A great episode about hard work, stalking and the love of craft beer as well as (not ) country music. Sarah Shannon and I share the collective We secret and brought that to life in this episode as she is the Owner, Designer and Ruler that is Foggy London Towne. We came to learn of her and her firm through the work that she is doing with Triple Crossing Brewing out of Richmond, VA and loved it. She goes into the 16oz. Canvas lore as the first guest to hang up on me (not once, but thrice), but as discussed I was persistent and through hard work was able to get her to continue with the interview. If you're looking to learn about how to start your own business while juggling the many different roles and hats that go into successfully maintaining a robust client base, this is the one for you.
AJK: Welcome to another edition of the 16oz Canvas - the Art of Craft Beer podcast, as usual I’m AJ and I’m really excited to have with us Sarah Shannon, who is joining us from the Richmond, Virginia area. She is the owner and founder of Foggy London Towne, so thank you so much for joining us today Sarah.
Sarah: Thank you very much.
AJK: Excellent. So, just wanted to take the time to thank you for being a part of it you know, Sarah and I played, I wouldn’t say phone tag but e-mail and other avenue tag for – for a very long time, so I -- I’m glad we’re able to lock this one down.
Sarah: Yeah, definitely.
AJK: Excellent. So let’s just this kind of take a step back,. The reason that we’re -- we connected with Sarah was through the work that she is currently doing with Triple Crossing Brewing out of Richmond, Virginia. If you haven’t had a chance, do go check them out triplecrossingbeer.com is the website, but we just want to even before that we want to kind of just get the Sarah story you know, how did you get into design and illustration and what’s kind of your back story.
Sarah: My back story, so how that I get into design and illustration. I've always done design and illustration, you know I started doing that when I was a kid and then I went to VC, they have a great graphic design program. So I graduated from there and I then started working, I stayed in the Richmond area and then I started working at one graphic design firm for a while right after college and then I moved over to another and I was designer there. I got promoted to Art Director. Roughly at some point once I started working like full -- like lots of hours during the day. I kind of started drinking beer a lot more. So that was sort of my intro into Craft beer and then I kind of combined the two. Once I left the – the art director position where I was I started off Foggy London Towne in 2013 and Triple Crossing was actually one of the first clients that I actually got on my own.
I kind of stalked them relentlessly until they agreed to work with me because I did love Craft beer so much and they’re such a big boom in Craft beer scene in Richmond. Every year there is several Craft breweries opening at the area. It’s saturated but in a really good way. So the chance to kind of combine you know, my love of art and design and everything with the Craft beer scene is -- is perfect for me. So that’s kind of my start, Triple Crossing was sort of my start, you know, my foray into designing for a brewery so.
AJK: That’s awesome. What recommendations do you have, what is the best stalking technique for getting a brewery client?
Sarah: I am a really, really good stalker. I try not to be creepy and scare the potential client away, but I am really good at it. So, I think I had read an article that Triple Crossing, they were just sort of getting up and running at the same time I was getting Foggy London Towne up and running so like 2013, I think I read like Richmond Bizsense article and I am like yeah, this is perfect, I need, you know, another client, I need a cool name, I need, you know, a cool like a brewery, to me it seemed like god that would be so awesome to design packaging, labels and stuff for something that I really know a lot about. So, I think I sent an e-mail to Adam, the -- one of the three owners and I am like hey, look, I love Craft beer. I am a graphic designer. I know the first building that they moved into, I knew that building really well. It used to be a print shop.
So, like I knew the area, I knew the location and I am like this is why I’d be great for you and then I think I sold up with the phone call and I basically just kept sending e-mails until he was like okay you may know what you are talking about. So, we met up, we actually met for beer, for Craft beer for our first meeting and I convinced him that despite the stalking, I am not like totally crazy. So, I think I won him over at that point and we started up a couple small scale projects and he really liked what I did for him. So we went from there and I’ve been working with them on -- since 2013, on every single project they have and they have a lot of stuff. They are growing really quickly, so it’s worked out, it’s been a really cool relationship and I am happy that I did stalk them.
AJK: Yeah. There you go. There’s some advice --
Sarah: Yes, on how to be a non creepy stalker, just do it right and you’ll be okay.
AJK: Well, I think it’s important. I think the one good thing I have come to love about the Craft beer scene is that, you know, is that entrepreneurial spirit and, you know, kind of getting from that point of being a brewer and making the beer to then that next phase of having the tap room or the tasting room, however, you want to describe it and getting a location and having a sense and a layout to location and it’s -- I don’t know, I think esthetically and just visually a lot of these places are really great and I think it adds a whole another dimension to it, the social aspect of it.
Sarah: Right. And like I think Craft Brewers, they tend to be very experimental, they tend to be very opened minded. So it’s really cool for me to start up a relationship with them because they’re usually really opened to my ideas, you know, they are not like hellbent on their own idea like they -- that’s what they thrive on. They thrive on trying new things and, you know, try new recipes new beers and everything. And so that translates really well for me as a designer because they’re willing to kind of just trust on some of my suggestions and try some of my ideas out. So it’s -- it’s really a cool type of client to have.
AJK: Yeah. I think it's --- I think that's perfect because right, I mean every -- the new styles or things are popular are those, you know, one off beers are it’s all about experimentation being open minded and it would suck from a consumer perspective if they were all the same so that’s -- that’s pretty awesome.
Sarah: Yeah. Exactly. Yeah. You’re right.
AJK: Yeah. I am trying, I am trying to learn some here too, so it’s definitely a little self -- definitely a little self-serving.
Sarah: Expand the horizon.
AJK: Yeah. I really – no, and if -- like I said before if you go to Sarah’s website, Foggy London Towne, Towne is spelled very -- in old English way with N-E so --
Sarah: Of course.
AJK: Yes. Of course, because that definitely -- right. That won’t throw people off when we tell him Foggy London Towne, so we’ll have to figure a way to share that. So just the click the link folks, we’ll put it up there, just we’ll dumb it down for you and make it a little easy, Foggy London Towne. Now, what I like is, you know, on your website I mean is the -- kind of the range of design elements that you are working on packaging to layout, to print, it’s really -- it’s really impressive especially for the team over there and the we, that’s rocking it out over there.
