Construction workers discovered a metal shoe like box at a site near Kingussie in the Cairngorms, Scotland. Inside they found a newspaper from 1894, a paper scroll and a whiskey bottle – still full.

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It has not been confirmed whether this is a branded whiskey or a personal bottle, and taste tests of the 121-year-old spirit have yet to be conducted.

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All jokes aside, this is a pretty amazing discovery. What we found particularly interesting is how the structure of this whiskey bottle oddly resembles the iconic Absolut bottle. Time has passed and the world has advanced in so many ways, but regardless of the seemingly endless push for innovation, this structure has remained key for packaging and experiencing spirits.

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From a branding point of view, it begs the questions – what makes this structure so iconic? Is this structure something that we are simply used to and expect or does it appeal to us on a deeper, subconscious level? And how do we do it again? How do we capture the essence of iconic?

Almost every brand out there wants to achieve iconic status, but at the end of the day, there is no exacting science or philosophy to follow. Becoming an iconic brand is not a formulaic process, but rather the result of an inspired, magic moment with several factors dovetailing together – a fantastic product that people love, packaging that is striking and functional, and a meaningful message that resonates. To bring these forces together takes smarts, guts, inspiration and a little touch of magic.

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All the findings from the time-capsule been donated to the Highland Folk Museum in Newton.

Courtesy The New Yorker.

The World Beer Awards wasn’t exactly what I expected. A celebration of the very best internationally recognized beer styles, the annual taste event selects, awards and promotes the ‘World’s Best Beers’ to consumers and the trade.

While the competition primarily focuses on taste, the brands are also judged on their label design. I had the privilege to serve on the panel for this category last Wednesday.

Coming from the design world (and being a keen beer lover), it was a real thrill to see and taste a wide range of leading and challenger beer brands from around the globe. As each region takes a unique and different approach to expressing its identity, it was an excellent source of inspiration. While the event clearly targets and attracts brewery companies who want to put their products’ taste to the test, I think there’s a missed opportunity here in putting more focus on recognising branding and design as a powerful asset in building a successful beer brand, especially when in competition to find the World’s Best.

While there were definitely star brands with truly inspired and category-breaking visual identities, there was also a sea of sameness. Regrettably, this was particularly true in regards to British brands.

While our traditions anchor us to who were are, the refusal to evolve could leave us dusty and antiquated. Last week, the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) reported that 29 pubs a week are closing across the UK. This should serve as a warning. If British beer brands want to not only survive, but thrive, they are going to need to start working a bit harder to generate some excitement and movement in the beer category.

However, all is not lost. The British are nothing if not resilient, especially when it comes to lager and ale. But the first thing we need to do is to recognise the design trends that are driving the market. Below are three key directions that are gaining momentum within the category.

Courtesy of Vinepair

Beer acting like Wine

There’s a global shift towards larger 75ml bottles, made for sharing and pairing with food. This is reflected in the design with simple, understated visual cues that offer a more sophisticated note than traditional beer bottles.

First World Problems Stewart Brewing, Eastern Scotland
            First World Problems, Stewart Brewing, Eastern Scotland

A Break from the Beer Badge

There’s a noticeable break from beer brand “badge” – usually a circular holding shape smack centre on the front of the bottle. Instead, brands are employing the entire surface area of the bottle as a canvas for the visual brand expression as opposed to keeping within category conventions. For example, some brands were using medieval paintings in their eclectic designs while others used large abstract typography to illustrate their brand personality.

Brewery vs. Product

As breweries continue to innovate with exciting processes and flavours to create specialty craft beers, the product is being illuminated as the focus of attention rather than the brewery itself. Each unique beer becomes king in its own right as the brewery takes a back seat, allowing the beer to sell itself.

At the World Beer Awards, I saw some fantastic design work coming out from all over the world, with Canada and Japan in particular. Overall, the most exciting brands were the ones that owned their own aesthetic identity and enabled the bottle to reflect the vibrant and notable tastes inside. There are a few British brands that are succeeding in this way, such as Brewdog, Camden Town Brewery and BBNo (Brew By Numbers). But there is ample opportunity here for British beers to raise the bar and create impact on a global scale, leading the way in effective and engaging beer design.

About the Author:


  Hamish Shand


Associate Creative Director

A highly talented creative with a passion for brand world thinking, activation, and making our clients dream, Hamish has won several awards for his creativity across corporate, broadcasting and FMCG brands. Recent awards include a D&AD InBook award for his work on a super premium beer brand.

