Not so long ago, beers were known by a singular colour – green, blue, yellow or red – and these hues didn’t just colour cans and bottles: their shades would tint entire states.
Now, drinks fridges are a kaleidoscope of colour as designers flex their creative muscles to create can-size masterpieces.
Founded by James Krekelberg, Traralgon’s Good Land Brewing Co. are gaining a reputation for their striking cans, so we thought it high time we chatted with their artist, and James’ sister, Lucy Krekelberg and designer-guru John Calabro of The View From Here (and Gippslandia co-founder) on what makes a good can look great.
“...a feast for the senses: eyes too, not just the taste buds.”—
First, let’s hear from the artist, Lucy Krekelberg:
It’s a bit of a collaboration between Jimmy and I. Sometimes, Jimmy has a vision for what he wants: certain colours complementing the name and flavours of his beer. Other times I take the lead.
Of course, there are moments that I’ll feel inspired and start painting something. We have a pile of these artworks waiting to be paired with the perfect beer.
Occasionally the beer has been named after the artwork. For instance, ‘Day Tripper’, which I painted after taking a photo of the sunset on a drive towards Melbourne during summer.
Some labels are painted in advance. ‘Hauptbahnhof’ and ‘100s & 1000s’ are a couple of artworks that were painted two years before the brewery was even open. Jimmy had a good idea of the first few beers he wanted to brew and we got busy brainstorming on labels. Then again, sometimes I get a call saying, “Hey Lucy, we need two new artworks by the end of the week.” Then it’s a mad rush.
I really enjoy the creative freedom. Jimmy fully trusts me, and he’s not yet turned down an artwork. My favourite piece so far has been 'Gezellig’; a palette of black gold to perfectly suit the strong and rich barrel-aged imperial stout.
I have always been creative. When I’m not working at the brewery, I work for myself in my small home-based cake business that I run with the help of my mum. I was also working at a high school as an art room teaching aide. I learnt a lot of techniques from the art teacher (Adele Zomer) whom I worked closely with for five years. Adele gave me the confidence I needed to believe my art was good enough.
I’m currently on maternity leave, so now instead of squeezing in a bit of painting on my lunch break, I’m fitting it in while my baby naps.
Now, let’s get the designer’s perspective with John Calabro:
If I had to put our relationship with Good Land Brewing Co into a word, it’d be ‘delicious’.
James’s strategy of a solid core range makes for a reliable, recognisable brand, and the ongoing small-batch releases keep the brand colourful, interesting, dynamic and refreshing. A feast for the senses: eyes too, not just the taste buds.
The entire craft beer movement has brought so much to the dining landscape, so we’re thrilled to be working with a craft brewer, especially one from our hometown of Traralgon.
The vision for the brand took time to develop – James had some serious hurdles to overcome regarding naming and trademarking, and we went through a number of iterations until we settled on the current format. Each name we tried bloomed an entire new story, so it was quite a journey. Ultimately, when he settled on Good Land, I remember thinking, ‘This is it!’
I think for a beer can to be well designed there’s a reliability that you aim for – a sense that a can has a certain flavour that you crave. As an avid drinker of James’s beer, when I see the blue of the pale ale, my mouth already forecasts the flavour profile I’m about to drink, and it adjusts accordingly for the lager (red) and the mid (yellow).
Once we established the core can labels, we needed to create a template that could accommodate all manner of colours, shapes, patterns and textures. It meant creating a range of parameters that would ensure the brand was recognisable, the text was easy to read and there was enough open space to see Lucy’s artwork.
One of the most complicated parts of the design was the finely tuned back label that fits the barcode, ingredients and alcohol warnings. It's like packing a car boot for a holiday; you end up putting things in and pulling them out a million times until everything fits just right.
Now, that is an activity best done without any beers under your belt!