Sarah: That’s right, the we.
AJK: Yeah, yeah. Sarah and I share the one person, we, which is one of our secrets. So, we’re just dropping knowledge all over the place for everybody.
Sarah: That’s right.
AJK: Yeah. So, how would you describe and -- this might be a cringe worthy question, but unfortunately I ask it to everybody so unfortunately for you, but it’s -- how would you describe your aesthetic from a design standpoint.
Sarah: Well, kind of to your point like you said on my website, I do have a pretty wide variety of work, you know, I will have to do work for the law firm sometimes, the annual report, you know, it’s got to be a little bit more serious or a little bit more classy. But personally, my esthetic, my kind of style that I prefer that I’d like to do is kind of quirky, really bright, you know, fearless colors. I like to incorporate a lot of hands-on element particularly like with Triple Crossing, I do a lot of things with ink and I’ll do like hand drawn illustrations and then I scan them into the computer and then I start adding some of the more digital elements to them or I’ll clean them up. So, like I like bright colors, I like quirky, I like hand drawn.
I like to get a little bit funky. I tend to like to distress and kind of dirty things up a little bit. I like a lot of texture, a lot of layers. So, I like really huge files, gigantic file sizes but yeah, like that’s -- that’s sort of my own personal like if I were just doing artwork for fun that’s what I would be doing and I am actually really lucky that I have a lot of clients that let me do my own personal style, and let it show through it supposed to be and then the challenge with that is making everything unique to each client, you know, I can’t just have my style and have it look the same for every single client. So, you do have kind of a tailor and make it individual to them and to their personalities, but I am really lucky that I have a lot of really cool clients that kind of let me just run loose, you know, and kind of do my -- my own style, my own aesthetic.
AJK: Yeah. I think that -- I think that you -- there’s a -- there’s kind of a fluidity to your stuff, but I think that’s one of the things I really find interesting is you have something that you might, you know, your fall back or, you know, go to and try to make it -- having a diverse portfolio of clients, you can't say okay, well, everyone is going to get this font, everyone is going to get this layout, everyone is going to, you know --
AJK: You can’t -- art and design, you know, can’t -- doesn’t work well if it’s formula driven, you know, I think -- so I think that’s really -- I think that makes it really amazing, but also must a little stressful or challenging if you’re designing something and you’re like oh but then you’re like ooh, but that could look like so and so, that could look like so and so and especially being --
Sarah: Yeah. Like for me, it’s kind of like a fine balance that, you know, you want to tailor everything to the client. You don’t want every single thing that I do to look identical, but at the same time, I want my style to show through so that if people see something, they are like oh, that looks like it came from Foggy London Towne or that looks like Sarah Shannon designed it, you know, I like having my own style just like an artist. But, you know, it is a fine balance trying to need to make it unique for every single client so that, you know, one client isn’t looking over it, you know, someone else’s work, saying hey, that looks too much like what you did for me. So it’s a tricky thing but it’s a fun challenge always and it is interesting trying to find that balance.
AJK: Yeah. Now, how many clients are you currently working on at one given time and that’s another area, which I always find amazing is that being able to juggle so many different balls up in the air so to speak.
Sarah: Oh, that’s -- and I mean that’s a hard question. I am -- I have a lot of clients. I am just trying to think like on a regular basis, you know, I might have 10 different clients in a day that I am kind of bouncing back and forth between projects overall, but I couldn’t even tell you how many client I have. But, you know, it’s not uncommon for me switch gears, you know, 10 or 15 times on projects during the day and so that’s -- that’s another sort of challenge and another sort of trick that, you know, you’re focused on one thing and then like oh god, there’s a phone call, you have to switch gears or, you know, an e-mail just came in and you got to, you know, it’s like you cannot read it, sometimes I have to just turn my e-mails off so I can focus on one project. So that is sort of a challenge there. It’s just like trying to be creative and trying to get to like the weird mindset of one project and then another project pops in and you got your deadline looming for something else. So that is -- that’s like the curse of the graphic designer having to, you know, try and tackle that and figure it out so it’s always interesting.
AJK: Yeah. That’s -- I am trying to schedule -- one thing I am trying to get, you know, interview and then -- all that so just imagine having multiple differences and if I was trying to do multiple interviews or podcasts with different themes and -- throughout the day and what have you plus my real life. So I think I just -- I am always drawn to the entrepreneur and the small business owner. I just think it’s a really important part, just in general art design and the way things look. So, I just really -- I am just a fan of what you do. I think it’s really impressive and then to do it on your own as, you knowas a one woman shop, you know, I think it’s -- I think it’s great so I --
AJK: -- I am just a big advocate
Sarah: You have to have like a lot of insane focus because there’re so many distractions too and like I work out of a home office too and I know like that’s not for everybody, that would make some people go like totally crazy. But yeah, you do have to kind of lock yourself down and like have some -- some dedication there to work out of your house without getting too distracted.
AJK: Yeah. So, you got a lot of things going on over there which are -- and then you have a lot of clients or you got mead and you got distilleries and, you know, different, you know, breweries you are doing, yeah. So, definitely those -- you have to watch how those meetings go, that could definitely make for interesting afternoons, yeah. So, you kind of solicited, so that -- I really that was Triple Crossing but I also noticed that you’ve done work with some -- how about your mead -- are mead considered breweries or just -- I guess they call meaderies, right, is that what the proper term is?
Sarah: It’s called meadery, yeah. I do work with a meadery here in Richmond called Black Heath Meadery and that’s kind of its own thing, it looks like a honey wine. So, you know, that’s a whole other -- they saw a whole other set of rules from the breweries as far as like legal, you know, legal process and government warnings and stuff like that so that’s a whole other set of things when you’re designing packaging for them that you have to follow.
