Creative labels in the craft beer world

Creative labels in the craft beer world

A local artist creates unique labels for Vitamin Sea Brewing and others, while Night Shift Brewing experiments with A.I.

WE ARE SURROUNDED BY LABELS. THERE ARE THESE STEREOTYPICAL LABELS THRUST UPON HIGH SCHOOLERS, THE GOTH KIDS, THE JOCKS, THE THEATER KIDS. WE’RE SURROUNDED BY PHYSICAL LABELS TO WALK DOWN THE AISLES OF A GROCERY STORE AND FIND THE ICONIC CAMPBELL’S SOUP LABEL, COCA COLA. LOCAL FAVORITES, INCLUDING KEN’S DRESSING MARSHMALLOW FLUFF, ONE OF MY FAVORITES, AND HOOD. THE CLASSICS ARE RECOGNIZABLE BUT NEW AND EXCITING LABELS ARE ALWAYS POPPING UP ON SHELVES, CATCHING THE EYE OF THE UNASSUMING CONSUMER. IF YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’RE LOOKING FOR, YOU JUST KNOW. I LIKE IPAS. I’M GOING INTO THIS BEER STORE. THERE’S A THOUSAND TO CHOOSE FROM. YOU GOT TO PICK SOMEHOW. USUALLY YOU’RE GOING TO GO BASED ON THE LABEL ARTWORK. EAST LONGMEADOW NATIVE DEAN MCKEEVER IS A CRAFT BEER FAN, SO MUCH SO THAT HE BEGAN REACHING OUT TO BREWERIES WITH THE HOPES OF EMPLOYMENT. THE FIRST ONE I DID THAT I DID WORK FOR WAS TREEHOUSE BREWING OUT OF WESTERN MASS. AND THE SECOND ONE WAS VITAMIN C BREWING. MCKEEVER WASN’T LOOKING TO BREW BEER, BUT RATHER TO DRAW, ILLUSTRATE AND CREATE THOUGHTFUL LABELS THAT WOULD ATTRACT CUSTOMER ORDERS TO THE CAN. I THINK A LOT OF PEOPLE KNOW ME FOR MY LIKE, REALLY VIBRANT, COLORFUL ILLUSTRATIONS, WHICH I THINK REALLY WORKS WELL FOR BEER LABELS, EYE CATCHING, YOU KNOW, THAT’S WHAT I LIKE TO GO FOR EXCITING IMAGERY, SOMETHING THAT GIVES THE BEER A LIFE BEYOND JUST WHAT’S INSIDE. WHILE HE ENJOYS WATERCOLOR, MCKEEVER HAS FOUND A NEW WORLD IN DIGITAL ART. I LIKE TO EXPLORE DIFFERENT TYPES OF IMAGERY WITH USING TEXTURES AND LINE STYLES, LINE WEIGHTS. HE WORKS CLOSELY WITH EACH CLIENT, HELPING THEIR VISION COME TO LIFE. SOME HAVE A CLEARER IDEA OF WHAT THEY WANT ON THE CAN, AND OTHER TIMES HE’S CREATING A DESIGN SIMPLY BASED ON A NAME. THAT’S OFTEN HOW IT IS WITH DINO FURNARI, FOUNDER OF VITAMIN C BREWING IN WEYMOUTH OVER THE YEARS. I DON’T KNOW HOW LONG IT’S BEEN. IT’S BEEN A BETTER PART OF A DECADE NOW. WE GOT A GOOD RHYTHM GOING WHERE HE SENDS ME THE NAME, THE BEER STYLE, LIGHT BEER, DARK BEER, A COUPLE OF REFERENCE IMAGES, AND THEN I JUST GO FOR IT AND SEND TO MY IDEAS VIA EMAIL. AND WE USUALLY NOT TOO MANY EDITS, USUALLY WE’RE GOOD TO GO. TODAY THERE’S FREELANCE ARTIST WORKS WITH ABOUT A HALF DOZEN BREWERIES IN THE US AND A FEW MORE OVERSEAS. I’M WORKING WITH ONE IN DENMARK. I’VE COLLABORATED WITH ONE IN BRAZIL, CANADA BEYOND CAN LABELS. MCKEEVER WORKS ON MURALS AND PLAYS WITH OTHER MEDIUMS AS WELL. I DO SMALLER PAINTINGS, ORIGINAL PAINTINGS ON CANVAS, ON PAPER. I’VE DONE ASSEMBLAGES ON CANVAS WITH DIFFERENT MATERIALS, MIXED