Great Lakes Refreshes Their Brand with New Artwork

Great Lakes Brewing, Cleveland // Photo by Brian Kaufenberg

Great Lakes Brewing, Cleveland, 2013 // Photo by Brian Kaufenberg

The beer times, they are a-changing. Great Lakes Brewing Company has sailed under the same logo since their 1988 inception, but even a brewery founded on consistency and timelessness needs an occasional tweak to best reach an expanding base. With new packaging set for a Memorial Day release, it is the first time their logo will change in their 27 years.

Calling it a refresh rather than a rebrand, Great Lakes knows that part of their charm is the familiarity they fostered through their lineup of consistent beers. “There’s a sense of nostalgia and a sentimental connection to these labels amongst not only our customers, but our staff,” says Marissa DeSantis, Public Relations Supervisor at the Cleveland brewery, and determining what to keep and what to change was a challenge. Individual labels had changed over the years, but never a company-wide revamp.

The new artwork, which maintains the classic fonts and bold imagery at its forefront, is more colorful and eye-catching to better tell the stories behind the locally-themed beer names. This is particularly important for the brewery since they are expanding well beyond their local market. With beer in 13 states and D.C., they wanted to tell their story more clearly, emphasizing those Cleveland stories grows more challenging as the distance increases.

“The stories behind our brewery and our beers are a great asset,” DeSantis says, as they include notable local legend, such as Sharpshooter Session Wheat IPA, which features the Ohio-born Annie Oakley on its label, or Prohibition enforcement agent Eliot Ness, who appears on his namesake amber lager* (for further backstory, Ness once employed the mother of brewery co-owners Patrick and Daniel Conway). Some new labels are very similar in design and color scheme while others see more notable facelifts.

Great Lakes Brewing's new labels // Courtesy of Great Lakes Brewing

Great Lakes Brewing’s new labels // Courtesy of Great Lakes Brewing

The new logo adds “Est. 1988,” emphasizing the brewery’s role as an industry veteran who helped to shape Cleveland’s craft identity. “We’ve seen tastes evolve among Ohioans, and many of them point to our beers as their gateway to craft,” DeSantis says of the change in consumers’ palates since the brewery started. “We added [the date] as a point of pride.”

The company worked in combination with Brokaw Inc. advertising agency and with artist Darren Booth, whose collage-influenced style incorporates the brand’s history alongside classic iconography. “Darren’s unique style allowed so much to be told visually—with a sophisticated, contemporary, and still timeless approach,” Brokaw’s Steve McKeown explains. “Selecting him was an obvious choice.”

Great Lakes takes a balanced approach to their beers, one reflected in the iconography on the new labels. “We’ve never favored trend chasing,” DeSantis explains, focusing on style benchmarks instead of flavor of the week ingredients or techniques. “Our beers are both complex and approachable, and for that reason, we feel that they are both timeless and sophisticated,” she says, which is reflected in Booth’s work. They do serve more experimental styles in their Cleveland brewpub.

From bottle labels to six-pack carriers and tap handles, the brand change is all encompassing. Starting this summer all new seasonal beers will bear Booth’s new work, while existing supplies sporting the old labels are transitioned out. With so many moving parts, the refresh was an exhausting process that started in the summer of 2014 and is just coming to fruition now. “It’s involved a mind-numbing number of spreadsheets and meetings,” DeSantis says of the process. It’s not just the items on the liquor store shelves that will see the change, but brewpub signage, trucks, merchandise, and their website.

By emphasizing that connection to their home, each time an out of state beer drinker tries a Sharpshooter or Eliot Ness, Great Lakes Brewing hopes to pique interest in Cleveland and the scene around Great Lakes.


Visit Great Lakes Brewing’s website for more information about the brewery’s refresh. Great Lakes Brewing, 2516 Market Avenue Cleveland, Ohio 44113

Correction: Eliot Ness is an amber lager, not an amber ale as originally published.

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