Behind this Purely Czech Beer that Locals & Tourists Alike will Love

The history of Staropramen Beer began nearly 150 years ago, so redesigning it posed quite a challenge. How do you give a brand new life that will please both new and old customers? Cocoon managed to do it perfectly, creating a design for the brew that works just as well as a post-work drink for locals and a lovely souvenir for people passing through. We talked with Cocoon to learn more about incorporating the Czech spirit into this beer, controlling creative impulses, and more.

Walk us through the design process that you went through for this project.

Cocoon: Staropramen is the second largest beer brand in the Czech market and belongs among other valuable Czech brands. Redesigning for a giant like Staropramen takes a lot of time and effort when shifting the brand towards a strategic direction chosen by the client.

Setting this strategic direction was the first step we took. Staropramen’s own story began almost 150 years ago, but its identity, brand positioning and communication went through many changes in the last thirty years. By participating in strategy and innovation workshops together with the client, we decided the brand should return to the beginning of its roots, traditions and rich history.

The design stage started in the beginning of fall, 2016. We had a clear benchmark: the visual history of Staropramen labels, which convey the Czech spirit of a “visual beer language.” We were fascinated by the skewed wordmark that has lasted since the 50s, yet we explored other potential directions to identify key assets and their graphical treatments.

After determining the key assets, the packaging and off-pack identity process followed.

Staropramen has 7 types of bottled beer and 4 types of canned beer.  

Creating the off-pack identity was also a huge project. We worked on various types of POS materials that appear in pubs, bars, and restaurants from outdoor signage, front-wall fascias and marquees, to beer mats, menu holders, tap signs, and many others. The redesign also included Staropramen sub-brands such as the Nase Hospoda (which means “Our Pub” in Czech) branded chain of pubs.

The cherry on top of the whole project was the special edition cans communicating Staropramen’s stories in a unique visual style, which has finally (and unexpectedly!) become an important element of the visual brand identity.

What was the most challenging part of this project?

Cocoon: We faced two big challenges. The first challenge was in keeping our connection with current consumers. The previous identity had a more masculine appeal represented by a vertical shield logo. It was much more of a party beer connected to musical events, so looking back to the brand’s roots was a big and brave decision. However, we can see this trending globally with many categories and brands (Budweiser, Nivea, etc.). The second challenge was how to get closer to Staropramen’s international identity (which we redesigned in 2015) and create a unified look and feel of the brand without spoiling its unique character on the domestic Czech market.

We wanted to manifest traditional craftsmanship and the dedication and passion of people who have always been working in the Smíchov brewery, which is still situated in one of Prague’s (the capital of Czech Republic) quarters. We had to keep the balance and feeling of a big brand because we could not pretend it was the product of a small brewery. All of those things finally tied into a unique, crafty and traditional visual language.  

What was one of the biggest goals you set out to achieve with Staropramen Beer packaging and how did you accomplish it?

Cocoon: We wished to make this brand look purely Czech so that tourists would keep this beer as a souvenir not only because of the beer itself, but because of the unique label design. We wanted to re-establish Staropramen’s reputation as a bold and significant Czech brand that every Czech can be proud of. We approached the brand’s history and heritage with respect and moderation by avoiding excessive design elements like tons of gold and art nouveau decorations. Instead, we took confidence in what represents a contemporary visual style.

How did you make the design more contemporary while highlighting the rich history of the beer?

Cocoon: We took elements of the old label and redesigned them in a way that we believe is right for today. The design became less cluttered and more airy. We adjusted the wordmark and fine-tuned the illustration elements. We also focused on the materials we used, especially the print materials. We chose a combination of glossy and matte metallic/gold elements.

If you could pick one aspect of the finished design that you like the most or feel especially proud of, what would it be and why?

Cocoon: It would definitely be the special edition can series. This scale of rebranding required some sort of launch campaign which would help stress the arrival of the new Staropramen brand. This is necessary for any brand when doing huge changes. In close cooperation with the client, the Cocoon team developed a full saga of Staropramen stories, which we conveyed in 20+ cans. These special editions featured some of the countless Staropramen stories about brewing traditions, ingredients and brew mastery, which were described with the help of lettering and illustrative compositions. We went even further so that these artworks were applied across most of the brand communication and in-store materials. You could say that this limited edition project not only introduced the brand, but shaped it visually in its own unique way.

We didn’t stop here. We devoted ourselves to some limited edition artwork, which would be applied on posters. With the help of a local print house, we created a series of posters which served as a gift for the client, decoration in our office, and a nice opportunity to get out and see how silk print masters complete their craft.

Share one lesson that you learned while developing the finished product.

Cocoon: There were two, actually. First, we realised (again) how important it is to suppress one’s own compulsive creativity and subjective aesthetics for the sake of the brand. Second, we learned that even within the carefully-processed project of developing a complex brand identity and visual element, there are things which you can’t plan for or expect. Sometimes, these things strongly shape the look and feel of the brand. This is what we experienced with the illustration and lettering style of the special edition cans.