Firecracker beer

The Big Bang, Short Fuse and Pocket Rocket. An explosive trilogy of Big Bang home-brew and beer label creativity!

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Hot off the back from recently creating the Flipperooney home-brew project I was eager to get another one out in time to help celebrate fireworks night.

I have always loved fireworks (in this context I’m referring to the physical firework rather than watching a display from a far) especially the graphic designs, the vivid colours, shapes and typography that the fireworks of yesterday had. I wanted to pay homage to these iconic British symbols for my new beer labels.

Following on from previous beer label creations I would adhere to the tried and tested route below:

Stage 1. Come up with a name for the beer

Stage 2. Design a logo

Stage 3. Create label

After a fair bit of on-line research into names of fireworks I just couldn’t make my mind up as to what to call the beer! However, why settle on one name, why not have more? And then it occurred to me that I could have a trio of fireworks, something like a pack of fireworks or rockets that you can buy in shops rather than individually.

My favourite three names I came up with for the explosive beer were The Big Bang, Short Fuse and Pocket Rocket which I thought perfectly summed up what I was trying to achieve for the beer labels.

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I would create three separate designs for the beer labels. The more I thought about the rockets the more excited I became. What if I turned a bottle of beer into a rocket! Eureka! I looked at various shapes and sizes of bottles that would roughly look like the shape of a rocket and found that a small 330ml bottle did the trick. So all I had to do was create the logo and artwork around the shape and size of this beer bottle.

My fireworks colour palette would be made up of bright greens, yellows, oranges, blues and reds utilising bold graphic typography and imagery. I would have a different typography treatment for each of the names but keep the same font to maintain continuity so they look part of a family.


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After many design iterations I eventually settled on my three favourites which included dynamic, distinctive and colourful backgrounds. Although I was happy with the way the labels were looking I thought I could push it even further and make it even more distinctive. A rocket isn’t really a rocket if it doesn’t have a stick you can put in the ground to hold it steady ready for launch. Off I went to a DIY store to see what I could get. I found a long Pinewood dowel that looked about the same thickness you would find on a real rocket. I bought it, took it back home and cut it down into three even lengths. These were then taped to the side of the bottles with the labels secured over the top. This was looking more like it… but I could do better. How about adding some touch paper like the fuse at the top of a firework which you need to ignite to set the firework off.

Back to the shops to buy some coloured sheets of tissue paper. Brilliant, this was the icing on the cake! This was the missing detail that brought everything nicely together. They looked great, however after a bit more research I found out that you could buy rockets in a pack as well as individually. So why not create a simple device to hold the three bottles together as a pack. To hold the sticks securely at the top I came up with an idea of a small flag that would wrap around the sticks and hold them firmly in place. I then created a large label that could wrap around the three bottles holding them nice and tight. The three logos for each of the beers were placed in three sections so every time you turned the bottles around you would see the names of the beers included within the pack.

This was a real fun creative project to work on, now all that remains to be done is to chill the beer and enjoy on fireworks nighty – Cheers.

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The Firecracker party pack packaging below.

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Artwork for Pocket Rocket, Short Fuse and The Big Bang beer labels.


Artwork for the party pack packaging.

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Artwork for the party pack stick flag.

firecracker beer flag


For previous beer label creations click the links for Flipperooney the The Wonky Woo Wa and Spring has Sprung


Flipperooney logoSo September saw me creating another batch of home-brew beer which gave me a great excuse to design and create another beer label for the new creation.

First challenge, to come up with a name I would christen the beer with. This is my third batch of home-brew and the third beer label I have designed and created. I still wanted it to be lighthearted and a bit quirky such as the previous two which were named The Wonky Woo Wa and Spring Has Sprung! (click links for details). After many ideas and  shortlists I finally came to one I really liked the sound of and so Flipperooney was born! Flipperooney is the name I give to the summersault my son performs. To perform this dare devil manoeuvre I grab both his hands by my thighs. While he’s facing me he uses his feet to walk up my legs until he his feet are by my shoulders. He’s now in an upside down vertical position and then after a count of three I flip him over back onto his feet and et voila there you have it the Flipperooney manoeuvre. Well, it was as good a name as any and it had a certain friendly excitement I wanted to portray in this beer label.