AJK: Is it -- does that still go through the TTB or is it separate?
Sarah: No. It still does and it’s weird like I joked with Bill, the owner of Black Heath Meadery that, you know, it just depends who is reviewing, you know, I do labels for him and it just depends, you know, through TTB who is reviewing it that day because we’ll send something and they’ll be like no, this is -- this has got to change and this got to change. And then we’ll send all of the changes the next day and it’s like someone else is reviewing and they’re like no, you got to go back to this or, you know, no, disregard what this person said and it’s like there’s never any consistency. And it just it drives us crazy because, you know, in some instances, we’ll have like the word mead on the front of the label and they are like no, you can’t say mead, you have to say honey wine and then sometimes we’ll submit honey wine, they are like no, it’s got to be mead. So we don’t have it figured it out.
I don’t think they even have it figured it out, but yes, it’s a totally different set of rules on as opposed to if you are doing wine or if you’re doing beer packaging. So it’s like a total crapshoot. So that’s another one of those sort of weird challenges, the less artistic side of being a graphic designer, it’s like some of the rules you have to follow when you’re putting together packaging and some of the tricks and things there so always, always interesting, never a dull moment.
AJK: Yeah. We interviewed Robby Davis at Against the Grain, it’s a brewery out of Kentucky and he said that they would always have issues. They have one person they even give him like a nickname of the captain at the TTB that would just, he felt like they always get the same guy and he always just kind of -- I think he reject just -- he said they just felt like he would reject a couple of them just to -- just to start, you know.
Sarah: Yes. So, you never wanted to get the captain I guess but --
AJK: Yeah, yeah, yeah. He got a nickname yeah.
Sarah: I mean it’s true. It’s true though I mean it’s weird how it works that way but it’s -- I don’t think that regarding mead, I have ever submitted something that they approved the first time, I mean they will always find something, some sort of something in the verbiage, some word that we use that they don’t like that they want us to change. It’s really ridiculous but, you know, hopefully in time it gets better and they, you know, of regulate it a little bit more consistently, so always interesting.
AJK: Yeah. Meads, something I’ve had, but I don’t -- I am definitely pretty green on that. So I -- what I’ve had, I’ve enjoyed but I am not -- I wouldn’t know -- yeah, X from Y on the mead scene, but I do really like your labels for them because if meads one of the oldest forms of alcohol or however, you want to describe wine, you know, around, it’s such a -- almost a historic process and so I think that you really bring that essence into the label work there and even just kind of the subtle use of the honeycombs for the bees -- I really like that a lot.
Sarah: Yeah. That’s stuff, it -- his packaging kind of, I guess like you said it sort of has an old vibe -- a lot of times he finds like old pieces of artwork like scenes that he wants me to try to think about using, you know, we have to dive into public domain there, but yeah, you know, he’ll have a muse
AJK: Hopefully there’s some – yeah, hopefully there’s some taste testing involved.
Sarah: There is, you get free samples too. I love it. I love going to some of my beer and mead clients and, you know, we meet up at the beer bar and everything and it’s an excuse to have some drinks and you get some free samples and they send you bottles to tryout and that’s one of the additional perks so.
AJK: Yeah-yeah. We’ve -- so far, we’ve gotten -- we’ve got a couple of beers in the mail that was pretty awesome so far and some artwork so that’s pretty -- I was kind of shocked by that, so that was pretty -- pretty nice, you know, it was one the --
Sarah: That’s really cool. You picked the proper genre to cover.
AJK: It’s going well, yeah, yeah. Because one of the beers -- yeah, one of – yeah, I even tried to – yeah, once I knew that you were -- once I -- again, I followed your technique and he’s continually harassed you until you agreed to be a part of it.
Sarah: That’s right. See, you know the stalker technique too.
AJK: Yes. Yeah. I just -- yeah, I am -- I call it -- yeah, the Sarah Shannon that’s what we’re going to call it that’s the move.
Sarah: That’s right.
AJK: Yeah, I know. So, once I figured out you’re going to be a part of it, I hadn't had Triple Crossing so I traded, you know, some of my beer buddies and got some so usually cool to get those in the mail.
Sarah: Do you remember what you drank from on them?
AJK: I do remember, it was -- I think it was Falcon Smash, I think those one of --
Sarah: Yeah. Falcon Smash is like one of their flagship beers. It’s a really good IPA so that’s one of their famous one.
AJK: Yeah. That one and it was Clever Girl, those the two I had which was good.
Sarah: Clever Girl, actually both of those. You have to go head to head with them because they are both IPAs and you kind of have to figure if you’re team Clever Girl or you’re team Falcon Smash and there’s like serious rivalry, you know, that you got to figure out which one you love more -- very difficult.
AJK: Well, I would need to be sent a lot more to figure that out and I -- but I definitely welcome the challenge.
Sarah: Challenge Accepted.
AJK: Yeah. One of the things I loved was on the Falcon Smash can now and Craft Beer, it’s very pairs well with this cheese or this, you know, chocolate or somethings like maybe I am not doing it right that I don’t always utilize, but it was great. I had the old school, I believe it was the old Nintendo 64 controllers and it said pairs well with and you just kind of outlined that and I just thought that -- that was --
Sarah: Yeah, so that’s what they do for a lot of theirs and that’s their idea and they’ll say like we want to have it pair with something quirky because like to your point, you know, anything could -- you could find a pairing for cheese or chocolate or food for, you know, any type of beer if you wanted to, but like they like to do something quirky, they are kind of crazy dudes. So, I think yeah, Falcon Smash was -- pairs well but then it was like the old school, you know, controller or anything but that’s because Falcon Smash is based off of -- what is it, it’s Captain Falcon... Smash Brothers. Smash Brothers is a video game, right. It was the Nintendo 64 game, I think that’s what it’s based off of and there’s a character that was like Captain Falcon I think.
I have to go way back because that was a earlier one that I designed for them. So it’s been a few years now but I think that’s what it was based off of and they actually have a lot of beers that are based off of like old school Nintendo games, they're actually kind of gamers over there. They -- they have a lot of video game related or themed beer, so that’s just one of them so that’s why that pairs well with old school video game controller.
