There's not many people I think of when I think of beautiful beers, however, most of the ones I do are Scandinavian. There's a real appreciation of design, arts and creativity up there with beautiful public sculptures and museums celebrating history and culture. I've spent time in both Sweden and Norway, and loved the feel of them. Gothenburg was a personal favourite, showcasing architecture and nature perfectly intertwined creating a general feeling of peace.
Maybe a week or so ago, I tasked myself to think of the most beautiful beers I could based on the artwork on the can or bottle. To Øl were first on the list. I'd researched Kasper before and seen his website, a combination of so many mediums with each being as interesting as it was diverse. A personal favourite was various fast foods thrown onto a photocopier and scanned. I had to get in contact with him to ask him some questions, and he was kind enough to respond!
Who are you and what is your position?
My name is Kasper Ledet. I am the graphic designer and art director at Danish gypsy brewery To Øl and the brewpub BRUS. I shoot a lot of photos that I use in my work accompanied by typography and abstract illustration.
When did your interest in graphic design/art begin?
I have always been drawing and building provisional structures in my parents backyard. I did a lot of music in my early teens which me and my friends published on some tapes and CDs on our own. I found out that I was much better at designing the covers then actually making the music. The artwork seemed to be my favourite part of the process so I guess that was when I really got into graphic design.
Did you study an artistic qualification?
No not really. I’m pretty much self-taught when it comes to graphic design. I studied urban planning and landscape for one and half year at the School of Architecture before dropping out. I guess that I learned that I should not become an architect and that working in an architectural office was not an option either. I really hate making 3D drawings on the computer, building models and doing hundreds of sketches. It was all too laborious and slow. Architecture is however a big inspiration for my work in graphic design. I use a lot of photography in my work that deals with central themes in architecture like scale, context, landscape and urbanity. I do also consider graphic design and architecture to be a part of the same whole that could maybe just be described as design or the act of shaping your environment. Conservatively graphic design is regarded as being purely a two dimensional exercise while architecture is tactile and three dimensional. I do think that the relationship between the two is much more complex. In graphic design you often deal with various spatial challenges and architecture is also about creating icons or images through the build environment. Conservatively graphic design is regarded as operating on a much smaller scale than architecture but a piece of printed material produced in several hundred thousand copies distributed all over the world could be considered as being much greater in scale than a building limited to a single location.
How do you feel Art and Beer are interconnected?
I think it is important to distinguish between mainstream breweries and craft breweries. Mainstream breweries like Carlsberg, Heineken or Budweiser has a rather limited range of beers which they then produce again and again. These breweries relies on huge sales which in turn calls for some quite conservative artwork with an emphasis on recognition and coherence. Craft breweries usually have much larger portfolios of beers. It also seems that the customers of craft beer are much more willing to accept experimentation. They actually expect it. This means that the world of craft beer is rich in various styles and approaches to creating artworks. Drinking a beer is an abstract experience, a lot like music. It is actually hard to describe with words. The label should help stimulate this experience.
Is there any piece you’re particularly proud of?
There are several. To Øl has produced over 250 different beers. A part of the design concept of To Øl is that there is no design concept so the artwork for all of these beers are different. Furthermore there has been produced all kinds of merchandise and marketing materials like posters, t-shirts, growlers, websites and glasses. All those items also features different artworks. Needless to say not all of these artworks are equally good and successful. The open approach of not having any style guide or design system means that you sometimes creates something brilliant, something terrible or something mediocre. This results in a somewhat incoherent output but in turn makes room for a great deal of experimentation and playfulness that i value very highly. Here I will just focus on one design that I find particularly successful.
Stress Test 33cl Baltic Porter.
The design consists of various graphic elements known from car crash studies. They are a reference to the name of the beer. These elements is placed with a lot of white empty space in between. Actually most of the label is empty. The beer is a about how far you can push a larger strain of yeast. For the artwork I wanted to see how far I could push emptiness. I think it is safe to say that such a label would never had been possible at a mainstream brewery. Most packaging design seems very concerned with filling every inch of the surface with images and information. There is something liberating about doing very little visually, making small almost insignificant gestures. It is not about big bold statements and flashy images. The design is instead focusing on the minute detail, the negative space and a composition that almost isn't there.
What is your approach to a new project?
I don’t really have any standardised approach. I guess it varies a lot. Sometimes it is really clear is which direction the project should be going other times it requires a lot of conceptualization. This is indeed also true for To Øl. When it comes to designing a label for a new beer we usually start out by talking and debating what is special about this certain beer and what should be highlighted. Sometimes I do some sketches by hand, sometimes I start out by writing something or maybe turn to art history for inspiration. The process also differs a lot. Some designs requires eight or nine drafts before they are done while others are just perfect in the first take. I have learned that it is really hard to judge your own work when you have just created it. You need some time and distance to truly understand it. This is rarely possible before the design is handed in because of tight deadlines. I find it really meaningful to revisit old designs and maybe write or talk about them.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to work in graphic design?
Study some art history and be a good generalist. Don’t just read design and art magazines or blogs. Take interest in things outside of the arts. That definitely helps to improve your work.
We'd like to give a HUGE thank you to Kasper for answering our questions! Check out some more of his designs below.
Grab yourself some of Kasper's beautifully designed beers at: https://to-ol.dk/shop/