A ‘Hoptical’ Decade

Posted: April 8, 2014 by
Larry Jaffee

Creating a package from scratch for a new product is a piece of cake, believes designer James McCune. But taking something established and “making it better is the ultimate challenge.” 

McCune, executive director of agency EGC Group’s Craft Beverage Division, has designed the packaging of more than 40 Blue Point Brewing Co.’s craft brews since its founding by partners Mark Burford and Pete Cotter. This includes the packaging for Blue Point Brewing’s Hoptical Illusion India Pale Ale (IPA), which has served the brand well for the past 10 years.

Willingness to put the brand and design in other’s hands is part of the reason why the IPA’s branding and design is such a success. The brew’s name was crowdsourced in 2004. As far as the package design, McCune recalls his marching orders from Cotter as three simple words: “Just go wild.”

McCune came up with a celestial design adorned with a sly-grinned crescent moon, stars and yellow flowery hops. McCune explains that legend has it that ancient Egyptians stuffed their pillows with fresh hops, believing the hop’s aroma brought on intense, vivid dreams.

Hoptical Illusion’s 10th anniversary makeover finds India Pale Ale abbreviated to the acronym IPA to reflect the beer style’s recent popularity, among other refinements. “I took away the borders, redid the fractal, and brightened the whole thing,” McCune explains. McCune left alone Hoptical Illusion’s distorted and psychedelic typography. The logo on the original carrier was topped by the same mysterious eye and pyramid found on the backside of a $1 bill. The eye-in-the-pyramid motif is repeated on the crown, which also didn’t change.

“To be honest with you, I have no idea where [McCune’s] coming from with [the pyramid and eye],” laughs Cotter, who was courageous enough to defer to the designer’s aesthetic choices.

The new carrier design uses the crown’s upper triangle eye, whereas Hoptical’s initial package copied the dollar’s levitated space between the upper triangle and rest of the pyramid.

Holographic carrier
What really differentiates the packaging this time around is the carrier’s holographic effect. McCune found his way to the printer Keystone Paper & Box Co. Inc., which had worked on Blue Point packaging early in the brewery’s history. “The first words out of [McCune’s] mouth were,” Keystone president Jim Rutt remembers, “‘What do you have that’s special?’”

Keystone had just installed a Cast and Cure machine that produces holographic images, which McCune embraced as a means to pique Hoptical Illusion’s beer drinkers’ curiosity while perusing craft brew shelves. Breit Technologies of Overland Park, KS, originally had a craft beer in mind when it developed the Cast and Cure coating process. Although that brewer tested the package, it never rolled out commercially, and Cast and Cure soon landed on a much larger stage, as it was used by other consumer products the likes of Crest toothpaste, the heartburn reliever Prilosec, and Valvoline motor oil.

Cast and Cure integrates casting and curing techniques to form a consistent surface that can include ultra-high gloss, matte and holographic finishes on a variety of substrates. In addition, it eliminates the laminated metalized films used in traditional holographic processes. Breit offers 25 stock holographic patterns, and has created another 10 custom patterns for customers.

It takes seven days for a beer carrier to go from graphic design to printing to cutting to gluing to out the door for distribution. The six-pack carriers are being shipped to Blue Point’s current contract brewer, and are filled with bottles crowned with caps supplied by Crown Holdings Inc., and adorned with labels supplied by DWS Printing.

The brewer hopes that the 10th anniversary design is the beginning of a new era of creativity, and the business is set to get a cash infusion from an acquisition by Anheuser-Busch expected to close in late April.