So now I had a name, the logo was next. I wanted a to use a font that would really represent the word Flipperooney, show playfulness, was fun and dynamic and full of energy. It had to be bright with a hand drawn/crafted feel to it. I did a tone of research on various font sites and eventually settled on the Changing Medium typeface by pintassiloprints from myfonts. I loved the font and it was perfect to bring Flipperooney to life. The font comes with many automatic interlocking pairs which just ads to it’s character bringing out the added quirkiness and playfulness.

The main colour I chose was for the logo was a vivid red, I added two solid drop shadows beneath, the first being cyan followed by yellow, slightly offset to give it a modest depth and a 3D stereoscopic type effect to the lettering. I wanted an image or illustration to show the Fliperooney but I could’t find any that represented it as much as I would have liked. I found as close a match to representing a Flipperooney as best I could on the  image library iStock.  This then brought the whole logo together and I could start adding the beer text beneath the logo and start creating the label itself.

The beer label was pretty straight forward. I created front and back artwork on the same piece of paper. I chose a pale blue background colour and added a slightly rough worn paper texture on top to give it some depth, character and to add to that home made/home brew crafted feel I was after. The labels were then glued to the bottles at an angle to add some dynamic visual quality to them.

Now all I have to do is stick them in the fridge, relax and enjoy not only the pleasure of the creative and production process, I can now enjoy the taste of a magnificent Flipperooney!


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The Shortbread Shed Flipperooney Beer label

The Wonky Woo Wa and Spring Has Sprung beer labels

For those of you who know me, you’ll know that I’m into my real ales, especially coming from Scotland I loved the odd pint of ‘Heavy’ (A Scottish term for the English equivalent called Bitter. Usually dark brown in colour, smooth with a good bubbly or creamy head, pretty flat with little to no gas/bubbles) on a night out. 

Last year my wife got me possibly one of the greatest birthday presents ever! A home brew beer making kit! It didn’t take me long to set everything up and get cracking with my first brew.

It’s remarkably easy to do once you have the basic equipment and all of which is completely re-usable, ready for the next batch.

For my first few experimentations I bought pre-made beer kits from a local store. All the ingredients are premixed together and come in a one litre tin can, which when emptied looks like a dark sticky gooey molasses.

Thankfully there isn’t much technical or chemistry ability required. Basically all you need to do is pour the ingredients into a large 25 litre plastic bucket, add one kilo of sugar, three litres of boiling water, followed by about 19 litres of cold water. Sprinkle the magic ingredient yeast over the top, give it a good stir, take an initial reading with a hydrometer, whack the lid on and leave it in a cosy dark spot for about 7-10 days until it reaches a specific gravity (alcohol content). Once this process is complete it’s then onto step two and the bottling. Syphoning out the beer into either bottles or barrels. I like to do a bit of both so I’ll pour about half of the contents into 500ml bottles and the rest will go into a pressurised keg. Bottles and keg are left in a warm environment for a further three days before being transferred out to the garage for stage three – the maturing part of the process. The bottles and keg are stored in a cool, dark place for at least another three weeks so the sediment can settle and the beer can clear ready for drinking. Part four, the easy part – drink!

The Wonky Woo Wa

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The other great part about making your own beer is having the opportunity to create beer labels to show off your home brewing skill.

The initial label I designed was for my first home brew, a cheeky dark bitter of around 4% ABV, it wasn’t too bad for a first attempt! I asked my son to name the inaugural brew and he came up with ‘Wonky Woo Wa’ which I thought was a cracking name for a beer.

So now I had a name for the beer all I had to do was design, create and produce a label. I wanted to create something unique, eye-catching, something a wee bit different that had an independent crafty and artisan look to it. Not only did I want it to look good, I also wanted to come up with an unusual way to affix the label to the bottle and make it visually and tacitly attractive.