AJK: Yeah. Thought that was great because I -- it was the first time I had it, now, we’re just kind of, you know, I was looking at it and checking it out and it was just kind of, you know, really subtle and so that was -- I think we featured that on the page and I just -- I love stuff like that like kind of a little Easter eggs or just kind of subtleties.
Sarah: Oh, yeah. I like the high Easter eggs and stuff as much as I can whether it’s something that’s like client directed or not, I love to like hide little random thing, you know. I am doing an illustration then you hide like a little weird animal or something in the background to see if people notice.
AJK: Excellent. Yeah. I’ll do -- I’ll get some word of that, I’ll get some of the mead and all the – yeah, I’ll just, you know for research purposes only obviously but I’ll definitely have to pickup some of that.
Sarah: Of course, for inspiration and research of course, only the most professional drinking obviously.
AJK: Exactly. We’ll get along just fine. So, with -- now, you not only did work on the labels and the logo type of work, but even just the physical stuff at the brewery or the tasting room right? Because I -- they continue to expand and they’re really kind of growing in that very brewery or beer rich area of Richmond, Virginia which is really blowing up and for a positive.
AJK: So, that’s pretty -- that’s exciting. Now, is there -- I mean it just seems like you -- the whole -- the whole gamut of things, it really kind of, is there ever been a project, you are like wow, I’ve done this before and here, you know, this is kind of crazy, you know. It’s one thing that they do print and do things with paper, but kind of huge type of brewery tasting room type stuff, seems a little kind of overwhelming at times?
Sarah: Yeah. You mean like signage and stuff for their brewery and their tasting room like expanding the thing that I've started and next thing, you know you’re designing like giant signs that are going up on the walls and posters and banners and stuff like that. Even like weird things like especially with Triple Crossing, they really get branding. They get consistency. So, even like small things, like when they have a special beer release on the weekends or something like they have lines that form at their brewery and so like they want me to even create signs that, you know, help people identify which line they need to stand in, for which can release or which bottle release or if they’re just going in for draft beer growlers or whatever. So like even like small things like that that you wouldn't think okay we need to go get this professionally graphic, but it’s really important because you want your brand to be consistent, you want like every single thing, even like your bathroom signage, you know, you want it all look like a common theme and it sticks in people’s mind and it, you know, kind of drive the point home and it’s like the little things.
It’s the little things like that that show that they, you know, go the extra mile to work on their image, that like it’s important to them. Their image is just as important as, you know, everything else that’s important to them, their beer and their quality and everything. So, I appreciate that from a graphic design perspective that they want to call me to have me work on every little thing for them because, you know, it is -- it’s cool and I think it is important to kind of drive that theme home so it’s great.
AJK: Yeah. Well, it is you’re doing a great job. I really -- like I said I just -- I like what I’ve seen I have limited in the tasting area of it but that’s not -- that’s not something that you’re part of and so I -- I am a big -- I am a big fan of what you’re doing. Now, how is that the process from when a new can is going to come out to when you have to – the amount of time you have to work on the label? How is -- again, going back to your wearing, you know, 15 hats and juggling all those different projects, how is that that kind of life cycle for you?
Sarah: That depends also. So, they might have something that’s a little bit more urgent, a little bit more of a rush and they might say hey, in one week, you know, we just accidentally have this thing that we came, you know, we want to do the small batch release or something like that, you know, and I might not have a whole lot of time. I might only have like a week or something start to finish, to brainstorm to come up with, you know, the first round, go over first round with them, go over tweaks, get it print ready. So sometimes it's -- it's a little bit fast. Usually, they try and give me as much time as possible. Sometimes, they’ll have some of those experimental --- I guess like a series in mind that, you know, may not be produced till way later but they want to go ahead and get the ball rolling or it might be a series of several different labels or packaging of beers. So I’ll have a really -- I mean I’ll have months.
I’ll have six months or something to work on the whole series, so it just depends. Usually, I try to give them a week to two weeks for a first round. If it’s like a big illustration or a larger labeling package, I might try and give them a week or two weeks to myself before I show them a first round or first draft, so that’s usually my standard but it just depends I mean I can -- I can move really quickly if I need to or if they want to give me more time and it’s a bigger project then, you know, I’ll have more time so it just depends.
AJK: Okay. And is it usually like -- what deliverables, are you just doing the can, are you doing other sort of creative with that for the -- when you do that point in time?
Sarah: I've done everything. So, like a lot of times they’ll say hey, we’re going to have a beer and it’s going to be called this, it’s this style of beer. Sometimes it will actually be printed on aluminum cans and so that’s a longer process.
Sarah: So, now I’m even more rare because I’ve gotten disconnected twice now.
AJK: Yes, yes. It’s -- yeah, it’s fine.
Sarah: Where did we leave off?
AJK: We were just talking about, you know, the process they might have a beer name. I was just trying to see like when you’re sending over the creative kind of what the -- suite is like doyou run with it in terms of, you know, other areas that I’d be using for promotions or just the --
Sarah: Oh, right. Yeah so, a lot of times like they’ll have different forms, different variations of a beer so like they’ll have it -- I’ll need to produce it so it could be printed on the aluminum can, sometimes they’ll have that same beer and it’s going to be released and growlers which are like these 32 ounce gigantic cans so that needs a separate type of label. Usually -- if they’re going to promote it, you know, we’ll need the social media stuff so we’ll have to set up like -- again, I’m using we as me. I will have to set up, you know, the Facebook timeline, had their pick, I’ll have to set up some digital stuff for them to put on their website.
They usually do like Untappd -- the untappd menu pick or whatever, the photo that I have to kind of put together. So, there’s usually a lot of social media stuff that goes out along with a beer release outside of the packaging. Sometimes they’ll advertise I’ve done print advertisements for certain things for them before too so it is usually a bit of a package. I mean it’s the different types of labels that they’ll need, it’s the social media, it’s the online, the web stuff, sometimes advertising, print advertising so yeah, it is -- it’s usually a package, it’s usually not just the label and that’s it. There’s typically a lot of other stuff that goes along with it so.