MEDIA STUFF. I’M DIPPING MY TOES INTO ANIMATION A LITTLE BIT, SO THERE’S REALLY TONS OF STUFF NOW THAT YOU CAN DO. IT SOUNDS CORNY, BUT IT’S LIKE MY DREAM JOB. I JUST GET TO WAKE UP EVERY DAY AND DO WHAT I LOVE. CREATIVE LIBERTY IN CANS IS NOT UNCOMMON IN THE CRAFT BEER WORLD. THESE DESIGNS OWENS DELIGHT NOT ONLY CUSTOMERS, BUT THE CREATORS THEMSELVES, SAYS MICHAEL OXTON, CO-FOUNDER OF BOSTON’S NIGHTSHIFT BREWING. IF YOU HAVE A REALLY BORING LABEL, EVEN IF THE BEER IS AWESOME, LIKE THERE’S ONLY SO MUCH ATTENTION, I THINK YOU CAN CAPTURE FROM PEOPLE IN 2022. OXTON AND THE NIGHTSHIFT TEAM TRIED A NEW APPROACH TO DESIGNING THEIR LABELS JUST FOR FUN AS AN EXPERIMENT AND HAPPEN TO CATCH SOME PEOPLE’S ATTENTION. THE EXPERIMENT CREATE A BEER AND ITS LABEL USING A GENERATIVE ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE PLATFORM. SO I WAS PLAYING AROUND WITH CHATGPT AND I LITERALLY JUST ASKED IT, CAN YOU MAKE ME A BEER RECIPE? I WANTED TO SEE WHAT IT SAID AND IT CAME BACK WITH THIS LIKE VERY APPROPRIATE BEER RECIPE. AND THAT WAS JUST LIKE A LIGHT BULB OF LIKE, OKAY, LET’S SEE HOW FAR WE CAN PUSH IT. LIKE, CAN WE EVOLVE? THIS CAN WE CHANGE IT? AND IT WAS JUST, IT WAS COOL. EVERYTHING FROM THE RECIPE TO THE NAME TO THE PACKAGING WAS CREATED USING GENERATIVE. I KIND OF LIKE THE FRIEND CHATGPT. YOU’RE LIKE, ALL RIGHT, BUDDY, HERE’S WHAT WE’RE GOING TO DO. WE ARE GOING TO RELEASE THIS BEER TO THE PUBLIC. AND I WOULD LOVE YOU TO HELP ME NAME IT. AND THEN ONE OF THOSE NAMES WAS IPA, AND I WAS LIKE, THAT’S THAT’S PHENOMENAL. LIKE, I WOULDN’T EVEN COME UP WITH THAT. FROM THERE, OXTON PUT KEYWORDS AND PHRASES INTO TWO AI ART GENERATORS. IT JUST KEPT GETTING THESE REALLY INTERESTING VISUALS. AND FINALLY, ONE THAT I JUST THOUGHT WAS COOL, IT WAS LIKE THIS ROBOT, LIKE BREWING BEER ON THIS LIKE LITTLE KETTLE SURROUNDED BY LIKE, THIS FUNKY LOOKING SORT OF PAINT EARLY LIKE LAB EQUIPMENT. THE WHOLE THING JUST LOOKS SUPER FUNKY AND, YOU KNOW, YOU’D NEVER KNOW THAT THIS WAS MADE BY AI. IT JUST LOOKS LIKE IT’S LIKE, REALLY COOL ART MADE BY SOMEONE. ALTHOUGH I DID THE HEAVY LIFTING, OXTON SAYS IT WOULDN’T HAVE COME TOGETHER WITHOUT THE PEOPLE. HUMANS NEED TO LIKE, CONNECT ALL THE DOTS, BUT I WAS JUST LIKE, WE’RE GOING TO WE’RE GOING TO GIVE AI AS MUCH FREEDOM AS POSSIBLE TO, LIKE, HELP US DEVELOP THIS BEER. JUST FUN STUFF THAT LIKE, CATCHES PEOPLE’S ATTENTION. I THINK IT’S KIND OF EXCITING. I DON’T KNOW. IT SHOULD BE FUN IN ADDITION TO IPA NIGHTSHIFT ALSO BREWED UP A SECOND AI GENERATED BEER CALLED OWLS IN BOSTON, THE ART GENERATED FOR THOSE LABELS WITH AI DEPICTS OWLS TAKING OVER ICONIC BOSTON LANDMARKS, INCLUDING THE ESPLANADE AND FANEUIL HALL. AS FOR DEAN MCKEEVER, HE SAYS HE HOPES TO BRING HIS VIBRANT ILLUSTRATIONS TO THE CANNABIS INDUSTRY IN THE NEAR FUTURE.

