Sweetdram: designing for a very modern drinks brand

Andreas Neophytou’s clever take on the flexible identity system for Sweetdram combines references to historical research, the process of distilling and new ideas around ‘gypsy’ or ‘viral’ drinks brands

Sweet dram's first product, Escubac, "a spicy British cordial, drunk medicinally for centuries"

Sweetdram is a very contemporary take on a very long established and, dare we say it, somewhat stuffy sector – liqueurs. Describing itself as a ‘viral distilling collective’, it was launched by Andrew MacLeod Smith and Daniel Fisher in London at the end of 2015. The concept draws on the so-called ‘Gypsy Brewing’ movement in the US, whereby start-ups use the facilities of existing brands to produce their beers, borrowing equipment, warehousing space and even staff. In this way, they can stay small and flexible without having to raise huge amounts of capital to spend on building breweries.

Sweetdram logo
Sweetdram logo

Sweetdram has taken that concept into the world of distilling. “We create modern liqueur recipes from our workshop then produce them collaboratively at select host distilleries – hence we describe ourselves as being viral,” they say.

Andreas Neophytou, who is creative director at Spring Studios in New York (we wrote about their Diesel programmatic campaign here) says he wanted to reflect the brand’s unusual position within its category in his design approach, making a clear distinction to other liquer brands.

The Sweetdram symbol, incorporating the number 3, the apothecaries' abbreviation for the Dram unit of measurement
The Sweetdram symbol, incorporating the number 3, the apothecaries’ abbreviation for the Dram unit of measurement
A closer look at the Sweetdram symbol
A closer look at the Sweetdram symbol

“In the spirit of [Sweetdram’s] novel approach, I designed an evolving identity system that can be used and reinterpreted by host designers as the brand continues to develop its range of products,” he says.

Like any good designer, he started with some research – this time into the roots of the word ‘dram’ which, as well as its familiar meaning as a small measure of an alcoholic drink, was also a coin and unit of weight in Ancient Greece. That usage survived in the world of the apothecary where it is used as a unit of both mass and volume and uses the abbreviated symbol 3.

Sweetdram logo: the elements making up the symbol are broken apart and rearranged to create a geometric pattern in which the individual elements can vary according to colour, pattern, size and position
Sweetdram logo: the elements making up the symbol are broken apart and rearranged to create a geometric pattern in which the individual elements can vary according to colour, pattern, size and position
The Sweetdram identity system is based on four geometric elements which can vary according to their relative size and position
The Sweetdram identity system is based on four geometric elements which can vary according to their relative size and position

The distilling process and the subsequent method for creating liquers, Neophytou notes, is about first separating, then combining different elements. “With this in mind I wanted the shapes that constitute the Sweetdram symbol to be recomposed into unique arrangements for each recipe created by the collective. I defined a set of design rules for how this might be done, incorporating colour, texture, pattern and imagery. These unique arrangements are cropped to derive the label design for each liqueur.”

The Sweetdram identity system is based on four geometric elements which can vary according to their relative size and position
The Sweetdram identity system is based on four geometric elements which can vary according to their relative size and position

Here’s how it works – “The Sweetdram symbol is constructed of four geometric elements. Each element has a specific size and spatial relationship to the others. The individual elements can be moved any number of times in the directions shown by the arrows. With each movement the individual shapes must align to the grid. The largest shape is the anchor, and does not change position.”

The Sweetdram identity system is based on four geometric elements which can vary according to their relative size and position
The Sweetdram identity system is based on four geometric elements which can vary according to their relative size and position
The Sweetdram identity system is based on four geometric elements which can vary according to their relative size and position
The Sweetdram identity system is based on four geometric elements which can vary according to their relative size and position
Visual effects applied to the Sweetdram identity system elements
Visual effects applied to the Sweetdram identity system elements
Visual effects applied to the Sweetdram identity system elements
Visual effects applied to the Sweetdram identity system elements

The identity system uses a bespoke typeface designed by Neophytou – Industry English – which is based on Caslon Junior’s Two Lines English Egyptian – the world’s first sans serif printing type for the Latin alphabet.

Industry English, the bespoke typeface for Sweetdram
Industry English, the bespoke typeface for Sweetdram
Top of the Escubac bottle featuring the Sweetdram symbol. Photo: Chris Tang courtesy of DisegnoDaily.com
Top of the Escubac bottle featuring the Sweetdram symbol. Photo: Chris Tang courtesy of DisegnoDaily.com

London-based furniture and product designer Felix de Pass created the bottle. “Felix had been a client of mine in previous years,” Neophytou says. “I recalled his clean aesthetic, keen attention to detail, and understanding of typographic proportions. Having worked with Felix I was also aware that he had not designed anything of this nature in the past which guaranteed a novel approach and new perspective on the category.”

Bottle design development. Photo: Chris Tang courtesy of DisegnoDaily.com
Bottle design development. Photo: Chris Tang courtesy of DisegnoDaily.com
Bottle design development. Photo: Chris Tang courtesy of DisegnoDaily.com
Bottle design development. Photo: Chris Tang courtesy of DisegnoDaily.com
Bottle design development. Photo: Chris Tang courtesy of DisegnoDaily.com
Bottle design development. Photo: Chris Tang courtesy of DisegnoDaily.com
Bottle design development. Photo: Chris Tang courtesy of DisegnoDaily.com
Bottle design development. Photo: Chris Tang courtesy of DisegnoDaily.com

A list of stockists for Sweetdram’s first product, Escubac (shown top) can be found here

Sweetdram poster
Sweetdram poster