As we've previously discussed, the road to finding the right design to compliment an idea for a new business is a long and colorful one. And this finale to our adventures in (company) branding is no different, so we hope you'll bear with us for one more chapter... As entrepreneurs, Chris and I had spent years cultivating the notion to open a business in the beer industry. From there, we narrowed our focus to a brewery and taproom instead of a brewpub. We decided on a name, and then set our sites (pun intended) on Williamsburg, VA, home of the alma mater to me, Chris, and his wife, Erin. As our aspirations began to fill out a business plan, we had already gone through a number of iterations of what styles of logos we liked and how we wanted to represent our own brand in the form of words and images. From local help as far back as 2012 to professional support both near and far in 2013 & 2014, we had continued to refine our brand along the way.
As 2014 came to a close, we had accomplished much while we worked towards opening The Virginia Beer Company. We finally signed a lease for our building at 401 Second Street; we ordered equipment from DME; and we added a new full time member to our team when our brewmaster joined us. Surging into 2015, the conversation about how to establish and grow our new brand continued. We had new input from a new member of our team who had experience working in the craft brewing industry. We continued to take stock of all of the brewery openings going on around us. And we further discussed how best to utilize a name like The Virginia Beer Company.
A lengthy discussion about how to apply our brand to individual beers had also ensued during this time. Names? Images? Colors? So many aspects to consider to make a beer attractive not just in taste but in appearance and story as well. We conferred and decided that a bold primary image would allow us to focus on changing the color scheme of each of our flagship beers while keeping the overall logo the same image and format, thereby reinforcing brand recognition as we expand to new markets and add cans and bottles to shelves.
But what would that logo be? Would any of our previous iterations resonate with our future audiences? Outside of our home market, what if new consumers were not familiar with our William & Mary background? What story did we want our logo to tell on taps, bottles, and cans? The three of us agreed that it was important to call on our roots with our logo, but realized that doing so in a broad manner was important since our name encompasses an entire Commonwealth. Though it's important to create a draw in our local market, our business goal is to expand the footprint of The Virginia Beer Co. to other markets within the state, and eventually to surrounding states and well beyond. How to accomplish both while staying true to our origins?
As we considered these topics and made crucial decisions about how we wanted to begin and grow our business, we were approached by an artist named Matt Leech. Matt is a Virginia based graphic designer who has done some previous work in the VA beer scene. When Matt got in touch he posed many of the questions about branding that we were already asking ourselves. And in addition he made a few recommendations that coincided with the business plan we were formulating not in 2012, 2013, or even 2014, but the one we were working on in 2015. Matt encouraged us to think simple when it came to our primary logo. After all, this image is going to be used everywhere: "Stickers, glassware, tap-handles, wax seal stamps, at the bottom of posters for events that you sponsor, the list goes on and on." Matt reinforced the idea of simplifying our image so that wherever and whoever it is, people immediately know what to expect from our brewery.
Working to open The Virginia Beer Co. for so long, and being William & Mary alums at that, the image of the Crim Dell Bridge really appealed to me and Chris. It's interesting, it's local, and it's got a wonderfully unique construct. Something of note that Matt asked us to consider about our branding was to think about any image in a 1-inch square and answer the question, "Is it easily recognizable?" We all agreed that we will have plenty of opportunities to showcase more complex and symbolic imagery, but that there are many instances where that level of detail simply can't or won't be translated due to space, size, or physical display constraints.
Citing many of these concepts, we changed our primary focus to the Deadrise shape, bordering variations of the logo as far back as 2013. We all concurred that this is a powerful, unique shape that can easily be explained to anyone anywhere in the state and out. It's not local, but it's also not a well-known fact that it's the state boat of Virginia, so there's a great story behind the shape - one that really enticed us and that we believe can help to explain our story as The Virginia Beer Company. In terms of palette, we originally chose the shade of red we did because it is the actual color of the Crim Dell Bridge. It is also similar to the colors in the Williamsburg Color Collection from Benjamin Moore, a local shout out. We still liked the colors in that collection; they are more earthy and muted. Taking our shared feedback to heart, Matt worked in early 2015 to help us visualize a set of logos that we feel embody the vision for The Virginia Beer Company that Jonathan, Chris, and I had all come to share.