As you may know, we’ve been brewing our own beer here at the Twisted Toast headquarters. The response has been positive and overwhelming – everyone has loved Toast Homebru, so much so, that we were recently approached by Greg Ball, a homebrewer who had produced his own batch of beer. He saw the label we’d done for Toast Homebru and wanted us to design one for his new line of beer, Buster Nut Pale Ale.

Greg Ball has started brewing his own beer in much the same way as we did – with a kit and supplies he obtained from Brewcraft. He’s just a homebrewer, but he wanted his beer to stand out from the rest of the crowd. He was looking for a simple label design and printing job, and we happily accepted. What we didn’t expect from the job was that it’d be a case study in what you can learn from small clients and the way in which they do business.

1.  Clear, concise communication from the client and the agency from the get-go

Greg approached us and asked us for a cost estimate (CE) on label design and printing. He knew exactly what he wanted and we were able to provide a costing very quickly.

Learning: A short, sharp, direct enquiry is the best way to get the ball rolling. Being too vague at the get-go in terms of what you want can result in confusion and result in delays in costing and the project getting going.

2.  One decision maker on a project means quick decisions

We presented our CE to Greg detailing our costs for design, and presented options for quantity of printing, illustrating the cost efficiencies for printing higher volumes. With enough actionable information and a single decision maker, the decision-making process was instantaneous. Greg was happy with the costs and within 24 hours of initial contact we had a signed CE and work could begin.

Learning: It’s not always possible to have a single decision-maker on a project, but when you have one person who ultimately calls the shots, things happen. There’s a reason why ‘design by committee’ is so derided. 

3.  A clear, concise brief that illustrates the creative vision for the end product

Greg briefed in the label design by attaching a creative sample and explained his vision for the end product. Our Creative Director, Erik Verster was able to easily interpret the brief and action it. The first design iteration was almost perfect.

Learning: You don’t have to be a designer to brief in a design. Clear instruction with sample visuals go a long way in both guiding a designer to deliver a quality design, as well as giving them the creative freedom to apply their own personal style to the design. Overly restrictive briefs result in a work that allows no freedom for the designer to truly impart his or her own style on the project, while vague briefs result in work that is too far from what the client pictured in their mind’s eye.

4.  Get it right the first time. Then make it better.

After we sent our first take on the design to Greg, he responded very happily, and requested one change. He asked for a minor change to the hair colour of the characters to more closely resemble himself and his wife. It’s rare that any designed work doesn’t go through multiple iterations, but there’s something to be said about getting it right the first time (almost).

Learning: A clear brief means the first time the client looks at the work, they’re going to like what they see. Then the work is to refine the end product in as few iterations as possible. Obsessing for too long over a design and making too many changes seldom adds real value to the design process. We turned around the design job within the same working day, making everyone (especially the client) really happy.

5.  Approval, payment and delivery

Within 48 hours of first contact, Greg had signed off the CE, approved the initial design, briefed in one change, and accepted the final product. The job was good to go to the printers, and a day later, was at our offices ready for collection. An invoice was issued and paid, and a business transaction has been conducted that was short, sharp and great for everyone concerned.

Learning: Everyone wants things done yesterday, but small clients are great at giving you the tools to make it happen. Clear briefs, good feedback and quick acceptance mean that the entire project can be delivered smoothly.

So that’s it. We’re very pleased with the end result, as is Greg Ball. Here’s the Buster Nut Pale Ale label:

Buster Nut Pale Ale

Buster Nut in the flesh (as it were)