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After trying out numerous options I came up with a typographical treatment only design. I chose hand drawn fonts for the Wonky Woo Wa name and logo type as well as a font for the details of the beer. I limited the colours to just two, red and black for maximum visual impact. I chose a heavy kraft card to print on for an authentic ‘crafty independent artisan’ look. I didn’t want to glue the label to the bottles so I came up with the idea of using rubber bands and thin bamboo kebab skewers cut down as the fastener to hold the labels in place securely around the bottle. I punched holes through the card, folded the edges over for more strength and security before binding multi-coloured rivets into the card to help prevent tearing when the rubber bands were threaded through and attached to the bamboo sticks. Finally I hand stamped a limited edition of 18 bottles with a unique reference number just to give it an extra level of detail, authenticity and uniqueness.

Spring has sprung beer label

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So the Wonky Woo Wa was last years winter beer and in March this year I decided to do an Easter special. I followed the exact preparation and brewing process as before and then started to think of an appropriate name so I could start to design and create the next beer label. It didn’t take me long to come up with a seasonal name for the beer. It was obvious really, it had to be called ‘Spring’, well, I slightly changed it through the design process to ‘Spring has sprung”.

I wanted to stay clear of the obvious visuals such as Daffodils, Bluebells and snowdrops. I was after something a bit more tongue in cheek. However I really liked the green and yellows of the daffodils, the purples of the bluebells and the crisp white of a snowdrop and decided to incorporate these colours into my design. I wanted to have fun with the name and incorporate that into the label so I came up with the idea to use a metal spring within the logo. I chose the same fonts as the previous beer label as I wanted to create that home-brew, artisan crafty style I was still after. I wanted the the label to also have an eye catching element so I designed a small tab to pop out from the side. This was coloured bright orange with the image of the spring down the centre and gave a real uniqueness and stand out appeal to the bottle.

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Again I did a mix of bottles and keg to store the beer in. So was it any good? Did the beer taste as great as the label looked? Yes it did!

I really enjoyed my first home brew experience and the creation of the label. It motivates me to keep brewing, coming up with unusual names and create visually appealing beer labels – its a win win situation for me.

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My intriguing book on doors


The book was originally put together using Apple’s Aperture application where the curated images were stored and placed into the Book part of the application. When Apple stopped supporting Aperture I had to migrate everything I was doing over to Adobe Lightroom which is now my current default when creating photo books. I used an online company called Blurb to print the book who I have used several times before and love what they do. The finished format was as follows: 10x8in landscape, 117 printed pages with a hardcover image wrap, printed on ProLine uncoated paper.


A self initiated project book on doors

I was once stuck in a boring in-house corporate job for far too long. I wasn’t having enough creative input at work and it was slowly driving me crazy. I wasn’t quite ready to quit my safe mundane job for a more fulfilling creative career. I had an idea to come up with a self initiated project that would at least, keep my design skills alive until I managed to break free of my shackles of security! The project needed to be creative and involve design, layout, typography and photography which would hopefully bring back my excitement, passion and enthusiasm for design that was lacking –
this would be my escape plan!

The following images show a few of the spreads from the book.




So after weeks of searching for the perfect creative and fulfilling project that would really float my boat I narrowed it down and finally came to a decision – it would be a photographic coffee table book on…

The Plan

I would photograph ancient, modern, intriguing, mysterious, functional and decorative doors. The knackered, falling apart, recycled has-been varieties. Each one with a story to tell of power and wealth, protection and incarceration. After photographing the doors I would then use the pictures to create my very own coffee table book.




The more I thought about it, the more excited I became about the creative possibilities. The varieties on offer and the intriguing stories that lay behind the doors became my inspiration and drive to take on the challenge.

I started this project back in 2004 and initially gave myself six months to complete it. Originally started as a simple project it gradually became a somewhat global obsession. Whenever we were away on holiday it suddenly became an excuse to search out some exotic doors to photograph. So now instead of a few domestic home grown varieties my global search opened up a whole new perspective. I have taken pictures from as far as Bali and Malaysia to Croatia and Poland.




I absolutely loved the thrill of coming across some sort of unusual door on my travels, taking a picture of it and knowing I could use it in my book.

