March 29 2016 04:50 PM

Don Hollis, Kiran Umapathy and Matt Stallings talk brewery branding

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An artist, a writer and a branding expert walk into a bar...

But seriously, it's no secret that beer is big business in San Diego and nothing can make or break that business more than the logo. It helps brand the product, establish name recognition and hopefully draw customer eyes to the tap.

Don Hollis, Kiran Umapathy and Matt Stallings are big beer fans, but what's more, they all know what a good logo should look like. Hollis is the founder of Hollis Brand Culture, a local branding company specializing in hospitality, technology and lifestyle. Stallings is a local artist and illustrator nationally known for his portrait paintings of pop-culture icons that often incorporate iconic logos. Umapathy is a writer and editor at Holiday Matinee, a San Diego-founded blog specializing in creatively inspired products and media.

We asked each of them to look at six beer logos—three from established local breweries and three rookies—to tell us what works, what doesn't and what that logo ultimately conveys to the beer-buying populace.

Stone Brewing

Hollis: They're one of the first wave of craft breweries, and I've been a fan for a long time of the thirsty gargoyle. I think what's cool about it is that they're almost saying "fuck you" to all the big beer companies. It's bold, strong and defining. The gargoyle almost looks like he wants to be left alone to enjoy his beer.

Umapathy: Not my favorite logo in the world, but it does serve its purpose because there's a sense of strength conveyed in the gargoyle and typeface. It feels respectable and let's people know it's not a wimpy brand.

Stallings: I love this logo because it's authentic, and they haven't updated it too much from when they first started. The gargoyle with the beer is a staple.

Ballast Point

Umapathy: It carries strength because of the ship theme, but not in a preppy way. To me, the square and hard angles of the typeface communicate "classic." I also dig the colors and the typeface communicates strength to me.

Hollis: I like that they incorporated their tagline into the logo. There's been a nautical theme throughout the history and this updated logo is much better crafted. There's a nostalgic feeling to it, but they've owned it and done a good job.

Stallings: It's clean, tight and reads very well. You know that it's an artifact of the sea even if you don't immediately get the iconography. The colors are nicely balanced and the red font reads really bold and commands attention when you look at it.

Green Flash

Umapathy: The green flash is a good local phenomenon and all, but this logo makes me think cannabis leaves. The weed thing isn't necessarily a bad thing. It's nice, clean and has a minimalist feel.

Hollis: It's bold, simple and clean, but I'm not sure how deep the roots go after that. I want to know more. I guess it works, but I think there's room for a little more personality to be expressed in that one.

Stallings: I love their beer, but I'm also a graphic designer and that's always been a logo where I've felt that they really needed to update the font. I've never been a fan of the typography.

Belching Beaver

Stallings: I liked this from the first time I saw it. Even when they apply it on their beer, it's very front and center. Some beers put the logo in the background and put their name up front, but when your name is borderline sexual and offending, you need to let people know you're a fun brand.

Umapathy: A little too cutesy, but it might be that I've just seen it too much. Might be a personal thing, but I'm tired of anything that's trying to be cute.

Hollis: I think this logo does what a craft beer logo should do in developing their own voice. I think it's cool to love what you do and not take yourself too seriously at the same time.

Pure Project

Umapathy: Ugh. It seems like a water charity or nonprofit to me [Note: Pure Project does donate a portion of its sales to water-based charities]. I'm not against that, but I'm drinking a beer here. I saw the hops with the water drop, but that doesn't jump out immediately. You have to examine it before you see it so that doesn't work for branding.

Hollis: If you don't know what they're all about you might not get it. The logo itself has a nice modern take on the hop and it looks good alone on a beer glass, but the type is kind of a trainwreck.

Stallings: It's very confusing. I would never have known that this was a beer label.

Fall Brewing

Hollis: I like it a lot. I think its super well crafted and it stands out really well in a crowded space. I like the simplicity of it, and they've found their own voice.

Umapathy: The thumbs up might gross me out if it too closely resembled an emoji, but it's different enough and actually reminds me of this gas station logo I saw in India. For the typeface, it's almost there, but just isn't all the way there.

Stallings: One of my favorite breweries and the logo has this throwback record label look to it. It takes it back to the late '90s, early '00s type of branding with car culture, album cover art and rock show posters.

South Park Brewing

Umapathy: It’s not memorable to me, but it does remind me of baseball. There are logos like that already.

Hollis: Clean and consistent. It might be drinking from the same tap when it comes to other typeface and monogram treatments that stress simplicity. It’s put together nicely and the “SP” has got a nice, baseball-inspired look. There’s a nice, hometown feeling to it.

Stallings: It’s the most hipster logo of the bunch. That’s a very trending style right now; that old throwback and voltage design which I really like. It’s very clean and has a modern meets vintage feel. It’s done very well.

Border X Brewing

Hollis: The type around the edges could be stronger, but the hop skull thing is really cool and is woven in nicely. They use a lot of cultural favors like jalepeno so it works for the company it represents.

Umapathy: I'd welcome a pint glass with that logo into my kitchen. It feels like a serious beer and the skull fits in with being close to the border. Not the brutality, more of a Dia de los Muertos way. It's a respectable skull too, not something you'd find on a pair of JNCOs. They're able to work in the hops here too.

Stallings: It’s very punk rock at first glance. I feel like they could have played with the “X” a little more. I like the skull with the cherry-bomb eyes and the tongue with the loops and the hop-head. But they may want to work on the readability of the name a little bit. Punch it up.


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