Robot Food's brand evolution for Vocation Brewery pays homage to the craft beer movement

Robot Food has created a new brand positioning and visual identity for independent brewery, Vocation. The Leeds studio has been working with the team since it was founded in 2015. Its new look marks a fresh chapter for the brand, as it cements its place as one of the pioneers of craft beer.

The new packaging uses impactful bold colours and illustrations, brimming with personality to reflect each beer. While the confident branding system unites the range and celebrates the "committed, passionate spirit of Vocation’s team and its drinkers," so Robot Food explains.

The Leeds studio has been working with the brand since it launched six years ago, developing its initial branding and giving it the name we see today. "When we first created the brand it was a startup: now they're one of the biggest brands in UK craft," says Simon Forster, founder and executive creative director at Robot Food.

"The craft category is ever-growing and it's still quite noisy," adds Rich Robinson, Robot Food senior designer. "Vocation wanted to become better established in the on-trade bar scene, so it was about striking a balance between being brand focused and keeping its craft sensibility at the same time."

Up until recently, the can designs championed the beers' names rather than the brewery's, as "they’ve always been beer first," explains Robot Food. But with the brewery's aim to sell more on-trade, it became important that Vocation had a branding system that united its offer and amplified brand recognition everywhere the beer was sold.

"If there was a new special on tap, people wouldn't make the connection between Vocation and the Life & Death they'd seen in the supermarket. The brand was getting a bit lost," says Ben Brears, Robot Food strategic design director. "Part of the challenge was building a bigger brand in the craft beer category, where people are a bit suspicious of big brands: it had to be more prominent, but keep all that excitement, fun and difference of craft beer."

And so the new designs "simplify and amplify", an approach Robot Food is proud to often use, with a fresh wordmark that acts as the primary logo across all brand communications, and a typographic style that pays homage to the brand's Yorkshire roots with its heavy weighting and visual nods to industrial lettering.

The studio has also moved the brand away from its former black core range cans with new packs that use impactful bold colours and illustrations, to add to each beers' own distinct personality. A new 'Vocation V' brand icon is used to support the wordmark and create a frame for the packaging illustrations.

Away from packaging, the 'V' icon is set be used to create visual impact, acting as a background piece to help product photography pop, as an example. The colours used on each can are based on the previous design's typography to aid the shift. "There's a familiarity, but as everything's evolved the brand's become bigger and stronger," says Robinson. "We didn't rip up the rule book—we just upped the weighting."

The designs use a bespoke, specially commissioned cut of the font Hebden, created by Lewis McGuffie based on Victorian train station signage in the area, in a nod to the brewery's Yorkshire location. Robot Food also created a separate architecture for the designs of specials and limited-edition beers to allow for flexibility as new variants launch, while keeping the Vocation brand at the forefront. The brand tone of voice, meanwhile, is "confident, ambitious and authoritative, but thoroughly down to earth", tipping its hat to Vocation's bold flavours and quality.

The new designs have been rolled out across all touchpoints including packaging, out-of-home campaign materials, digital and social, merchandise such as t-shirts and hats, glassware, in-bar and outdoor promotion such as beer mats, umbrellas and tap lenses.