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October 23, 2013

5 Keys to Award-winning Beverage Design

5 Keys to Award-winning Beverage Design

We certainly don’t want to encourage young designers to work in an award-groping fashion; after all, you have to please your clients above all else. If your client wants heaps of Old English typography and tons of buxom pub maid graphics, then you have to grit your teeth, design away and cry yourself to sleep. Nevertheless, we all want to be celebrated by our respected peers, don’t we?

Some of the most eye-catching designs are made for beverages. They’re sort of like flagships for eye-appeal; everyone wants one when it’s in the impulse-buy section. And, as expected, there are plenty of award opportunities and prestige to be had when it comes to beverage label design. It’s not always possible to come up with earth-shattering designs (sometimes, client simply don’t want that), but you can incorporate some good taste and judgment in even the most awful design concepts. And while they might not wind up leading you to instant accolades and immense riches, they will at the very least enable you to look upon even your most questionable designs with a relatively low degree of shame.

Make It a Talking Point

A dazzling beverage label design will cause deep and enthusiastic conversations to break out among strangers in the grocery store aisle. “Look at that fantastic label,” they’ll say. “I will immediately purchase this Jammin’ Goji Coolada for its inevitable undoubtedly praiseworthy ‘coolin” and ‘not from concentrate’ properties.”

Alright, so maybe no such conversation will ever take place (except in Jammin’ Goji Coolada corporate conference rooms), but a beverage label design that will invariably win awards will also cause the consumer (and design award adjudicators) to discuss its very unusual and interesting structure and color scheme.

One also must take the wording of the label into account for maximum discussability. Labels that use eye-catching phrases and amusing word patterns will definitely spark consumer interest. If you can make a customer chuckle, you can make a customer buy. Ask any car salesman.

Make It Distinct

We’ve said this time and time again (and we admit, this is far easier said than successfully done), but it is critical for a label to stand out from its competitors on the shelf. Swing that pendulum in the opposite direction. If the sports drink pack has gone for a super-sporty EXTREEEEEME aesthetic, you might want to try a clean and elegant label, or an old-timey “Uncle Hank’s Energizing Tonic Elixir – Good for What Ails You!” type of look. Then again, you could always go for an even more exotic label design, like using other senses.

Make It Eco Friendly

Everyone loves environmental responsibility; make sure that your label (and your product, for that matter) observes the standard sustainability protocol. Using recycled materials; natural inks; paper made of corn etc. will endear you to a nature-appreciating public.

Make It Delicious

The most important feature your beverage label could possibly have (which is why we put it fourth on this list) is the ability to make the product seem delicious. This can be achieved by putting “delicious” somewhere on the label, of course, but may consumers view that as a short cut.

Descriptions of the natural ingredients are always effective, as are graphics of the ingredients, provided the flavors were derived from nature. If the marketing team came up with names like “White Blast,” “Typhoon,” or “Power Punch,” we’re not gonna lie; deliciousness will be significantly harder to achieve.

If the beverage is a fruit derived juice or an iced tea, you’ll want to play up the crisp and refreshing aspects of the product, as well as the nutritional benefits (vitamins, antioxidants, etc.). For iced coffees, flavored milks, yogurt drinks or other creamy beverages, comfort is key. Naturally, if there are any nutritional benefits or healthful ingredients (calcium, tofu, active cultures, etc.), those will need to be highlighted.

Make It Sexy

Alright, not every beverage label can, or should, be made “sexy” (infant formula immediately springs to mind), but for beverages for an adult palate, it’s crucial to give the label alluring lines, graphics and colors if you’re going to have any appeal at all. The sex aspect should be subtle, though; gratuitous cheesecake graphics are only desperate and misguided, although they’ll probably be pretty effective talking points.

We can’t promise you immediate recognition and boundless glory, but we can promise you that award winning beverage labels have incorporated most, if not all, of the above qualities. Most importantly, when designing a beverage label, it’s important to consider the type of label that would cause you, personally, to buy that particular drink. Unless, of course, you’ve been enticed by a Mother Energy Drink label, in which case you should really ignore every design instinct you have.

author

by Kevin Smith
Managing partner at SmashBrand. We're a group of experienced brand owners, thinkers and world-class designers united by an obsession for creating category disrupting brand experiences.

Purposefully selective, we work with brands that want to stand out and also stand for something.

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