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Beverage Branding That’s All About the Typography

Colorless contents and monochrome bottles let typefaces shine on these labels

Rich color is such a common feature of beverage packaging (and really, all kinds of packaging) these days that it’s easy to forget how much impact a label can have with a less saturated approach. Black lettering on a white background is at once understated and unexpected. It’s a rarely used move in the packaging world that puts the onus on font and layout to make things interesting. Less may be more, but it’s also more work. Read on for some bottle branding that’s just our type.

Foxtrot: Play Nice Vodka

There are certain areas of consumerism where “curation” feels less like a glib marketing term and more a matter of necessity. Food and beverage retail is one of these realms. In aisles (or pages) of options, a tight edit of sparkling wine or canned fish is a welcome mental shortcut for any hungry shopper. Foxtrot, a seven-year old retail startup based in Chicago that combines corner store convenience with on-demand delivery, excels at such choosiness. With its first foray into private label liquor, Foxtrot brought its fun, unpretentious ethos to vodka, a category often portrayed as a swanky nightlife beverage. That exclusive “robots and bottle service” look didn’t match up with the way Sarah Sitz, senior director of brand marketing and Rob Schellenberg, vice president of creative, see vodka as “an inclusive spirit that plays nice with many things.” Foxtrot worked with a local Chicago distiller to create Play Nice, a vodka whose branding embodies a more clubhouse than in-the-club approach. The label is layered, but not cluttered. The jaunty yet precise lettering peppered with illustrations is designed to feel “like someone has slapped a sticker over a beautifully typeset road sign.” Play Nice picks up on the design values of the core Foxtrot brand, which is both spare and unserious, serving as an affable mixer alongside and platform for brands as varied as Topo Chico, Recess and Sprite.

Peter Miles: Yola Mezcal

Yola is a mezcal brand that combines the appeal of a heritage brand (the original recipe dates to 1971, a few years after founder Yola Jimenez’s grandfather bought a mezcal farm in Oaxaca), with the hero-product design of a modern company. Led by Jimenez, Gina Correll Aglietti, and Swedish singer-songwriter Lykke Li, who heads the creative direction for the brand, Yola first appeared in 2016 but its recent redesign caught our eye. For the new look, Yola worked with British designer Peter Miles, whose other projects include art direction for Phoebe Philo-era Céline and titles for Sofia Coppola movies. Li says Miles found the bottle’s chiseled font, which she describes as a “very old font that represented our taste but also subtly conveys our wild side.” For Li and her partners, the goal of the redesign was to create something that represents everything they love about Mexico, from a Yola point of view. They aimed to distill the country’s aesthetic contrasts—being classic and modern, timeless, elegant, bold and vibrant all at the same time—to set the tone for the design, which is both singular and cosmopolitan. 

Milja Emilia Korpela: Alda Iceland

Back in 2016, when Finnish designer Milja Emilia Korpela created the brand identity for Alda, an Icelandic all-natural lemonade made with marine collagen, she was living in Iceland and was inspired by its landscape—“Those open spaces, simplicity, calmness,” Korpela says. Five years later, when tasked with creating the label for a new flavor, Korpela built on her existing design system, which is as fresh and striking today as it was then. For Alda’s recently released cucumber edition, Korpela used color blocks and movement as a kind of “interpretation of the drink’s crisp taste,” along with soft pastel greens. The logotype, with its white background and the “breathing space” between letters, was inspired by “minimalist Nordic aesthetics.” The idea, Korpela says, “was to use a ‘friendly,’ inviting typeface that would fit well in the concept.” After all, what’s more plainly welcoming than a glass of lemonade? For the same reason, Korpela wanted to do something different for the bottle’s claims, which can often read like a list of jargon when stacked on top of each other. Instead, she encircled the center flavor icon with terms like “sugar-free” and “100 % natural” which gives the bottle a more playful approach to a trend that has become more common in recent years as consumers become more interested in what beverages are made of.

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