Mead is believed to be the oldest form of alcohol to mankind. This beverage made with fermented honey has been brought back into vogue by city-based Moonshine Meadery. After setting up their first production unit in 2016, the brand has rapidly grown to stock their product at various shops, bars and restaurants across Maharashtra. Their first label featured the initials ‘Mm’ and soon distribution partners began referring to the product like that. It became a legitimate concern for co-founders (and benevolent overlords, as they call themselves) Rohan Rehani and Nitin Vishwas when they walked into a shop where stocks were selling well, and asked for a bottle of Moonshine only to be shocked when the shopkeeper didn’t have any idea what they were talking about. “While we loved our initial branding for its minimalism, it caused some confusion about the name of the brand. Our channel partners (restaurants and retailers) would call us ‘Mm’, whereas our customers knew us as Moonshine,” says Rehani.
Coming up with a creative solution to this conundrum, they decided to change the labels of their bottles. And to make it an even more interesting and impressionable project, they collaborated with local artists. “This disconnect was one of the primary reasons for our re-branding. Also, we took the opportunity to make the brand a bit younger and also collaborate with artists — something that we’d been wanting to do for a while because it embodies what we stand for,” says Vishwas, adding, “We’re a craft brand making a truly artisanal product. In fact, seasonal variations in the honey and fruits and spices we use, are reflected in the minor variations in the finished meads as well. The collaboration with artists makes perfect sense as we’re all creating something unique.”
The artists were given a few guidelines — they had to base their design on a circle (the oldest and most versatile shape known to man). “We wanted our labels to be a dynamic canvas for the artists. However, to allow the Moonshine circle to really come through, we asked the artists to cover only a portion of it,” says Rehani, adding, “We absolutely love the variety this collaboration has brought to our packaging. Each artist has their own unique style and interpretation of the mead, and it really reflects on the label. After this collaboration for our flagships flavours — the Apple Cyder Mead, the Coffee Mead and the Traditional Mead — we’re now collaborating with another four artists for the next few releases as part of our small batch mead lab series which includes the Chocolate Orange Mead, the Hopped Mead and the Christmas Apple Pie. These will be released over the next 4-5 months.”
Since the artists could cover less than half the circle in their designs, it turned out to be a challenging yet fun project for them. Nikhil More of Jungle Gym Design Studios, who designed the label for the Traditional flavour, says, “It took almost a month with minor tweaks being made hours before the labels left for the excise office for approval. My biggest struggle was that I had to work within certain guidelines I had set up while designing the label template. I had to step out of my design shoes and get into my artist sneakers.”
The label features a satellite. “While ideating, I was initially looking for something to take from ancient India. I found that one of our biggest contributions to the world is the concept of zero by Aryabhata. I used the Aryabhata satellite because I was looking for something modern yet rooted in history and tradition and this seemed like a good fit. Also the moon element could be used to visually symbolise zero — there were multiple connections, but maybe not all of them so apparent,” he says adding that he wanted to maintain a certain purity in his design which called for a basic black and white approach.
Anand RK, known for his work in the book The Grafity’s Wall, designed the label of the Apple Cyder Mead which took about three-four weeks to complete. “An apple cut in half looks like the face of an owl. I thought this was a neat way to tie the apple cyder mead, the moon, night-time all into one simple image. The restrictions were a fun challenge to work around and incorporate within the design. It helped narrow down the options and to club all the other designs together into one family,” he says.
Aniruddh Mehta, who is known for designing the popular Sacred Games mandala in collaboration with Plexus, tried his hand at the label for the Coffee Mead. Explaining the concept behind his design, he says, “Coffee is an integral part of your working day, mead is something that you’d like to sip on at the end of your work day. We toyed with the phrase ‘work hard, play hard’. The design is a playful mix of embellishments with a balance of a classic and a contemporary look.”
The mandala on the label incorporates three main elements — coffee beans, honeycombs and the concept of ‘work hard, play hard’. “It took about two weeks to work out different iterations and see what level of detailing would be optimum. The colours too needed to be subtle, but I had to find the right hues that would work well with the overall theme. The basic framework was an interesting challenge to work around,” says he.