Left Handed Giant are one of the rising stars in the UK craft beer scene. We’ve started getting more of their beers in Belfast recently and we’ve been blown away, both by the quality of the beer but also the stunning branding which made them stand out when filling our basket.
In the burgeoning craft beer scene, it’s vital to stand out from the crowd. Left Handed Giant do just that, with their whimsical, beautiful artwork. They’re probably the most visually impressive cans in the UK right now so we were super excited to chat to James Yeo, the artist behind the artwork, to find out more about their creative process.
In case any of our readers don’t know you, can you tell us a little about yourself?
My name’s James Yeo, I live in Bristol and I’m the Creative Manager and illustrator for Left Handed Giant. I’m in charge of the general look and feel of the brand.
How did you get involved with Left Handed Giant?
I was studying marketing, advertising and branding at the University of Gloucestershire and working part time at Small Bar in Bristol. During my third year I was writing my dissertation on the way that packaging design (primarily can and bottle labels) affects the way that people see craft beer brands. Bruce and Jack who run Small Bar and LHG were kind enough to help me gather data.
As I was getting ready to hand in my paper, Jack asked me to sit down with him and discuss working with LHG. I worked for Small Bar for over a year, then moved to the brewery a week after handing in my dissertation. When I joined, the guys were preparing to leave cuckoo brewing behind and install their own kit in St Philips in Bristol. I spent a couple of months driving kegs around and eventually I was given the opportunity to try and do a rebrand which is how I ended up doing what I’m doing.
Were you always a big beer fan?
I’ve been into beer ever since my wife and I travelled to the US in 2012; we came back and immediately started trying to find the same quality of beer in the UK.
What’s the creative process at LHG? Do you name the beers or are you given a name to illustrate?
We’ve gone through a couple of iterations of naming beers but now we’ve got to a place where I’ll do a quick run around the brewery and see if anyone has any names they like, then I’ll put together a list of about five and between us we’ll choose one. Then I run with that as the basis of the illustration.
Do you draw using good old pen and paper or is it a digital process?
Generally, I will take a while to think about the name, then I try to talk to the guys in the brewery and make sure the label matches up to the beer inside. Then it honestly changes from label to label, sometimes something comes to me straight away, sometimes it takes a couple of days.
I have as of yet only worked in one medium, straight onto my computer. I work in a mixture of Adobe Illustrator and a drawing program called Autodesk Sketchbook Pro. In future, I’d love to expand the range of mediums I work with.
How many beers have you illustrated?
It is currently somewhere around 35, that’s including some unreleased stuff.
You put your father-in-law on a can once, right? How did that come about?
Interestingly that beer has just been re-brewed and is set to be released over the next couple of weeks. That was actually my wife’s idea, I was struggling to come up with a label design for the beer Compulsory Fun, an IPA we brewed with DEYA and Magic Rock. Alan (my father-in-law) loves beer and she thought it would be the perfect Christmas present for him.
I felt that this would be a perfect label for him, a guy who loves beer and is non-plussed by social situations. We’d recently been to our Niece’s birthday party and this was essentially what we were both like the entire day. He loved it, we wrapped him up a six-pack for Christmas and a couple of days later he sent me a framed picture of the label!
What’s been your favourite design so far that you’ve created?
I have a couple… one that has just come out, called More Glow. It’s a bright yellow background with big smiling face on it; the face has been duplicated in both red and blue to give it the look of an old-school 3D image. I wanted to play with something super simple and bright but something maybe a little more abstract.
I also really love the Twilight City Grid and Sunset City Grid labels. Those label designs cover the entirety of the can – there is a bunch of very small details in there as well as some secret stuff – if you get the two cans and hold them side by side, they are the same cityscape but with little differences peppered throughout!
We recently interviewed Nanna from Lervig and she said she was a huge fan of your work! Who inspires you?
Nanna is great! I just got back from Copenhagen and managed to briefly catch up with her at MBCC which was nice. The work she is doing at Lervig is great! Other than her, I really love the work that Evan M Cohen is putting out for Hudson Valley, specifically the designs he has done for Multichorus and the way he links cans together like the work he did with Apotheosis and Babylon.
Obviously, the guys down in the brewery also do an amazing job, it’s very easy to create good artwork when the beer is so great!
We also chatted to Nicci Peet; Twilight City Grid was one of her recent favourite beers – have you worked with Nicci?
Nicci is a very good friend to the brewery! She photographed us as part of a photography project she was putting on for Bristol Beer Week, last year. I’m going to hopefully get her in at some point to do a label for us, just need to find the right beer for it!
What’s your favourite LHG beer?
My favourite beer we brew for cans is probably either 100% Entertainment or Dot Matrix, but my all-time favourite beer we’ve brewed is Black Angus Port Barrel Edition. It’s a 9.1% Imperial Smoked Milk Stout thats aged in port barrels – a massive beer.
…and your favourite non-LHG beer?
That’s a tough one, there’s so much amazing beer around at the moment. Pressure Drop’s Bosko is a beer that I always grab if I ever see it, it doesn’t get down to Bristol very often though.
How do you feel about pizza? Any local pizzerias you’d recommend?
When it comes to pizza in Bristol we are spoiled for choice but I’d have to say Mission Pizza are the ones for me, not only do they grace our taproom with their presence most Fridays but they also do the most ridiculous vegan and veggie pizzas going.
Maybe you could incorporate a pizza slice into some artwork in the future, just an idea…
I mean we’ve put a guy with a burger for a head on a label, so anything is possible at this point!
— Bottles And Books (@BottlesBooks) December 22, 2017