Milton Glaser is a graphic design legend. The 84 year-old has been in the business for longer than many of us have been alive, and has been responsible for everything from the now-ubiquitous “I❤ NY” logo, to the visual identity for the upcoming Season 7 of AMC’s Mad Men. The gentleman truly knows his stuff.
Glaser also created the brand identity for the Brooklyn Brewery, which means he’s gone first-hand through the exercise of deciding what works and what doesn’t when it comes to beer labels. He came to the conclusion that to properly brand an “outsider” like a craft brewery, you must create a compelling design that works hard, but isn’t too polished.
“The one thing you don’t want to look like is Budweiser,” Glaser told the New York Times Magazine. “This creates a paradox: How do you deliberately create the illusion of not knowing what you’re doing when you actually do?”
He recently reviewed the labels of several craft beers for the magazine, and I found his insights to be interesting and (in the case of Dogfish Head) a little stinging.
Glaser’s full list of label critiques can be found here, but I’ve cherry-picked a few of my favorites below:
I wonder how Glaser would have felt about the original Dogfish Head 90 label. Totally chic, or too much freak? At any rate, it’s worth a click over the The Times to see the rest of beer labels Glaser puts under his microscope.
If there’s one thing this exercise tells us, it’s that the craft beer industry is all grown up if a legend of commercialism like Glaser is studying its brands in The Times.
But don’t feel bad for loving your favorite craft beer brand – if you’re going to practice conspicuous consumerism, it’s hard to imagine consuming anything better than a tasty craft beer!