Creative labels in the craft beer world

A local artist creates unique labels for Vitamin Sea Brewing and others, while Night Shift Brewing experiments with A.I.

East Longmeadow native Dean McKeever is a craft beer fan. So much so that he began reaching out to breweries with the hopes of employment. However, McKeever wasn’t looking to brew beer, but rather to draw, illustrate, and create thoughtful labels that would attract customers to the can.“I think a lot of people know me for my really vibrant, colorful illustrations, which I think really works well for beer labels. Eye-catching, you know, that’s like what I like to go for – exciting imagery — something that gives the beer a life beyond just what’s inside,” McKeever said. While he enjoys watercolor, McKeever has found a new world in digital art. He works closely with each client, helping their vision come to life. Some have a clear idea of what they want on the can and other times he’s creating a design simply based on a name. Today, this freelance artist works with about a half dozen breweries in the U.S., including Vitamin Sea Brewing in Weymouth. Creativity in cans is not uncommon in the craft beer world. These designs delight not only customers, but the creators themselves, said Michael Oxton, co-founder of Boston’s Night Shift Brewing. In 2022, Oxton and the Night Shift team tried a new approach to designing their labels: create a beer and its label using a generative artificial intelligence platform. Everything from the recipe to the name, to the packaging was created using generative A.I.“You kind of like, befriend ChatGPT. You’re like, all right, buddy, here’s what we’re going to do. We are going to release this beer to the public, and I would love you to help me name it,” Oxton said. From there, Oxton put keywords and phrases into two A.I. art generators. Although A.I. did the heavy lifting, Oxton says it wouldn’t have come together without the people.

East Longmeadow native Dean McKeever is a craft beer fan. So much so that he began reaching out to breweries with the hopes of employment. However, McKeever wasn’t looking to brew beer, but rather to draw, illustrate, and create thoughtful labels that would attract customers to the can.

“I think a lot of people know me for my really vibrant, colorful illustrations, which I think really works well for beer labels. Eye-catching, you know, that’s like what I like to go for – exciting imagery — something that gives the beer a life beyond just what’s inside,” McKeever said.

While he enjoys watercolor, McKeever has found a new world in digital art. He works closely with each client, helping their vision come to life. Some have a clear idea of what they want on the can and other times he’s creating a design simply based on a name. Today, this freelance artist works with about a half dozen breweries in the U.S., including Vitamin Sea Brewing in Weymouth.

Creativity in cans is not uncommon in the craft beer world. These designs delight not only customers, but the creators themselves, said Michael Oxton, co-founder of Boston’s Night Shift Brewing. In 2022, Oxton and the Night Shift team tried a new approach to designing their labels: create a beer and its label using a generative artificial intelligence platform. Everything from the recipe to the name, to the packaging was created using generative A.I.

“You kind of like, befriend ChatGPT. You’re like, all right, buddy, here’s what we’re going to do. We are going to release this beer to the public, and I would love you to help me name it,” Oxton said.

From there, Oxton put keywords and phrases into two A.I. art generators. Although A.I. did the heavy lifting, Oxton says it wouldn’t have come together without the people.


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