The Leeds brewery teamed up with furniture designers Plaey Workshop to create the beer – named Ute after the Norwegian phrase Utepils, which means to enjoy a beer outdoors. It takes inspiration from the birch plywood that Plaey workshop uses in its studio, as well as the forests of West Yorkshire.
Studio.Build designed the packaging, creating a minimal interpretation of sunlight peering through the leaves – in deliberate contrast with the more ‘full on’ approach of many other craft beer labels.
“We wanted the project to be in keeping with North’s overall look and feel – using shapes, lines, musical influences, repeating patterns and to look clean,” says the brewery’s Christian Townsley. “We were keen to steer clear of the more cartoony design work seen on beer cans – it looks great and works for some breweries but wouldn’t be the right fit for North.”
The studio also created a series of posters featuring different parts of West Yorkshire, shot by local photographer Joanne Crawford, as part of a mission to root the project in local talent and creativity. To add an extra element to the beer’s release, James Ockelford, at design studio Refold, oversaw an accompanying 7” record featuring field recordings from the forests, as well as a 14-track compilation of pieces by local musicians.
“This needed to be a true auditory, visual and taste experience for the customer,” says Studio.Build founder Michael Place. “From the photography of the forests, the field recordings and the beer – altogether it needed to be an immersive experience. We like the idea that someone will sit down, put the record on, take a drink of the beer and instantly be transported to the forests of West Yorkshire.”
“The whole project felt like a real adventure,” he adds. “The momentum of the project was born from that sense of adventure, from literally tramping up dale and over hills to find the perfect location, to being involved in the brewing of the beer too.”
It’s an intriguing way to stand out in a craft beer market that’s undoubtedly very full. With independent breweries springing up across the UK, companies are often turning to label design to grab people’s attention. However, according to James Ockelford, who created North Brewing Co’s visual identity, well-designed cans and bottles are no longer enough, on their own, to guarantee attention.
“I’d say this is not just because of a crowded beer market, but because of a changing relationship between craft beer drinkers and breweries,” he told CR.
“Personality and authenticity are key. The market is increasingly educated about beer, the hops, brewing styles, and the people behind the breweries – a lot of people want a real connection with the people behind the beer they’re buying. In this respect, I think the beer market is starting to feel more and more like the music world … design plays a role, but it’s irrelevant if all the other factors don’t stay up.”