design Archives | Benjamin Allison

Prohibition, COVID, and getting lean.

Most people, myself included, believe Prohibition ended in America on December 5, 1933. That blessed 21st Amendment allowed the country to whet its whistle after 14 long, dry years.

This appears, however, to only be partially true. The regulatory systems set up to control the production, distribution, and sale of alcohol at the state and federal levels, have had their own prohibitive effects. The impact of this bureaucratic sludge has never been felt more sharply as it has during the Coronavirus pandemic.

While sales for wine, beer, and spirits are up across the board, this doesn’t tell the whole story. Kathleen Willcox writes:

“…revenue losses for the country’s more than 10,000 wineries and 8,000-plus growers alone could reach $5.94 billion in 2020. Ninety-seven percent of all U.S. wineries produce fewer than 50,000 cases each and are expecting revenue losses of up to 66 percent this year, with the expected impact getting worse as production gets smaller.”

“On-premise sales in April were down 85 percent for both wine and spirits,” says Michelle Korsmo, president and CEO of WSWA. “America’s wine and spirit wholesalers can expect to lose up to $924.1 million in uncollectable or difficult to collect receivables alone due to shelter-in-place.”

I encourage you to read the whole article. The realities presented require response. Of course, my expertise doesn’t lie within the legal domain. I have no solutions to those particular problems. To be quite blunt, I’m not sure anyone does. A pandemic can certainly expedite change, but that change is unlikely to be comprehensive enough, or swift enough, to be helpful to those artisans and producers who creep ever closer to shuttered tasting rooms and dashed dreams.

What we have before us is an invitation to reinvent. Survival depends on creative thinking. Captivating an audience. Finding new ways to do outreach. Cutting costs and moving to leaner solutions. COVID has changed, perhaps permanently, the way in which many of us work. It’s a dilemma. How do you continue to have a brand presence, attract customers, launch exciting new products, when marketing budgets are drying up?

One simple solution is to streamline how those dollars get spent. Paying a full-service agency makes a lot of sense when the money is there. When it’s not, downsizing and contracting specialized, experienced designers and marketers could get you more for less.

This only works if you’re organized internally and can take on some of the project management load. If you are, you may find the lower costs and increased nimbleness hard to give up when things regain some semblance of normalcy.

Mind the details: keeping up with TTB regulations

Design is the dance that lives between vision and execution. Strategy and tactics. Macro and micro. We need big ideas, but the best ideas will die if the details aren’t handled with due care. The need for care extends beyond the mere conception and creation of an image. Brand designs and brand images live within a broader context. One with rules and regulations.

It’s the job of the designer to navigate a client through regulatory gauntlets. At the very least, a designer needs to be aware that said gauntlets exist, and refer the client to an appropriate supplier that can be included in the process. And not begrudgingly either. This relationships needs to be collaborative, and ideally, established early on in the project. A brilliant design that is impossible to produce, either technically or legally, may as well not exist.

Libation Law Blog has a great series of posts breaking down some of the TTB’s newer changes to their regulations. Pour a glass of something strong, and have a read: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.

Be kind. Be curious. Make shit.

Do you have a Mantra? I think mantras are stupid. But I have one. It’s like that sometimes.

There is harm 
in being simplistic or reductionist. There is also clarity in being simplistic or reductionist My post-religious, post-superstitious, post-
theistic self needed a new answer to that age-old 
humdinger of a question:

What is the meaning of life?

This is an almost useless thing to ask. Meaning 
is manufactured. Humans are meaning-makers. A more helpful, sensible question is something along the lines of:

What makes for a good life? How can one be truly fulfilled and happy?

My conclusion, unfortunately, took the form of a 
mantra. For now I try to live by this simple creed:

Be kind. Be curious. Make Shit.

In other words, be empathetic. Be open to new information and new experiences. Don’t just consume. Create.

Be kind. Be curious. Make Shit. If you’re lame like me and have a mantra, post it in the comments. If you made it this far, I kindly invite you to like or share!