As you could probably tell by my first few parody labels, when I first started brewing, I basically made each label on its own. I didn’t consider keeping them uniform in anyway but size. Speaking of size, though, I have used 2.5” wide by 3.25” tall for the size of my standard 12 oz beer labels since the beginning, with a break in the middle. I got that size from some label stickers that I bought online. It works well and the one time I tried to change it, I decided to go back to it.
It didn’t take long for me to think that I should try to make my labels more uniform. I started brewing in the Summer of 2011, for my first batches of 2012 I started using a very simple template. This first template, which I used for the whole year of 2012 just consisted of a boarder, the color of which changed to match the label, with equal size on three sides, the bottom being a bit bigger to make room for text telling the volume and alcohol content to the left and my Non-Existent Brewing logo to the right.
This gave me the freedom to do whatever I wanted with the rest of the label and enough space to work in some different ideas. Over time, the shape seemed to be hard to work in, though. Eventually, I decided that a square would be easier to work with. My first attempt at a new template basically took the idea of the earlier version and squished it into a square. The other change being that the NEB logo and text went to the top, which seemed to make more sense.
It turned out that I liked making the artwork square, but didn’t like the whole label being square. For one thing, they didn’t fit as well on sheets of paper. I needed more paper and ended up with more waste. They also wrapped too far around the bottles, obscuring some of the artwork. I was just never happy with this template. Still, I kept it for all of 2013.
For 2014, I went back to my original label size and shape, but made a new template allowing for the artwork to be square. I kept a boarder on all sides, the bottom being much bigger now. In all that extra space I added a text description of the beer. I liked this idea a lot, but in practice, it was much harder to make work.
I usually couldn’t fit what I wanted to say in the space I had and even so, it took too much space from the artwork. I don’t think these labels looked very good in most cases. For the first time, rather than sticking with it all year, I kept working on a new version, almost from the time I had this one.
I was constantly sketching ideas that seemed great, but when I’d try to plug them into the actual measurements in software, the proportions never seemed to work. The thing that finally worked, at this sounds too simple to have taken so long to figure out, was getting rid of the boarder on the left and right sides. With the artwork bleeding to the edge, I was able to keep it square without getting too small or leaving too much space on the top and bottom.
I still had more space than the 2012 label, which worked well. I had given up on the idea of full text descriptions but I still wanted to fit a bit more information. In addition to the ABV and volume which had been there since 2012 and the IBUs which were added in 2013, I could now add the original gravity. I also added a style description, limited to a few words, on top. Most of my label artwork mentions the actual style so I can try to describe it here. If the style isn’t listed anywhere else, this space can be used for that. On Triple Valor, for example, the artworks says “Belgian Style Tripel” so this line instead reads “Golden Abbey Strong Ale.”
To the sides of this information, I have space for the NEB logo and a QR Code. I like the idea of the logo being at the top, but it doesn’t fit well and I think having just the words “Non-Existent Brewing” at the top and the logo at the bottom, a little bigger than it could be elsewhere, is a good compromise. The QR Codes are all the same as of now, just linking to this blog. I’d like to, in theory, some day make the codes specific to the batches and link to posts relating to them, but I’m not that organized yet.
In addition to this template, I’ve been trying to make the label artwork slightly more uniform. Mainly, I’m using Helvetica Bold on all of them. I’m also keeping the boarders white on all of the labels. I really like look of the bold black text on a white background and, while this shouldn’t be a concern, I think this color scheme would stand out well in the craft beer marketplace. I see lots of dark, muddy labels and bright, bold labels, but not a lot of white backgrounds. Not as a rule, but I am enjoying using more photographs on my labels right now, too.
I like this template a lot and I hope to stick with it for a good long time. The uniform font and color scheme and possibility of using a photo also means that in a pinch, it could be pretty easy to throw together a handsome and informative label fairly quickly. What do you think of these new labels?