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Can or Canvas

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Chatting with our Designer Jess

We’ve made some incredible progress over the last few years here at Range. It’s easy to forget where we were in 2018 so we’re keen to shine a light on the people that have made Range what it is today. We sat down with Jess and spoke about her time here, what she does and the importance of her work at Range.

How long have you been involved with Range?

I’ve been involved since just before we first opened, roughly three years and eight months. I’m not a founding father, but I like to think that I’m OG – back when we were a small crew of 5-6. 

Have you always done the designs?

When we first started, our can art was centred around the Viking characters that represented each type of beer. Unfortunately, I can’t take credit for those illustrations – those were created by Frode Skaren, an illustrator and artist based in Norway (@uglylogo). My part in the can design was purely a ‘visual typesetting’ role. My job also extended to all of the remaining design jobs that were needed; menus, posters, digital posts, etc.

How did you specifically get involved with the brewery?

This was definitely a right place, right time situation. Ally (Senior Brewer) and I used to work at a cafe together and became quite close over the years. I met many of her friends, two of them who just happened to be Gerard and Matt (Co-Founders). I remember a boozy me at an event we were all at, boasting about my ‘design degree’ and saying I could do a poster for them if they needed (this was a couple of months before opening). A couple of weeks later, they got in touch and asked if I was serious as they needed formatting for a beer label. I remember saying yes even though I had no idea how to design for beer… and then everything kind of just built from there. There was no official application process, I was slowly absorbed into the company, and as the brewery grew, my workload grew. And now it’s my whole career. 

Were you still studying at this time?

No, I had graduated by then and I was working at a cafe, doing miscellaneous design projects here and there. Range definitely started as a cheeky two-to-three hour a week side hustle. 

Were you doing any Freelance work?

Only on occasion –  whatever dropped in my lap, I would do it. I wasn’t pushing anything. I was very young and was just cruising. 

What’s your design education?

I wish there was an inspiring story here, but to be honest I kind of half-arsed my uni degree. I did study design and am very into art but was told early on that you can’t have a successful career in the art world, so I shifted my focus to graphic design. I studied Interactive and Visual Design, but unfortunately, there wasn’t a heap of focus on Graphic Design (as it was a pretty broad degree) so nothing concrete really came from that for me. There wasn’t any real spark of passion or realisation that this was the “best thing ever” that stuck with me while I studied, I just kind of knew already what I definitely wanted to do. The degree mainly just helped me figure out what I wasn’t passionate about in the design world. I did finish uni, and just let it sit for a bit after that, not really pursuing anything further. 

In terms of furthering my design ‘education’ I would kind of just work on one project and then it would open the door to something else – there was a lot of luck in my freelance work post-uni. A lot of right place, right time. People don’t seem to believe me as this isn’t an industry you can afford to be non-proactive in, but I guess I was just very lucky. When I did decide to take things seriously and pursue a design job, I realised just how hard it is. I did manage to get a job as a Junior Designer in a wonderful studio – but quickly realised I didn’t want to work within those structures. It was a bit of a panic moment because I thought – shit, this is how designers work. You get hired into a studio/collective, and then do your work. 

At this point, I was also just starting to really get into the work I was doing at Range, and was having so much fun. I was offered a full-time role at the other studio (which was amazing!) but I couldn’t give up Range – it was a bit of a gamble at the time as I was only needed for three days a week here but I just couldn’t bring myself to let my place in the brewery go. That was also the time that Matt and Gerard decided to move away from our OG Viking characters and pursue a new creative direction with the labels. Luckily for me.

Did you enjoy the creative freedom Range gave you?

Yep, I was 23/24 and I was in charge of an entire company’s visual identity. It’s not that I could do whatever I wanted, but more it was me presenting ideas to my managers and working with them as opposed to me taking orders. Much more proactive design as opposed to reactive, which for someone who was still technically a Junior Designer, was both the most exciting and most terrifying part.

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What’s the design process for you then?

Up until more recently, there hasn’t been much formal structure in the design process when compared to what I assume the normalities are for an in-house designer. We’re all learning as we’re going along and we are fortunate that we’ve been going in the right direction. However, the bigger we get, the more attention we’re paying to having a proper internal structure when it comes to the creative side of things. 

Is there any particular inspiration you pull from?

The cool thing about design is that your inspiration can come from literally anywhere. Obviously there are a lot of breweries and their designers that I follow closely, and it’s cool to constantly check-in and see what other people in the industry are doing and what we can get away with. I think everyone is realising that a beer can is essentially just a weirdly shaped canvas and there’s really no limit (legal limits notwithstanding) to what you can do on there. An important part of our brewery is to forever explore and forever evolve. I do my best to embody this in our visual identity, so it’s helpful to keep a steadily evolving collection of inspirations. 