AJK: Alright, yeah and I like the -- yeah, I’m looking at the one now Paranoid Aledroid; obviously kind of a nice tip of the hat to one of the greatest bands Radiohead so that’s -- I like that a lot, that’s nice; a nice little subtle touch there. Hello?
AJK: I was talking so I mean that usually causes people -- I was just saying that looking at the website, the new -- one of the newer cans Paranoid Aledroid, you know, a nice kind of tip of the hat to, without getting a C&D to obviously Radiohead which I really like, you know, I think they’re a great band.
Sarah: Yeah. So, that one the Paranoid Aledroid yeah, it’s based off of Paranoid Android the radio head song and I had based the illustration off of that style of illustration from the music video. So, that one was actually one of their easier ones to design because it was so heavily based off of that video that like I already knew the style, I knew already knew the look and everything so that one was easier. Sometimes they’re a little bit more vague in their names that they give me, sometimes they don’t even really have a concept that they want, they just like the word, they like the name that they came up with and they’re like I don’t know what this means just go with it, just, you know, see what it means to you, you know, see what imagery you could come up with so it just depends. Like some of their names are based off of things like Halo video games, something like that.
It might be based off of like for -- you had mentioned Clever Girl, that’s obviously based off of a scene from Jurassic park so, you know, that one was kind of easier to work on because I knew I was going to be drawing Velociraptor thereafter but yeah, like some of them are a little bit more obscure and kind of require a little bit more thought as to what I would come up with for that so yeah.
AJK: Now the process for the cans -- have they moved to all of them being more of that wrap label versus the sticker which was previously done or is that kind of a transition?
Sarah: Currently what they’re doing the most of is -- so they just opened up a new location a few months back, several months back actually. So, they’re canning at that location and what we’re expected to have, you know, whatever their automatic labeling machine does all that for them so right now they’ve kind of moved over to large sticker labels. They’ve done several different sizes of sticker labels before; a lot of them had been kind of trial and error as to like what works best. They have done printing directly onto the cans to -- onto the aluminum cans. We don’t prefer that as much because I think we’re limited to about five colors when we’re printing on the aluminum cans and three of those colors are what are in their logo, you know, the red, the black and the yellow so you really only have two additional colors outside of that to play with your artwork.
So, we could design -- for instance we -- for Falcon Smash we really had to limit how we did that artwork when it was transferred onto the aluminum like we had to really reduce the layers and the textures and the colors and everything so that’s not ideal. I actually prefer the stickers because you can do just CMYK, you can get away with pretty much anything so that is currently what they’re doing and it’s a pretty large sticker, we’ve done some smaller ones too and that’s not so great because, you know, it doesn’t give me a ton of room to play. So, right now I think what they’re sticking with are these large stickers on -- well, I’m happy about that because I have a pretty big canvas to work with there and, you know, a lot of colors and everything so that’s great.
AJK: Yeah, I find it interesting because the color limitation that’s something that has come up recently over the last four or five interviews and just depending on the brewery and their logo kind of how much they’re left with of the, you know, the traditional I think the six that you’re given so I definitely --
Sarah: Yeah, exactly.
AJK: -- so it’s -- yeah, it’s definitely tricky but it’s also kind of impressive so I do kind of really appreciate that.
Sarah: Oh, it’s a challenge, it’s a challenge yeah, when you get three colors that already claimed by the logo and then of course you have to use -- like a lot of times there’ll be a UPC and a lot of colors just don’t work great behind a UPC you’re kind of limited, you know, ideally a white box behind a UPC would be the best and easiest way to have a scanner read that so sometimes you’re even more limited there so it’s definitely tricky when you’re working -- printing directly onto the aluminum can. So, I think most designers are probably a lot more in love with the stickers so we get a lot more creative flexibility there.
AJK: Yeah, exactly and the one guy I talked to Jason Burke he does work with Pipeworks out of Chicago; he started using the actual aluminum can as a color and he would leave the space blank for it and so -- but he said that can get a little tricky too so you should kind of --
Sarah: Yeah. That’s another technique that you kind of just leave the blank space behind it and let the silver of the can show through and that’s kind of a little trick, it’s like okay, well that can be an additional color technically if I let the actual metal show through so yeah, designers, we’re crafty. We always have to come up with some sort of little cheat or like trick or like, you know, a way to work around, you know, a hurdle so that’s one of the ways definitely.
AJK: Excellent, excellent. Yeah so, I think it’s -- yeah, really great and the cans are -- especially knowing that you’re kind of limited, not to -- yeah, that you’re limited with the color choices to what you’re doing with them it makes it even more interesting so I bet you folks don’t even, you know, the average -- we’re not the average folks but, you know, the average Joe doesn’t realize the color limitations of the artist.
Sarah: All the limitations but it still has to be cool enough that it like pops off the shelf and it like stands out when it’s like on a shelf amongst a gazillion other beers so that’s -- it’s like you got to be super creative, you only have a few colors to work with and it’s got to stand out amongst a ton of stuff so. Yeah, very challenging.
AJK: Yeah, exactly and so I think that that’s just kind of -- and also it’s interesting, you know, there’s different schools of thought with, you know, images and art for beer and just drinks in general does, you know, I think that choosing to go with more of a story and kind of tying it into the name of the beer and not being just like oh, hey look this is a beer can, you know, having, you know, pictures of beer or people drinking it and I think there’s probably limits with I think what you can have in terms of drinking beer but just I find it really interesting being able to tell a story and kind of have a theme to it without just -- not being so like in your face hey, we're beer, we're beer, we're beer so I think that’s another unique challenge that you’re crushing so.
Sarah: Yeah. No, thank you. Thank you.
AJK: Yes. So, let me see so yes yes yes -- so do you get to taste the beers before you design for them is that -- do you make that part of your process like we should drink a couple of these and try them out ?
