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Beer label design for Scuttlebutt's seasonal Fresh Hop IPA

Art Direction

11 Weeks

Adobe Fresco



My goal for this project was to work within an existing brand to create a packaging label design that is engaging and stands out on the shelf.

The Problem

How can I create beer label designs that speak to my own unique style while also working within an established brand?

The Solution

To create a design that is informed by the research of a brand and a knowledge of Fresh Hop beer. 


The Story

Every year, Scuttlebutt brewery will call on 2nd year SCCA graphic design students to design their seasonal Fresh Hop IPA. Doug Tiede, operations manager at Scuttlebutt, gave my cohort the low-down on their seasonal line as well as a brief history of their brand. Although my label wasn't chosen to be distributed on the cans, this was the perfect opportunity to practice applying my illustrative style to packaging design.


Before I dove into the design process, I wanted to make sure I had a thorough understanding of Scuttlebutt as a business in addition to the process of harvesting and collecting Fresh Hops. The research I conducted helped inform what kind of design, composition, and style I wanted to go forward with and was greatly beneficial in the long run.


Scuttlebutt brewery was started by Phil and Cynthia Bannan in 1995. The legacy began with a home-brewing kit gifted to Phil for fathers day. Phil was taking up a lot of space in the kitchen with his newfound hobby, so they decided to move his brews into a larger operation. Since then, the business has remained family owned and independent and has gone from 5 gallon buckets to a 20 barrel system with 20 different styles of hand-crafted ales and lagers. In regards to the brewery’s name, Scuttlebutt was the nickname given to Cynthia by her father, a naval officer at the Norfolk Naval Station. Later she went by Scuttle, but the brewery’s name remains the same. They are located in Everett, Washington.

I created a mood board made of various Scuttlebutt designs to get a sense of their brand's aesthetic and style. I noticed they tend to go for simple, repeated patterns, bright colors and vector illustrations.

Fresh Hop

Fresh hop, wet hop or green hop are all terms used to describe a hop used in a seasonal beer unique to the Pacific Northwest. What makes these hops different from others is that they are handpicked and rushed within 24 hours straight from the bine to the brewery without being dried or processed. This results in a seasonal, hop-forward beer and a distinctively grassy taste (in the best of ways). Because Yakima, Washington is one of the worlds leading hop harvesting locations, local brewers will flood the tiny rural city to hand-pick these fleetingly juicy hops. Prime time for harvesting is usually a couple weeks after labor day, but there is no official start to the season. You will often see harvesters cupping these strange, poky berries in their hands to inhale their smell - pungent when ready for harvesting.

I pulled a series of photos of various fresh hop designs to get a sense of how the world sees this unique, seasonal beer. Different shades of green, blues, and white as well as hop imagery were very common.


Now that I had done my research, it was time to move on to sketching and designing. 


I made a series of rough, stream-of-consciousness sketches before choosing my favorites and fleshing them out. I wanted to play off the different meanings of the word “Hop” and emphasize the idea of “Fresh” in a way that was familiar, yet novel and clever. The loose sketches I chose to go forward with were the ones that I thought best represented Scuttlebutts business while providing an interesting twist to a commonly represented niche.

After receiving feedback from classmates and peers, we decided the best design was the hop fish. This one touched on the maritime, and naval background of Scuttlebutt while expressing the hop in a fun and interesting way. The fish represents the fleeting, fresh quality of fresh hops while also serving as a nod to the brewers who hand-pick their seasonal blends.

Draft 1

The first draft was a way for me to experiment with a more textured medium in Adobe Fresco. After some trial and error, I realized that this draft felt too condensed and lacked opportunities for space. Even as a vector, the fleshed-out versions didn’t carry the engaging dynamism from the initial sketches.

Draft 2

I decided to go forward with the other iteration of the hop fish as it had more opportunities for space. To see if I was going in the right direction with my design, I met with David Lohman, an SCCA grad and graphic designer at Elysian. I was advised to make the hop fish more of the focus, and to emphasize it’s size by adding a sense of weight through shadows. He also recommended that I increase the size of the drip marks to bring it back to the concept of “fresh.”

Final Design

After the feedback I received from David Lohman and peers, I made the necessary changes and felt I had really enhanced my design. As an extra touch, I added Scuttlebutt's anchor logo as a repeating overlay pattern in the background to tie it back to their previous designs.


Key Takeaways

  1. Research is essential! If I hadn’t gone through such extensive research, I would not have been able to make informed design choices that highlighted the product in new and exciting ways.

  2. Flesh out your sketches. Being able to solve all the problems before getting to the final design helped me save time and energy in the long run and saved me from "pixel pushing."

Next Steps

I would love to continue designing for beer labels! Being able to influence consumer choices through design and illustration is one of the reasons why I applied to design school. I have always bought beer for the look of the can, and I love the challenge of making a design stand out on the shelf.

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