Once Upon A Time, I Designed A Drink Coaster

Once Upon A Time, I Designed A Drink Coaster

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Beer Necks

Have you ever won something? Well once upon a time, late back last year I entered a state wide design competition here in Australia and I won 2nd place (you can see the coaster design below) and it made me feel so good winning, not because of the prize money ($500) but because of the recognition (there was a ceremony and everything) that I just had to enter it again this year but this time I am going for gold!

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But before you get onto me about designing for spec (something I am strongly against) I entered this design competition for a good cause… it was to promote the dangers of alcohol in our state and our designs were to be distributed right across NSW (our state).

The Brief

Anyway, the brief was to create a drink coaster that explored the issues related with the usage of alcohol. We had no other guidelines except the dimensions of the coaster (95mm diameter) and that it was to be directed towards 18 to 25 year olds – the rest was up to us.

The Design That Won in 2007

Below you can see the design that got me 2nd place last year… my typography skills have improved since then, so please, no judging… I believe I got the prize due to the concept not the execution, after all the purpose of design is to communicate and I believe this coaster gets the message across loud and clear. What are your thoughts?

The Process

For this years competition, I had a total of about 7 hours to get my design completed as I had to express post the design to their office before the deadline. I only had this amount of time because I have just returned from my holiday and couldn’t do it before then.

Anyway, after some brainstorming and rough sketching I finally came to an idea I liked. I then did a sketch of the proposed design (see left below) which I then scanned into the computer and then hand traced in Illustrator (see right below). I probably would have drawn and traced the letters a bit better if I had more time, but time was not on my side, however, in saying this I was still happy with the outcome.

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Sketch To Trace

After this I coloured the words in eye catching red colours (they are slightly different tones of red) and placed the bottle onto a black background.

Red To Black

I then had to choose a slogan to go alongside the coaster of which I finally came down to the slogan “Take A Closer Look”. One must remember that the simpler the message, the easier it is to communicate. I then played around with locations of where to put the tag which you can see below.

Youth Week Coaster Locations

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I ended up using the one that you can see on the bottom right as I believed it was the strongest – what is your opinion?

After a few test prints and tweaking I was ready to create the back of the coaster however I will not cover the process of the back cover here.

The font I used on the final design was Helvetica Neau 87 Heavy Condensed.

Below you can see the final designs, both front and back.

Youth Week Coaster Design 2008

Youth Week Coaster 2008 Back

As always, constructive criticism and questions are welcome.

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34 thoughts on “Once Upon A Time, I Designed A Drink Coaster”

  1. I think it’s great. I like the use of space and typography. The squished word idea made into an object has been done before, but what hasn’t in design nowadays?

  2. Just capitalize the text on the back, put the dots at the end, and I think is ready for a ® right in the bottom right corner of the bottle! =)


    This message hits close to home for me, many of my family members are/were alcoholics, and I feel people these days take everything, not just alcohol, to the extreme(as some of the comments here can attest).

    As far as the design, the front is spot on fantastic. I feel the weakest point in the design is the back. It just doesn’t feel as powerful as the message on the front. I think the background takes away from the text, and that it should just be plain black. Also, the font just doesn’t seem to work for me at least. Maybe you could find another way to lay it out other than with bullets, they just break up the flow that you sort of achieved with the slight shrinking in size as it goes down.

    Just my opinion, and I reall just want to say thank you. Things like this, making powerful statements, is what got me into graphic design, and has kept me going.


  4. I think it looks great. When I saw the text in the bottle, it made me look away and then looked closer to decode the text. It seems like the typography and its negative space work well together.

    The other side though could use some simplification. I think it should be Alcohol Abuse, not just alcohol (There’s nothing drinking in moderation, but that is another topic). Instead of 12 bullets, just use 3 or 4 and if this was a freelance job, you could use different color variations along with the other bullets that you included in the original.