Sarah: I have done it. I have done it before on some occasions for beer for mead for a lot of my clients that I actually do food or drink for but not always and actually I would say it’s more common for me to not have tasted it beforehand versus have tasted it. You know a lot of times I don’t even know myself what the product is actually going to taste like, what it’s going to be so I still have to -- that’s another sort of challenge that, you know, you kind of have to design for something that you are sort of blindly designing for but -- so that’s where communication is important because again, we'll use beer- we'll use Triple Crossing, they’ve obviously tasted it because it has to go through several taste tests before it’s ready to be released so you’re trusting that they are able to take what they’ve tasted and communicate what they want based on that to you, the designer could be able to come up with a visual for so I may have not tasted the beer, they’ve got to describe what it tastes like, what its feel is, you know, the body and everything and then kind of decide what they want their art direction as far as the imagery that matches and so you’ve got to trust that the designer that your client is able to communicate that to you really well so that you can do your job and that’s always kind of a crap shoot too.
Sometimes you may have a client who’s great at that and they’re really good and they’re very expressive and then sometimes like you have a client that can only use like three words and so you kind of have to pull, it’s like a fight you have to pull the information out of them so that you can do your job well so that’s another one of the sort of creative challenges that graphic designers have and it’s particularly when you’re designing for like food or drink, you know, that’s just the additional layer of challenges but it’s fun so.
AJK: Yeah. I think that -- yeah, I think that when people can’t eloquently describe what they want and then it’s like that’s not what I wanted but they can’t tell you what they want it’s got to be --
Sarah: So, they can’t and that’s a really common thing I mean that’s -- every single graphic designer has gone through that, you know, not everybody is really good at articulating what’s in their head. They’ve got a vision in their head, they’ve got some ideas and they aren’t great at verbalizing them and the graphic designer should be good, they should know the questions that they need to ask, they should, you know, be pretty well trained in how to figure out that client’s personality and how to pull that out of them so that they can do their job better. Sometimes we do it, you know, better with some clients and worse with others but that’s sort of one of the challenges, the whole communication aspect so it is always a little bit tricky.
AJK: Now, you know, another area which I find is -- it definitely takes a little thick skin -- is the passing of ideas and maybe them saying this is not what I want or I don’t like this. How would you, you know, how did you come to kind of get comfortable with that or do you have any advice for somebody -- who’s kind of up and coming, you know, how to deal with criticism, feedback in a positive way?
Sarah: You’ve got to have a thick skin, you got to have a real thick skin. I mean that’s one of the things that they first taught us when I heard it at art school at VCU it’s like you need to divorce yourself from the project, you know, listen, don’t, you know, don’t get all uppity if they don’t like what you’ve done, it’s not a personal insult to you it’s just they’re trying to get you to do what’s in their head and you’re trying to do it as best you can, they may not like it and that’s fine. They’re allowed to not like what you’ve done and you just have to really have a thick skin and not take everything personally but, you know, sit back and actually try to focus on what they’re telling you and use that, turn it into something useful and not just -- don’t be childish and don’t take their feedback as a personal insult or anything like that but there’s just no room for that when you’re a graphic designer.
You’ve got to listen to the client, you’ve got to keep the lines of communication open, you want to make them feel comfortable so if you’re getting all uppity because they’re giving you feedback then they’re going to close themselves off a little and they’re not going to give you very good feedback and just the communication’s going to be a wreck so definitely thick skin. That’s the way to go. If you can’t do that then maybe graphic design isn’t for you, you know, you got to be a little tough.
AJK: Yeah. The always popular sports analogy if everyone hit a homerun or hit the ball every time, you know, everyone would be batting a 1,000
Sarah: Yeah, exactly it’s not going to happen. You’re going to have some flops, you’re going to have something that you feel really passionate about and you love and you think it’s like the greatest thing you’ve ever done and you’re super excited to send that to the client and then they’re just going to be like uh-hu this isn’t for me, I don’t really care for it and they’re allowed to do that and for whatever reason just because you, the designer loves it and thinks it’s the greatest thing doesn’t mean it is, you know, it’s all about what the client wants so yeah, you can’t -- not everything is going to be a home run and so people need to realize that pretty early on. And then there might be times when you’re kind of struggling with something and you’re like this isn’t the greatest thing I’ve ever done, you know, and send it to the client, the client loves it so you never know so it’s interesting kind of getting into the client’s head and figuring out like what they like, what they don’t like, why they liked something or why they didn’t so always interesting.
AJK: Yeah. It’s -- yeah, that would -- I’d probably cry a lot and so that would definitely be tough.
Sarah: Yeah. In art school like a lot of the students would cry. They would be in a critique and like the professor would like rip their stuff apart and you’re young, you’re 18-19 years old and it’s just like oh, you’re super emotional. I would see a lot of students like leaving critiques crying. So, like you kind of learn early like thick skin, don’t cry it’s going to be okay, they might like it, they might not. It’s nothing against you but this is how it works, this is communication design, I mean this is what this process is and there’s going to be a lot more so you’d better get used to it now.
AJK: Yeah, and I think that if you’re -- yeah, to take what, you know, what client A might not like, client B might love so I mean especially if things that made the cutting floor of one client could be the, you know, the all-star of the other client so I think that’s also --
Sarah: Exactly, yeah.
AJK: And I bet if you look at your portfolio from your, you know, in university, you know, you probably what you thought was amazing then, you know, you probably would not --
Sarah: It’s awful. Oh my God, I can’t even look at my college portfolio it's awful. It’s so embarrassing.
AJK: Well, I think it’s all part of the process, right, you know, you it brought you here. You can kind of look at it as like your sketchbook right, you know, yeah -- but.
Sarah: Yeah, exactly.
AJK: But you believed in yourself to take the chance and run your own business right and so I think you were doing something right. I wouldn’t say that it’s bad; I think what you’re doing now is probably better, you know, and so in five or ten years you’ll probably look at that and say oh, why did I do it that way or learned a new techniques.