This week the official logo for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics was unveiled. Designed by graphic artist Kenjiro Sano, the logo is a celebration of Japanese culture and a symbol of togetherness. As a symbol of the most significant global event in the calendar, the design has quickly garnered attention and sparked debate in the design community. tokyo olympics 2020

For our part, we’re advocates and believe it is a strong, clean identity that succeeds as an emblematic celebration for both the Olympics and Japan. The design makes powerful use of the red circle making connections to the rising sun on Japan’s flag, the Olympic rings, and the world. The negative space elegantly transforms when used in the Paralympics logo into an equal sign, the universal symbol of acceptance. It would have been easy to overcook the red circle idea, but here it feels fresh. It is cleverly incorporated into the design to create the serifs and the holding shape of the T, further reinforcing the Team, Tomorrow, Tokyo idea. The red circle also has a sensory effect, alluding to the sound of the O’s in Tokyo.

tokyo olympic logos

The logo plays to a fine art sensibility, using abstract and minimalistic techniques that reflect a Japanese aesthetic. The design also harkens back to Tokyo’s 1964 Olympic logo, offering a small homage to tradition while being forward-facing. The logo also comes equipped with an animation, which breathes life into all of the elements of the seemingly static mark.

While critics feel the logo is too corporate and perhaps inaccessible to the general public, we see its dignified simplicity as a success. It builds a bridge between tradition and innovation, a fusion between East and West. Plus it’s a sophisticated shift change from the colourfully exuberant logos we’ve had in the past few Olympics years.

olympic logos

Seeing as how 2020 is five years away, we imagine a little controversy and debate to keep our eyes on Tokyo has been welcomed. What do you think of the new logo? Comment below or tweet us your thoughts @bluemarlin.

In a world where minimalism seems to be the preferred aesthetic, Icelandic born artist Kristjana S Williams shatters the mould with beautiful chaos. Her intricate, large-scale and three-dimensional works of art – as well as prints, wallpaper and furniture – flaunt bright vibrancy and eye-catching detail.

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The devil is truly in the detail with intricately crafted art pieces that evoke constant discovery and a sense of fantasy. Her wildly colourful and striking pieces centre on the symmetry of living things layered with paper, Victorian engravings, photographs, leaves, twigs and other miscellaneous objects.

d7058a_d3471617435b4439bb43e8be1bd35b6a.png_srz_p_571_386_75_22_0.50_1.20_0 Upon intimate viewing, one is drawn into an immersive and investigative experience discovering exotic creatures and curious features. Birds adorned with butterfly wings and owls parading with antlers live delightfully within her work.

img_2692_1024img_2690_1024Williams’ fascination with exotic atmospheres began at a young age in the grey and unforgiving landscape of Iceland, which sparked her thirst for colour and vibrancy.

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For modern art connoisseurs, Williams’ work is an exceptional and contrasting alternative to today’s standard beauty of clean and crisp lines and imagery.

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Kristjana Williams’ work has been featured in the Shanghai Exhibition Centre, The V&A London Design Festival as well as other galleries throughout the world. She has been well received in the art community winning the Dulux “Best Use of Colour” Award, a D&AD Award, a New York Festivals Grand Prix & First Prize, and she was shortlisted for the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity.

Commencement speeches are all the rage. Words of wisdom from JK Rowling to David Foster Wallace, from Steve Jobs to Jim Carrey seek to inspire, motivate and shed light to young adults ready to take on the world. These speeches are often humorous, sometimes dark, but most importantly illuminating.

Rousing snippets from these speeches tend to make the rounds on Facebook and Twitter feeds. While the target audience for these speeches are young grads starting out on their journeys, these speeches quite frequently resonate with those of us that have been on the journey for a bit longer. Those of us who have already taken that first leap and have too often been met with failure and disappointment.

Sometimes it is difficult when you’re deep in the processes of life to not get caught up in the process. One year, three years, or ten years into a career, it can be easy to fall into a trap of comfort and conformity, way off track from the blazing path from which we set off. These speeches serve as reminders of our deeper purposes for those of us who have been met with doubt, fear or frustrations along the way. They have the power to realign our focus to our original intent – to take the world by storm, make our mark, change the world.

mellody hobson graduation speech

One such commencement speech that we found particularly relevant is Mellody Hobson’s recent speech for USC. President of Chicago-based Ariel Investments and one of the most prominent African-American women in finance, her 21 minute speech implored graduates to remember 3 simple words: Just. Add. Bravery.

She urges grads to ‘push beyond the boundaries that hold us back from living the lives that we want,’ reminding us to step outside of our comfort zones and have the courage to expand our worlds. She aptly demonstrates that the key to reaching success, creativity and happiness is to combine bravery with hard work, imagination and love. Bold words to live by.

So it happens that in today’s world all of us can always access a wellspring of inspiration, vision and the simple push that we may have forgotten or missed at the start of our journey.

Watch Hobson’s full 21 minute speech below.

