on the rise. As a craft beer lover that grew up with tangrams, I couldn’t be happier.
Another trend that I’m finding super interesting is the rise of lifestyle beer brands. Breweries are targeting specific audiences based on hobbies that they identify themselves with. Current examples I’m seeing on the shelf include hiking, biking, comics and video games.
What was the beer that started you down this craft beer rabbit hole?
While I live in Seattle now, I’m originally from Massachusetts. Like everyone else from my home state, my first step up from that macros was Sam Adams Boston Lager. It was a “Wait, beer can taste good?!” moment that seems ridiculous in retrospect.
What are you drinking right now?
Fruitlands gose from Modern Times. They just started distributing in Washington and I was quick to fill my fridge. I was very satisfied to discover that their beer is just as incredible as their design.
They employ what has become my favorite naming convention, as each beer they release bears the name of a defunct or fictional utopian project. Some quick research tells me that Fruitlands was actually started in Harvard, MA by Louisa May Alcott’s father. Members only ate food that came from trees or vines. Unsurprisingly, it only lasted 7 months. I’m glad the beer has enjoyed more success than that.
What do you wish you were drinking right now?
As I write this, my wife is texting me from Trillium’s taproom in Boston. Don’t tell her I said this, but I’m suuuuuuper jealous.
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