  5. I love it. Of course there are tiny adjustments that would only be noticed by another designer. Aside from that, the colors really pop against the black background and the design actually does what it says…forces you to take a closer look. It draws you in. The back is also good. It draws the eye down with the decrease in type size giving the reader a “never ending” feeling. The design serves its intention well. I also challenge anyone to find something that hasn’t been done before.

  6. Again I would agree that nothing is totaly unique anymore. It is very hard, nearly impossible to design something that is new. today’s designs are mainly taking current design and re-designing that idea to suit a modern lifestyle better.

    As for this beer mat design, I think its a real winner, You’ve obviously got your head in the game as you designed that pretty quickly without sleeping on it 🙂

    A big well done is in order

  7. I don’t like the winning design that much.. It seems to me that it has already been done too many times.
    About your design, I like it, although it was hard at the beggining to understand all the words inside the bottle I find them clear now after looking at them a little longer.

    Susanas last blog post..Determine the colors applied through CSS in a webpage

  8. Off the bat, I can honestly say I love the front. The blurby text inside the bottle is easy enough to distinguish at a quick glance, but still keeps you trying to decipher the bottom half of the words (which is good, cause I am more focused on the advertisement itself).

    There are a few things (not that it is bad by any measure) that bother me on the back. First off the bullet points, not capitalized bother me… and secondly the indentation. I would assume you broke up the indentation to give the back a little less of a linear feel, and it does just that.

    All in all, looks great. Good job!

  9. what a way to kill a buzz! LOL

    I don’t think bar owners would ever use these though, not good for business 🙂

    modemloopers last blog post..MoPhoTo Is For Photographers

  10. The final result looks great, indeed. Of course it has already been done before many times, but you added personality to it.

    The only thing that bothers me is the fact that the illustration is not quite well finished. But I’m sure it’s because of lack of time. So, congrats!!!


    Claudia Reginas last blog post..Quando usar e quando não usar Flash

  11. I love this design and the context. Great job. Did you ever make any last changes before entering it?

  12. Terrific design; I’m really liking this. 🙂 The cramped text in the bottle is a great way to grab the viewer’s attention and convey the concept.

    I do agree with Kenny that the back side could use simplification. It seems like the message would be just as strong with fewer points and it would be easier to read in a low-light environment. Maybe create a long list that completely fills the backside in a small font and then have a magnifying glass overlay this and enlarge some of the points? That would also reinforce the “Take a closer look.” slogan.

    Good luck in the contest and let us all know how it goes! 😀

  13. Mirko,
    Time to time 🙂 Hehe but I really can’t speak coming back from that trip but it is good that people be aware of the dangers.

    It only came 2nd, but I guess that the concept was stronger than the other designs, even if it has been done enough.

    I suppose that it made you look closer to find all the words? 😉 The slight colour differentiation made it a tad easier too.

    Glad it held your attention. Yes the indentations were changed on purpose, and also moved to not be exactly inline with each other. It looked too static otherwise. But thanks for your feedback!

    That is true, everything is just being reinvented.

    Thanks Liam.

    Hehe not all bar owners, but I can imagine places such as RSLs (Retired Servicemen’s League) using them as well as a few other places.

    When you say capitalise the text, which text were you referring to? All of it or just the heading or what? And put the dots on the end of what? Sorry want to make it clear.

    Glad that you felt so strongly about it and thank you for your feedback. The back to be honest I did not spend as much time on as the front as you can probably tell however I still believe it is strong. However in saying that, there is always room for improvement and your suggestions are great.

    Yeah lack of time was pretty much the reason however I still believe it is strong… but not as much as it could have been.

    Thanks for your praise, and yeah different colour variations could have worked however I think red was the most eye catching and it does symbolise danger. Regarding simplification, my teachers always use to say that it’s about what you can take away from the design, not what you add to it that matters.

    Great summary Cynthia – hit the nail on its head.

    I agree with you, everything is being rehashed in one way or another… just like fashion. Thanks for your praise as well.

    Nice suggestion with the magnifying glass and thanks for your praise as well!