Veggie-loving, health-conscious moms get excited because the experts in healthy meals just made it a whole lot easier to feed your family. Amy's Drive Thru Amy’s Kitchen announced that they would be taking their retail brand into the fast food arena with the same commitment of “selling great-tasting vegetarian food.” The vegetarian drive-thru will prepare all of its non-GMO, egg and peanut-free products onsite whilst offering vegan and gluten-free options. The vast majority of the quick and healthy drive-thru options, like pizza, meat-free hamburgers and burritos, will be organic, locally sourced and competitively priced. amy's drive thru choices This is an exciting step for the brand that started in 1987 when founders Andy and Rachel Berliner were searching for quick and natural meals to feed their young daughter, Amy, and others who appreciated good, homemade vegetarian food. Their first product, a vegetarian pot pie, was an immediate success and the retail brand grew from one frozen pie to 200 frozen meals and a line of canned goods. amy's drive thru burrito amyssalad1 As modern consumer trends are increasingly shifting towards health-consciousness, fast food spots like McDonald’s, Taco Bell and Wendy’s have responded by offering a few healthy food items as a secondary part of their menu. Amy’s Drive-Thru will effortlessly differentiate itself since healthy, convenient and organic food choices sit at the core of their business. amy's drive thru pizza amy's drive thru burger Amy’s Drive Thru also plans to center their infrastructure on a sustainable and environmentally healthy building. The restaurant will have a living roof with drought resistant, local plants, which will reduce energy needs and take in some of that extra CO2. The furnishings will also be constructed from recycled materials, adding to the appeal for a hungry vegetarian on the go. amy's drive thru site plan Several fast food chains have made the leap into retail, but Amy’s Kitchen seems to be one of the first retail brands to take the leap into the fast food category, and they seem certain to shake up the traditional approach to eating on the go. We racked our brains and couldn’t think of any other fast food restaurants that began in retail. Can you think of any? Tweet us @bluemarlin to let us know.

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Out and about in Chelsea last week, we happened upon this colourfully pop-tastic storefront. On display in the window inviting all to salivate, were rows of scrumptiously gorgeous, magnificently hand-crafted eclairs. This is Maître Choux and it’s sure to be the next big thing in sweet treats.
maitre choux

Founded by three Michelin-starred chef Joakim Prat, Maître Choux succeeds in indulging multiple senses at once. The playful yet sophisticated pop-art concept is echoed in the packaging and interior design, and reflects a modern and accessible French aesthetic. Though éclairs are a staple in any French bakery, this is a distinctly London shop and by relegating the menu to these few items, owner Prat proves himself not just as a master of baking these delicacies, but as the name suggests, a true pastry artist. His éclairs command attention and are unsurprisingly delicious, perfect as a sweet indulgence that also works as a luxurious gift, as they are almost too pretty to eat. Almost.

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As visually stunning as they are delicious, the éclairs, choux and chouquettes baked in this store are little pieces of art. They aren’t the ordinary chocolate éclairs that you’d find in the traditional pâtisserie, but rather, these delicious delicacies have been updated with unique flavours such as Tahitian vanilla, pistachio, Spanish raspberry, salted caramel, and tiramisu. Just like the pastries, the brand identity takes a modern twist on the classic French bakery, striking a perfect balance between fancy and fun.
maitre choux eclairs

As our obsession for these vibrantly elegant éclairs began to blossom, we thought about the last time a pretty little dessert got our pulse racing. Not much of a mystery there. Can you say cupcakes?

DSC_1136-1The craze for beautifully decorated tiny cakes took the world by storm with bakeries exclusively selling cupcakes popping up all over the place. With Sprinkles in Los Angeles, Magnolia in New York, and Hummingbird Bakery in London, they were the hottest thing in baked goods. But has the gourmet cupcake trend lost its sweetness? The closing of New York City-based Crumbs Back Shop Inc. last year would suggest so.

A Crumbs cupcake shop sits empty on Federal Street Tuesday, July 8, 2014, in Boston. Crumbs says it is shuttering all of its stores a week after the struggling cupcake shop operator was delisted from the Nasdaq. (AP Photo Stephan Savoia)

There are many theories on what led to the end of cupcake mania from them being too expensive to problems of having a single-product shop. But maybe it’s simply a matter of people desiring something different to hit the sweet spot. In the world of everyday luxury, consumers are looking for indulgences that will delight but not break the bank. If a brand plans to thrive in this dynamic space, to transcend being a trend and become a staple of sweet tidings, it will need to learn from these mistakes. Could Maître Choux’s éclairs be the next sweetest thing? Only time will tell, but we certainly hope so.

joakim prat

Here founder and three Michelin-starred chef Joakim Prat, shows off éclairs fresh out of the oven. Maître Choux has has already seen a range of success, including recent catering events for fashion line launches and Damien Hirst’s 50th birthday party.

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