Ka-Boom: The Panic Brewing Brand Design

The best ideas are always taken. I didn't make a big deal about unveiling the Panic Alarmist Brewing logo/brand design when it was completed a couple of months ago. I've had the initial sketch and subsequent design updates as the cover photo on the Panic Alarmist Brewing Facebook page from the beginning. I did that because I wanted to get a visual identity out there as soon as possible. Having that identity adds a sense of legitimacy to the enterprise so I just went for it. Now that the first draft of the business plan is complete, I thought I'd discuss the design and my approach to it.

First, the complete design from soup to nuts was the brain child of G. Scott Olson. Scott is an ex-coworker and an extremely gifted web developer, specifically front end stuff like JavaScript, HTML, and CSS (which is also what I do for a living...for now). Scott has a wicked sense of humor and like me, has pursued improv comedy in a past life. He also does stand up comedy occasionally. As great as Scott is at technology, he's become more interested in design. It is this interest that motivated Scott to volunteer his design services to Panic.

When we first met, I really had no idea what I wanted. I mean none. I knew I wanted something with a sense of humor, which is a personality trait I cherish in myself in others, although I should point out that many times my wife wishes I'd cherish it quietly. The only direction I could point Scott in was what "Panic" meant to me: a sense of middle-aged urgency, making big changes in life, and the feeling I have every day when I work in corporate America. Now, how the hell do you make that humorous? Well, you have Scott do it, and man, he really nailed it.  Not only did he nail it, but he nailed quickly. The dynamite idea was one of his two original concepts and I liked it immediately.

As Scott fine tuned the design including colors, font, and layout, I started to think about the potential for the dynamite shtick (see what I did there, a great example of all the fun you can have with this). Tap handles? Fuck. Yes. An instantly recognizable symbol? Oh yeah. T-shirts with hilarious slogans? Yup. Then there's the "Ka-Boom". That was all Scott as well and it makes me laugh all the time. It's just silly but it goes so great with the identity. Fun, irreverent perhaps, but somehow serious. Really great stuff.

I definitely didn't spend a lot of time mulling over possible brand identities. My gut just told me the stuff Scott came up with was dead on. With the increasingly crowded craft beer marketplace, you can spend lots of money with professional branding firms coming up with all kinds of nifty logos and slogans. The problem is your nifty logo is getting lost in a sea of other nifty logos (and shitty ones). This is craft beer and getting folks to pay attention to your brand is important, but at the end of the day, it's about the beer, not the brand. Make great beer and your brand will be defined for you. The big guys only worry about brand, beer flavor comes second. We're craft beer and what we brew is our voice, not the logo, not the colors, nothing else. (Update 8/2/13 - I no longer completely agree with that previous sentence. Beer is important, but the brand will tell the story and bring people to the beer. The two go hand in hand.)

I'm not naive enough to think for a second that brand isn't important, especially as a brewery grows. It just seems to me that craft beer is starting to see a lot of gorgeously branded beers, with only mediocre results in the package. I'm of the thinking that we in America spend way too much time thinking about the brand and not the actual product. "Tommy Bahama" branded rum? How does it taste? Answer: yuck. FYI, Matusalem rum is MUCH better and cheaper, go check it out.

So that's the Panic Alarmist branding story and my philosophy on branding in craft beer. That and $2 will get you a cup of coffee.