First brewed in 1759 in Dublin, Ireland, Guinness is one of the most well-known beers in the world — at least its stout with its intense, deep color and rich, frothy, bright foam. Family owned through the better part of the twentieth century, Guinness has been part of the Diageo stable of brands since 1997 and is now brewed in 49 countries worldwide and sold in over 150 with 10 million glasses of Guinness consumed every day around the world. Soon, Guinness will be introducing a revised logo designed by London-based Design Bridge.
To bring their vision to life, Design Bridge made models and mock-ups of their initial harp sketches with expert guidance from London-based harp-makers Niebisch & Tree. This collaborative process allowed the team to fully immerse themselves in the harp’s shape and form, from the characteristic curve of the harmonic neck to the way shadows are cast on the instrument, ensuring their design looked and felt as authentic as possible. Design Bridge then sought the expertise of renowned illustrator Gerry Barney, who had drawn a previous version of the Guinness harp in 1968, who hand drew the new icon from their collection of sketches and harp models.
Design Bridge provided press release
Although the final result is quite fetching, what makes this project more interesting is the process to get to it, starting with the sketches and explorations of harp structures by Design Bridge who consulted with real-life harp makers, Niebisch & Tree. In the Creative Review interview, Tim asserts that if the final drawing were built out into an actual harp it would work properly and be in tune. If you were to build out the old logo in real life you would have a bunch of loose, pointy sticks. Not that logos have to have the ability of being recreated in actual dimension but in this project it’s a nice aspect of the commitment-to-craft narrative they have going on.
Once Design Bridge finished with their sketches, they handed them to Gerry Barney, who has the distinct claim to fame of having designed the British Rail logo in 1965. He hand-drew the 1-color version of the logo that is crookedly shown above. (I’ve asked for a straight-up version but not sure when or if I’ll get it). As beautiful as that single color drawing looks, that’s not where it ends.
Design Bridge also collaborated with artisan letterpress print studio, New North Press, to help dramatise the harp’s form even further and create the striking physical impression of the final design. Separating the harp illustration out into a series of layers, Design Bridge experimented with letterpress techniques to build up the design by overlaying different colours, textures and techniques, such as embossing, foil block and metallic inks. The final design captures the tactility, depth, light and shadow the team got to know so well through their sketch work, illustrations and 3D harp models.
Design Bridge provided press release
Design Bridge worked with New North Press to reproduce the logo in various printing techniques to figure out the best possible full-color reproduction and eventual digitizing of the final harp. The result has yielded an unexpected texture that defies the typical shading or even more elaborate 3D renderings of some logos.
The final icon is quite stunning. It’s a far cry from the minimalist tendencies of today. Broad application of it might become cumbersome (or at least costly) but since the majority of its application is on full-color cans and bottles then it’s not such a big deal. The detailing is obviously best appreciated when it’s bigger and you can see the shift in lock-up with the wordmark against the old logo, where this one is nearly twice the size. You would think the harp would suffer when reduced but if you zoom out or stand really far back from your screen you’ll see that the dramatic shadows and highlights keep its appearance quite convincingly.
As much as I like the harp, the revised wordmark doesn’t get me as excited. I do acknowledge that the more classic serif goes better with the more ornate and realistic harp but it lost some of the distinctiveness of the old one. In the new one, the stenciled “N”s almost look like a mistake or, at least, not as purposeful as the previous ones.
In application there is… nothing except for the print-thing above that I have no idea what it is or does but I still enjoy looking at. On their site, Design Bridge states that the new logo can work on “anything from craft beers in Europe to Limited Editions in Africa” and I’ll happily believe that — I think the effect will be similar to that of Budweiser’s recent redesign — and can’t wait to see it reproduced in packaging. (As a complete side critique: I wish Design Bridge had clearer, eagle-eye view photos of the work instead of so many close-ups where it’s hard to tell what, literally, the big picture is.)