    Nope, no last changes, I did this post after I sent it out. I actually made the design with square corners rather than curved though.

    Thank you for your comments and yeah it does remind me of the 70s… have you seen that James Brown poster? http://www.gigposters.com/poster/76604_James_Brown.html

  14. I’m not surprised you did so well with your first entry, because the concept really is very good. I like the second entry too, and I think you chose the right layout option for the front. The crammed text in the bottle has a groovy 70s retro style which seems to be very popular right now which, for design which probably changes seasonally, is a good thing – especially for the audience you’re designing for. Nice work.

    Tracey Gradys last blog post..When RSS doesn’t play nice

  15. What a wonderful design u did.I really like it.It seems very simple yet very strong work.I get inspired by ur work.I like ur ideas as well.They work colour and composition wise.Keep it up.


  16. Yeah, nice work Jacob! I do really like the concept…the bubble lettering smashed up like is a style that is being used a lot lately, but I like your use of it for the purpose.

    It is definitely eye catching and attention grabbing, and because of that it really works.

    Having the word “death” at the very end of the list of words is pretty morbid but effective! 🙂

    Brian Yerkess last blog post..My Trip – Ireland / Italy and some graphic design

  17. Good job in such a short space of time Jacob. The front is spot-on, maybe with a few minor modifications to letter shapes, but other than that I think you went with the right layout. One way to solve the static bullet list problem may be to list them with the bullets echoing the bottle shape. Do you know what I mean?

  18. I can definitely appreciate the message, as one of my major causes is alcohol and substance abuse.

    Believe it or not, my favorite part of your second design is the different shades of red. I guess I notice little weird things like that.

    Erikas last blog post..Miami Web Design

  19. The last design contest I entered I took second place and about $3,000 in prizes. I usually enter contests for the chance to win things I could never afford myself, like Adobe CS. I also enjoy the challenge, as I talked about in one of my blog posts, Challenge the Talent.

  20. Angesom,
    Thank you very much!

    Thank you!

    Thank you for your words, glad it was well received.

    Steve O,
    Yeah I believe some of the letter shapes could have done with more work and I think the layout was the correct one also. That is a good idea with the bullets echoing the bottle shape!

    Yeah the different shades of red slightly differentiate the different words from each other.

    Well done with the $3000. The most I have won is $500 but this year they have doubled the prize money. 1st prize is $2000 and second prize is now $1000. I used the money from my last 3 won comps to buy my new computer / monitor.

  21. I just bought a new monitor, too. LG W2252TQ 22″ widescreen. She’s a beauty. What did you get?

  22. Oooh i like both of them but of course the first one was simple. The second I love for the concept.. although I found the words just a lllleettle bit hard to read.

  23. The winner from last year is a design that has been done over and over and over again. But sometimes that is what it takes to win a contest, give the judges something they are comfortable with.

    As for your design, i definitely am intrigued by it, but I wonder if anyone who was actually drinking would be able to read it. The letters are kind of squished together, and even sober I am having a bit of trouble deciphering the various words which you have strung together.

    I guess like the other commenter said, the fact that it is hard to read may actually make people pick it up and look closer.

    Also…if I were a bar owner, I wouldnt mind using these coasters. Having worked in bars I know often the problem is not getting patrons to drink more, but dealing with them when they drink too much.

  24. Joey,
    Probably if I had time I would have redone the letters to make them a bit easier to read however time was not on my side in this particular case but I also think it does work for the design as well.

  25. Jacob, job well done. What I love the most is that your design is instinctive. We designers can forget that there is a great deal of psychology involved and that great design has to sell, inform or impact or its just a pretty picture. I love what you’ve done. The back gives you a great example of what it can be like trying to read when you’ve been drinking. The illustration shouldn’t be easily or quickly read as criticized above. It shouldn’t be spot on perfect. It should draw you in, which it does. It sends a very clear message, that alcohol is not to be abused and when abused, things become quite blurred and disillusioned.

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