Sarah: Exactly yeah, you know, that’s true so.
AJK: Yeah, I think -- yeah, that’s how I always look at stuff, you know, it definitely can be critical but if I didn’t do that, you know, or take that step who knows where I would be today so. So, one cool thing again I’m noticing, you know, all these different, you know, beer clients throughout I noticed that, you know, you’ve done -- we interviewed one of the folks over at Founders recently so I noticed that you’ve done some work on the Smoked Porter which is a great label and then even just a calendar so it’s definitely -- that’s really cool to see that. How did that come to be?
Sarah: I got really lucky there so at the time one of their like art directors there, they were -- like maybe marketing director, I knew him. He had lived in Richmond on -- and I had worked with him at the graphic design firm that I had formally worked at. He ended up moving to Michigan, I think his family was in the area and he was working for Founders at the time and I think that they were -- they had had a large graphic design firm that they would outsource to and I think that they maybe ended that relationship and they were starting to look for an in-house designer so I kind of filled in just in the sort of in between while they were still looking for an in-house designer because I knew this guy who was working there and I got really lucky. I got to design a label for them for their Smoked Porter and then they did a bunch of other, you know, like calendars and some merchandise and stuff like that. So, that was kind of cool that, you know, for a year or so I got to do a couple of little projects for them. So, it’s like yeah, this was a craft beer fan, I’m like oh, Founders I love them so much, you know, like oh so it was really cool to kind of work on a really bigger -- like a big sort of national scale brewery like that and that was good practice too and a lot of stuff and I think I got some samples out of that so that was good.
AJK: Yeah. Again, we're noticing a theme here Sarah, so we definitely applaud that kind of approach.
But yeah, even just speaking with them it was interesting to learn about their processes versus, you know, a smaller brewery and this is kind of how the different phases go forward and -- but yeah, it was really -- it’s really interesting so, you know, we were really lucky to speak to Brett over there and he’s doing some cool stuff.
AJK: Yeah, he was again, again similar to yourself with that kind of perseverance, you know, he was an avid beer fan and so he just kind of decided that he wanted to, you know, wanted that job and he wasn’t happy where he was and so all you kids out there, I don’t know if you’re really appropriate to listen to a beer podcast but, you know, hard work it pays off so I definitely applaud that. It’s a common theme of folks.
Sarah: That’s true. Hard work, yeah.
AJK: Yeah. Again, I -- there’s nothing harder than I think running your own business and so to wear all those hats I think that’s one of the things that we’re really kind of finding is that, you know, the entrepreneurial spirit to folks. You can be the best designer, the best artist, whatever it is you’re the best at but if you can’t run a business or you can’t present yourself in a way, you know, but you find the type of folks that just are -- well, I didn’t get that chance or I didn’t get that but it’s just they can draw but they can’t sell themselves so it’s hard.
Sarah: Exactly, yeah. So, like my advice for that -- VC like I said that’s where I went and they have a great graphic design program. They’re turning out tons and tons of graphic designers in Richmond, I mean there’s no shortage of graphic designers so it’s very competitive but a lot of these kids, as soon as they graduate they want to start with running their own business, they want to start, you know, freelancing and basically doing it all on their own and I don’t recommend that because I’ve seen a lot of those designers that do that and they’re missing really -- so I think it’s really important to actually go work for another graphic design firm for a few years or so at least whilst you get out of college because you need that experience, you need to understand the whole start to finish, the whole print, you know, all the different sides of graphic design other than just making cool art.
You need to kind of get a little bit of experience working in groups, working with, you know, project managers and account managers and that whole process. There’s a lot of process involved and, you know, you kind of miss out on that when you just jump from college to running your own business. So, I think the best advice I could give to like kids sort of, you know, graduated from college that, you know, definitely put in some years in a graphic design firm first, you’re going to get great experience out of that and then you can jump into doing your own thing but like you said hard work pays off and you really do have to work hard. And you’ll work a lot of hours, you’ll take projects home and everything but it pays off and it makes you a better designer in the long run so that’s my advice and yes, definitely hard work pays off and there will be a lot of hard work so.
AJK: Yeah. I couldn’t applaud it more. It’s -- I mean there’s so many -- well, no I just think there’s so many folks in life that, you know, they think that they have these ideas or whatever and a lot of folks may be not the best at what they are but they work their assess off and that’s an invaluable --
Sarah: Yeah, that’s a huge part of it.
AJK: Right. I can, you know, you can work on line work, you can work on how to vector your graphics, you can, you know, do this and, you know, all that stuff but if you’re just -- if you can’t sell yourself, you can’t meet deadlines, you can’t do the other stuff, you know, it doesn’t mean anything really.
Sarah: Yeah, exactly.
AJK: A little business 101 for. This guy went to business school, it’s working out. Yeah, there we go. A little marketing and IT background; dropping some knowledge for the kids, all the kids at home scoring.
Excellent, yeah. Excellent. So, from a -- when you’re, you know, when you’re working what is your kind of -- what’s the vibe like at the office; are you a music person, are you kind of in kind of the zone, what’s going on out there at Foggy London Towne?
Sarah: That varies too. It depends on the project, it depends on time of day, it depends on mood, you know, I might start my day off with like classical music and coffee early morning, you know, super chilled just kind of trying to like wake up and get into it. By the end of the day I’m listening to like the loudest music that I can possibly listen to. Sometimes I just want to be a little bit more zen, I might just like open up my windows and hear birds and stuff in the background. It really depends; it depends on the project, you know. So, like I said when I was working on that sort of Jefferson Airplane themed project I was listening to that because you want to kind of immerse yourself into as much as you can. You’re watching videos, you’re listening to music, you’re doing as much research as possible to get into that mindset but yeah, I mean it depends; sometimes it’s bright lights and loud music, sometimes you’ll be sitting in the dark with classical music. It really just depends but yeah, definitely needing something, you know, needing some sort of inspiration be it musical or nature or whatever is a big thing so.
