Decoding our labels I

As Irish Paul has recently redesigned our labels and rightly is quite proud of them, we decided to let him explain some of the imagery in the latest can designs.

“We do all of our graphic work inhouse at Stone Angel – everything from the logo, the keg wraps, to the van and signage was designed by myself. I’ve worked as a designer in various fields since 1992.

The original cans were designed to be clean and part of the same family but they had a major flaw – people had difficulty in distinguishing them from each other in a full fridge. Some of those designs had also been rushed out due to pressures of time. One can design took 5 minutes. It showed. Others I just hated. Nothing worse than looking at a can label you hate when you designed it.

So starting with a desire to add more colour I started again. Nothing was sacred, but they had to look like they’re all from the same family of products while maintaining easy visual separation.

Brennan’s Barn
This is the opening two lines of a famous Irish poem by Patrick Kavanagh in a label “Inniskeen Road: July Evening”

The bicycles go by in twos and threes –
There’s a dance in Billy Brennan’s barn tonight…

The building in the background is the actual barn referenced in the poem, with bicycles going by, yes, in two and threes, it’s that literal. Also along the left hand edge is the music notation for an Irish Jig.

Foynes was used by the flying boats that crossed the Atlantic prior to jetliners. It was the place where Irish Coffee was invented for cold aircrew. It was also landfall for most airmail sent to Europe from Canada.

This is symbolised by the Aerpost sticker and an old Irish airmail stamp, and the use of a shade of green popular at that time. Even the word Foynes is designed to be reminiscent of a postmark. This one along with the Brennan’s label is one of my favourites.

Kaiser Bill
The image of Kaiser Wilheim II is from a 1913 political cartoon called “the glutton”, depicting him taking a bite out of the world.

As the image had a linear edge, it didn’t work well in the centre of a can. So I decided to turn him into a double headed image, reminiscent of the Imperial Eagles of the early 19th century.

The font is by a font designer, Kevin Christopher, out of Regina SK. The colour? Prussian Blue of course.

An old fashioned apothecary label. Simple and effective. Let’s be honest, a picture of peanut butter isn’t that exciting. And peanuts themselves are not that attractive either. The colour purple has associations with different brands of chocolate so seemed a logical choice.

I had thought about adding that symbol almost always on old medicine bottles – the poison symbol, but figured nobody would get the reference and sales might suffer.

The bloody red hand, long a symbol of resistance, and sheer contrariness in the northern part of Ireland. Many coats-of-arms for familys, towns, and counties carry it. The flag of Ulster has a large one in the centre.

Taking the other meaning, I added my fingerprint to the background, as in caught redhanded. So literally my fingerprints are all over this one. There may also be a hidden message to loyal fans of the one true religion, the Reds, Liverpool FC. Quite like this one as there’s a lot of subtlety in the hand inself, different shades of red combines to give a mottled look.

By and large, I’m delighted with how they’ve turned out. The colour bar allows for differentiation between the cans but have run throught most of my favourite shades of colour now, so further cans will be a bit more of a challenge. But there’s several new products to come yet this summer, so better get cracking.

Next up is the website which, and I’m not kidding, was originally built in an hour on a Sunday. It’s grown since with the addition of maps, beer lists, and the online store but it too will be brought in line visually.”