What’s in your creative toolbelt?

90% of the things that end up on a can go through Illustrator, Photoshop and/or Procreate. If it’s more of a geometric label it’ll be all Illustrator. If it’s something like Dripping In Green, it’ll be hand-painted in Procreate. 

Personally, I’m really into impressionist art and art that relies more on allusion, which is what I try and bring to the brand. But sometimes the design will be pretty obvious a replication of something, for example, Tax Invoice. Not much creative re-interpretation there, as we wanted it to look as tax-invoicey as possible. But for most of our beers I like to lean more towards what I imagine the mood or the atmosphere of that beer, in particular, would be. Starting with the name of the beer really helps.

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Do you come up with the names?

All the good ones. 

Is there anyone else you reach out to in the brewery for creative help?

Definitely Gerard and Matt. They have final what goes on the can so if they have feedback I will always take that and evolve the design based on what they’ve said. I’m always getting feedback and ideas from everyone at Range as everyone has good ideas and will send them my way. I’ll try and use them as a starting point or steer the design towards those directions.

Do you get feedback from outside the brewery?

I don’t think many people know who is behind the work here, so if I get any feedback it’s indirectly. It’s not that I’m some big mystery, but just because I’m an in-house designer and my actual name isn’t tacked on to the bottom of every design. This is a common thing I think though; there are quite a few breweries whose artwork I adore but struggle to find the artist behind it. I guess it makes it hard for people to deliver comments directly if they don’t know where to send it to, but a lot of the feedback we do get is filtered back to me through other staff (which I love!). 

Do you think that’s changing?

I’m getting a little more via Instagram as people become aware of who to address. There are some lovely people that when they see one of our beers in a post will tag (@chvrcoal) and I really like that. I think that’ll slowly open up more conversations if anyone has questions or wants to generally just talk about our industry. If more people know how to get in touch, I think that’s really valuable. 

Do you think there’s a bit of healthy competition?

Personally, if I see someone else has done good work, then I automatically feel like I have to up my game a little, no matter what. But I assume it’s the same everywhere, and it’s always a mix of healthy competition and wanting your brand/business to be doing the best that it can be.

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How was your beer knowledge before Range?

Abysmal. I had to ask Matt what an IPA was. He laughed at me. Three years later I understand why he laughed at me. I’ve picked up a lot more than I thought I would. In the beginning, we were displaying all of the hops, yeast, malt etc on our cans so I learnt a lot very quickly. Before Range, I had no idea that this career existed so I didn’t come into the industry with any background knowledge or any specific passion for beer. That might sound bad, but working here has now given me that passion for beer. 

What’s your favourite type of beer? 

It used to be a cool answer – DDH IPAs – but now I mainly drink pale ales. Hit me with that low ABV. 

Which is your favourite Range beer?

That’s an impossible question. I remember a few years ago, a few of us [staff] were drinking in the taproom before a gig, and we had just released Participation Award which was a beer brewed with Mr Banks (@mrbanksbeer) and Mr West (@mrwestbar). It was an Oat Cream Double IPA and I had a small taster glass of it and was absolutely blown away. I didn’t know what an Oat Cream was back then but there were so many flavours and it was smooth and creamy. That was the first time it actually clicked in my head where I was like “Oh s**t! Beer is actually a whole world.” It’s truly an art form.

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What else do you like to drink?

Wine, whisky, and tequila. 

Is there a particular label you’re proud of? 

I am really proud of the third birthday beers. That was a step out of our normal aesthetic but it’s a step I took because I want to steer us a little bit in that direction and it was a good way to debut/test the waters. There was a lot of time dedicated to third birthday artwork when there’s only a few days to a week for a set of labels. I think it paid off, I really like them and I think they fell in line with what we were hoping to do for our birthday releases as a concept. Not going to lie, the knowledge that the respective designers at each of the breweries we collaborated with were probably going to see my work was a big motivator in making everything as perfect as possible.

Are there any labels on the cutting room floor that didn’t make it that you wish did?

I know there are definitely some but I can’t think of any off the top of my head. It’s not often I’ll have to dump entire concepts. I prefer to keep trying and make things work. I’m not a perfect machine that spits out labels. I misstep some of the time but it’s fine, you learn just as much from your mistakes as your successes. 

Do you have any ambitious designs in the works?

You’ll have to stay tuned to find out. 

Is there anything you want to add or say to our followers?

Come say hi to me, don’t be shy! I’m keen to get more feedback from everyone, good or bad. I will also never not get a little hit of serotonin when I see a little 👍 or ❤️ on a design that we’ve released. I’ll always think “Thank you!, I did it for you, beautiful beer drinkers of the world.” 😉

You can follow Jess’s work on instagram via @chvrcoal