I had great intentions of printing and publishing the book within a short period of time from starting out on my adventure. However, every time I thought I had photographed the final door for the book I came across another one and so on and so forth. I lost momentum and enthusiasm and with a healthy dose of procrastination thrown in over the years stopped me actually producing a book at all. I almost got there several times over the years. I managed to curate all my pictures down to a nice collection, lay them out and incorporate them into a book for all to see.



And so the unfinished non printed book remained on my hard-drive gathering pixel dust until now. 2017 is my year for actually ‘doing’ and ‘completing’ stuff. No more thinking about it, putting it off or sitting on it. It brings me back to this quote from Hugh Laurie which I am firmly putting into practice for this year. Take it away Hugh –

“It’s a terrible thing, I think, in life to wait until you’re ready. I have this feeling now that actually no one is ever ready to do anything. There is almost no such thing as ready. There is only now. And you may as well do it now. Generally speaking, now is as good a time as any.”

If you would like to purchase a copy of my book, head on over to Blurb or click on the this link


Exit. The end of the book and perhaps the beginnings of a new self initiated project!

The enchanting and spellbinding House of MinaLima

In late December, on the penultimate day of the year and on a last minute whim I decided to take the family on a day trip to London. I wanted to get out the house, get some fresh air and do something exciting! So we jumped on a train and headed south down the tracks to foggy, dark and cold London town. We alighted on the South Bank side of the Thames at Blackfriars train station and followed the walkway west, past the London Eye and on to Westminster Bridge. With the low light and fog this part of the city became mysterious and eerie, almost as if we were on a film set of a new Sherlock Holmes movie.




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I had read somewhere in a magazine article about a temporary store being set up by a company called MinaLima near central London. MinaLima is the creative combination of Miraphora (Mina) and Eduardo (Lima) who first met on the set of Harry Potter back in 2001 as two graphic designers responsible for designing the graphic props for all the Harry Potter films. I knew we were heading in that direction and my young son had, for the first time watched three Harry Potter films over the festive period would perhaps be interested in paying a visit.


I was definitely up for a visit after seeing their work for the first time a few years back at the Warner Brothers Studio Tour – The Making of Harry Potter experience. 

The House of MinaLima was billed as an exhibition and shop of the graphic art of the Harry Potter films, and other works, by MinaLima. The House/shop/store/exhibition kind of space definitely looked like it was straight out the Harry Potter movie set. There were four floors to explore, all full of fantastic visual designs on display.


My creative senses exploded before my right foot had even had time to touch the creaky wooden floor boards entering the ground floor which housed the shop. Full of magical visual delights – posters, stationery, home-wares, books and all very, very tempting indeed. 


We thought we would leave the temptation of the shop until last so we headed up the narrow crooked staircase to the first floor to explore The Graphic Art of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Some lovely posters and books from the latest movie were on display. There were lots of people in the shop and a policy on each floor to only allow so many people up and down at a time to avoid overcrowding.


We didn’t have to wait long until we headed up the next flight to explore the remaining floors which housed The Graphic Art of the Harry Potter Films. There were plenty of film props on display and a large variety of framed posters and prints readily available to buy in the shop on the ground floor. The display, presentation and exhibition was magnificent and well worth the visit.  


Of course we stopped to have a look around in the gift shop on the way out. I picked up a signed copy of The Case of Beasts: Explore the Film Wizardry of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The hard-cover book is a graphic designers dream. It delivers a real interactive tactile experience by sharing film-making secrets, film photography and artwork with behind-the-scenes stories from cast and crew. The book is full of removable paper reproduction props from the movie which makes it even more special. To top it all off, who should be behind the counter as I went to pay for the book, none other than the two designers themselves – Miraphora and Eduardo. I was so excited to manage and grab a chat for a couple of minutes with Miraphora about her experiences and time designing the props on the Harry Potter sets. 


I came away with a great experience, a fab signed book and met the two designers responsible for creating some of the most creative iconic movie props ever. All in all, not a bad day for an on the spot decision!