Startup. Five. My Inner Milton Glaser.
I've said it before and I'll say it again, Blue Tape Brewing is a brewing company with no brewery. We are an LLC in the State of Illinois, but we have yet to secure a space to brew on a commercial scale. Without that space (and a substantial amount of startup capital), we cannot buy equipment, without equipment and a brewery layout we cannot apply for federal and state licensing, without federal and state licensing we cannot sell any beer. It might seem like a huge problem to be a brewing company that produces no beer. I see it as a huge advantage. At this point in the process, brewing can almost be a distraction. We are blissfully devoid of any responsibility to produce beer, and that gives us all of the time in the world to focus on all of the parts of a brewing company that don't actually involve extracting maltose from barley, boiling it with hops and allowing yeast to turn it alcoholic.
Early on in this venture, even before Blue Tape Brewing was officially a company, back when it was a struggle to even get 5 gallons out of a batch due to hop absorption (actually its amazing the difference a dip tube makes), I started tooling around with some rudimentary label design. Very rudimentary. Produced-in-Microsoft-Word-Rudimentary. But these labels at least gave a tangible identity to a product that disappears as it is enjoyed. I kind of realized at this point that branding this thing called Blue Tape would be of critical importance.
Steve Hindy is one of the founders of The Brooklyn Brewery. Much of my motivation to form this identity for our brand came from actions he took early in his process. Hindy courted some of the best graphic design firms in New York and after much persistence, ended up with the absolute best. Milton Glaser. Glaser is responsible for some of the most notorious graphic design of the 20th century including the "I Love NY" logo and the design of New York Magazine, and as luck with have it, the "B" logo of The Brooklyn Brewery. And Glaser designed that logo personally, he didn't staff it out. It was a pet project for him and it has become one of the most recognizable brewery logos in the country. That said, we can't afford Milton Glaser, or any graphic design firm for that matter. So I ditched Word and found some easy to use graphic design software and started playing around with a logo.
I didn't go to graphic design school. No one taught me how to do this. I guess I just have an eye for this sort of thing. And I knew it was very important. And it's really less about a logo and more about the look and feel that we want to project as a brewing company. It's identity. It's our face. It's bigger than the logo. The website, our social media pages, our business cards, any printed materials, all needed to display some sort of uniformity. Honestly, it has sort of been unfolding organically.
There have been dozens of versions of the logo you see on our website since we started this thing, many of them virtually unrecognizable compared to what you see everywhere. There have been many a heated conversation between Lizz and I over changes in the logo. It started as a light dusty blue, then it was a brighter royal blue, and now it is what it is. It's not quite the color of actual blue painters tape, but it's a lot more appealing to the eye. Fonts have been somewhat of a source of stress as well. Our consulting design person (Thank you Becca, we owe you beer) helped enlighten me on typefaces. It is minimalistic and uniform across mediums. The font of "Blue Tape" in our logo is the only instance of it being used anywhere in our design repertoire. This makes it impactful and memorable. The word "Brewing" in the logo is the same font that you are reading now for the reason that it is highly visible and easily read. All of the headings on our website are in a font that is repeated on our business cards and will appear on our beer labels when they are designed. This all comes together into the visual side of our brand. Other aspects of our brand are still being built, but for the time being we have defined how our graphic presence is going to be.
Will the "Blue Tape Brewing" logo be as iconic as Glaser's "I Love NY" logo? Almost certainly not, but it's a start. And like everything else about this company, it is something that we were able to do ourselves. It's another thing that we were able to develop early. So we are going to keep doing non-brewing things and eventually we are going to run out of these non-brewing things and that is our motivation and it's so exciting.
Photo: A very early Blue Tape label. Credit Sam Evans of Ale Syndicate