AJK: Alright. Now what art -- I used to be a radio DJ so what artists says and what’s the heavy stuff you’re talking to, what’s on the Foggy London Town playlist - we're pulling up a channel?
Sarah: I -- it changes. Like I listen to pretty much every genre except for country music, I hate country music so like I might totally be into like 80s, you know, Michael Jackson and Madonna one day. I think yesterday I listened to Cold War Kids --- I forget which album but I was basically just playing that on repeat.
Sarah: I don’t know so it just -- it totally depends I mean I might listen to like super cheesy like 90s pop one day, I mean it really -- there’s not one certain thing. it kind of just depends on the mood so I’m all over the place. As long as it’s not country music then I’ll be happy.
AJK: So, we will play all the beds of music under the interview will be all country music that’ll be good, you know, really --
Sarah: Oh God no, that would awful --- I would never be able to do anything, I would not. Like that -- for some reason that genre I just cannot zone out to that, I cannot create to that so that is the one thing; if you want me to do really horrific designs just play country music for me because I will not be creative.
AJK: Yeah, I would think -- yeah. I mean I’ve kind of -- well, now the definition of country has kind of expanded so much, I don’t know, when like the pure hunky tonk twangy stuff --- I can’t get into that but I can get in like Johnny Cash and some Americano stuff.
Sarah: Yeah, I can do that. Actually I was listening to Dolly Parton -- old stuff, I mean.
Sarah: That was -- God, what was that like a week ago and I don’t even remember what project I was listening -- or what project I was working on and I don’t even know why I picked that album and I was like singing along to it too it was really embarrassing so I guess that counts.
AJK: Oh good.
Sarah: I mean I suppose I have some exception to every rule so Dolly Parton.
AJK: And you’re like what the hell was I doing that for? How did I get down that Rabbit Hole?
Sarah: I know. I -- it’s like now that you mention it I honestly have no clue what I was working on but I remember just singing “Why did you come in here looking like that” but anyway which is a ridiculous song.
AJK: And that will be one of the three beds we’ll use so thank you for that. We’ll do Paranoid Android and we’ll figure out another one, we’re doing, yeah.
Sarah: Exactly, you’re right.
AJK: Now what styles of beer do you find yourself drawn to, what are your kind of favorites?
Sarah: You know that depends too. I love sours, like sour and I’m actually working on a sour Ale series right now. That’s something that my palate has kind of changed and matured that I’ve started to really get into. Like I think several years ago if you handed me a Flemish Sour something like that, you know, I would be like oh, this is disgusting it tastes like vinegar but it’s like I love it now like Berliner Weisses. I don’t know what to say so like if it’s hot outside I might just have like a Heffeweizzen something that’s, you know, cold and light. If it’s warm outside I might have like a 10% Imperial Stout, Russian Imperial Stout; something with a lot of body, you know, really like chocolaty would be delicious. I don’t know. It depends like, I love IPA’s, I love super fresh like floral IPA’s. I’m a little all over the board. I can’t think of that there’s anything -- I don’t like beers that are like overly malty. If it’s like super raisiny sweet I’m not into that but yeah, I like beer style kind of like my music taste, that sort of varies and it depends on mood so.
AJK: Okay. Yeah, I think that I do agree on the sour thing. I mean years ago, I mean obviously years ago I think before that I think that the craziest thing felt over an IPA was like Magic Hat #9 so I think I would definitely have --
Sarah: Oh, I know. Isn’t it so embarrassing to think about some of the beers like things that I thought were probably like craft beers that were not, they were probably all like Anheuser, you know, Anheuser or InBev whatever, like if I go back and think about some of the beers that I first started drinking, when I first even got into beer before I even really understood like what craft beer was I probably drank some pretty embarrassing things so yeah, I mean I won’t share that but yeah, my beer palate has definitely expanded in mixture so.
AJK: So, you have to spin it again, just like your quote-unquote crappy work when you’re younger it just -- it’s part of your evolution of Sarah's palate. There we go.
Sarah: So, it meant that maybe at some point I probably drank like Bud Light with Lime or something and I thought it was awesome. Oh God, embarrassing.
AJK: Yeah. We used to have 40 Nights in college and so I don’t -- I think I definitely am not proud of that but it was a financial decision.
Sarah: Yeah. I’m trying to think like maybe one of the first, you know, what I would have considered a craft beer and I can’t even think like something like Magic Hat #9 which is awful. Yeah, I mean it would have been something sort of gigantic mass produced, not really all that craft beer. I can’t even think what it would have been but, you know, I’m so glad I’m not there anymore. I’ve matured and moved on.
AJK: Yeah one of our friends was an accounting major and he was like in his fifth year and like he was getting his masters and he was the only one that had money and so I remember him getting like Harpoon and I was like -- that was like -- like how much was that for a six pack? What are you doing?
Sarah: That’s awful.
AJK: We’re like that’s so crazy, you know, like what are you doing and he was like this is going to do it.
Sarah: And you’re like why are you spending so much money? Exactly.
AJK: Yeah, so cheers to Pepsi, my buddy. He turned us on.
AJK: Well, I wanted to just thank you for making the time to join us today, we really appreciate it. I think that -- I really -- everything I’ve seen of your work and not just from a beer perspective but just kind of your robust portfolio I love that, I love that it’s kind of diverse. I don’t want to say all over the board because that makes it sound like it’s not uniform and kind of messy but I just -- I really like that it’s just kind of your versatility and, you know, it definitely has -- we’ve just been talking to you, your interests chosen the different styles that you utilize and they’re great. I really like what you’re doing and so it makes me want to definitely I’m going to be trying to get more Triple Crossing and I’m just glad we were able to lock down some time and I just -- I really appreciate it.
Sarah: Well, thank you very much. I hope I wasn’t like totally boring.
AJK: No, you were not totally boring, you had a good -- you were full of energy, you were easy to talk to and so, you know, I do appreciate that.
Sarah: Alright, well thank you.
AJK: You have a great day and I’ll talk to you soon.