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Bottles Full of Juice, Spice, and Everything Designed Nice

Beverage branding that embraces the season's vibe

Fall has fallen upon us. As the tempo and temperature of social gatherings change, the snap of a pull tab gives way to the satisfying pop of a stopper or screwing of a cap. This month we’re staying in (or maybe pulling on a sweater and sitting on the stoop/patio/porch) and pouring a glass of something from a bottle.

Fay Behbehani and Mike Louis: Bonbuz Slowburn

There tends to be a good deal of restraint when it comes to branding for non-alcoholic beverages. Maybe because there’s a lot of explaining to do with words (functional, hemp-infused, “blithe botanicals”), or maybe because doing less seems more serious. Whatever the reason, the defining visual cues of the growing category—carved fonts, a limited palette, and generally calm labels—lean towards sophistication, not fun. Not so with Bonbuz. Slowburn, the latest release from the Los Angeles company may taste good (it’s a blend of jalapeño, blood orange, and grapefruit) but it doesn’t care a whit about “good taste.”

The packaging for slowburn, which was developed by founder Fay Behbehani and lead designer Michael Louis, draws on the “electrifying and reemerging 90’s era.” (Behbehani says that bonbuz’s target demographic is Gen-Z, which explains the bright, wacky choices that characterize most products made for people born around 2000.) “Making alcohol-free sexy, spicy and thirst-quenching was a mission for Slowburn, and we got to say in illustrations what we couldn’t say in words,” says Louis. If alcohol-free beverages (besides, you know, soda) are a niche category, spicy alcohol-free beverages are huddled deep in the lower left corner on the x/y axis of packaged drinks popularity. An objectively unusual product calls for equally unusual branding. And for a spicy drink, I can’t think of anything more evocative than an image of, as Louis put it, “mad juicy lips gripping a jalapeño, and dripping fire.” 

Duzi Studio: Quarter

In another section of the not-quite-liquor store you’ll find Quarter, a low ABV gin created by Fabian Clark and Rohan Radhakrishnan. London design agency Duzi Studio worked with Quarter founders Clark and Radhakrishnan on brand positioning, which helped inform the  “honest, no-fuss” visual direction that prioritizes “balance over botanicals.” The goal was to create a visual identity that evokes “a sense of familiarity, served with a measure of intrigue and curiosity.” The work and philosophy of abstract painter Agnes Martin, whose seemingly simple “grid structures and repeat linework” were underpinned by complexity, served as inspiration.  Quarter’s “structured identity” emphasizes its fractional alcohol content, so it makes sense that a big sliver of a circle makes up the majority of the label. It’s conceptual but straightforward, and very eye-catching.

Wedge Studio: Entre Pierre Et Terre Spirits

Montréal’s Wedge Studio drew on traditional French beverage labels in their designs for Quebec cidery and microdistillery Entre Pierre Et Terre’s recently-launched line of spirits. The off-white label and cheery crimson lettering shared by each spirit (which includes gin, brandy, two kinds of vermouth and pear mistelle) were inspired by the traditional codes for Cidre Bouché, a generic term for traditional cider from Normandy, where the winemaker, Loïc Chanut, is originally from. Though Cidre Bouché translates to “cider under cork,” these spirits are topped by a twist-off cap, sealed with interlocking stickers that contain the Chanut’s signature, “ciderie and microdistillerie” and the face of Dandy, the co-owner’s yellow lab and late muse. The loopy lettering on products like also provided a reference for the “strong typographic personality” of each bottle, a design necessity that came out of the choice to only use red ink. Without an identifying color code for each SKU, the product name had to “work harder,” and the result is a unified look that’s both playful and polished.

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