Worth Thousand Words: Victor Brangoleau

Parisian artist Victor Brangoleau is the designer behind Oedipus’s brash and bold artwork. We caught up with him to discuss collaboration and the creative process.

Ferment: Tell us a bit about your own background as an artist.

Victor: I grew up in Paris, in a family of artists, and I happened to have caught the virus for as long as I can remember. Later, I followed my wishes to become at first a comic book artist, then moving toward animation, and then graphic design. I think, with Oedipus, I am able to combine some of those early interests and what I have learned through my graphic design studies. I like to focus on expressionist identity and multimedia designs.

Ferment: You’ve been working with Oedipus since their early homebrew days. What was that like?

Victor: I got involved in the very early stage, because I was studying art and design in an art school in Amsterdam with one of the founder (Rick Nelson).

I remember that he invited me to help him, Paul, Sander and Alex (the other founders), with beer brewing at his place, in his kitchen. At that time, I had little clue about beer brewing, and about what they had in mind, but it got me interested to understand what was going on with making beers and I was happy to help.  It really started without clear guidelines or need for a graphic identity. It was a genuine desire to participate in something new with friends and discover in what way I could help them.

Ferment: What was it about Oedipus’s approach and creative process that inspired you?

Victor: Their own creative process was very instinctive and chaotic, but I think that’s totally normal when some people gather to build something new. But they made clear from the beginning they did not wanted to look like the typical brews made by ‘daddies’ (the old guys telling people what beers should or should not be) and they were not keen on obvious references to brewing, products, or the beer world.

Also, they’ve evoked some very unorthodox idea regarding beers, at least to me at that stage. They wanted to break the macho-barbecuesque, manly context that beer was often associated with, and were looking into recipes that will deft our expectation of what a beer taste should be. They were very open about other inputs – their stories were for them as important as the beer they were making.

So I got inspired by their bold ideas in that sense, and their unique way of naming the beers, which was for me a very important foundation to start working. For me, understanding this drove me away from looking at other breweries, and I looked at other sources of inspiration in the art field.

Ferment: Do you consider yourself part of the team in that respect?

Victor: The beer creating process at Oedipus is a joint effort, and it is possible to assume that the designer is part of the team. I want to point out that my thing is graphic design and visualizing concepts, I do not interfere with the recipe, the production or the creation of a beer, but I take charge of its styling, and this creative process can be both external and internal. Sometimes it was necessary to be immersed within Oedipus’s colorful brewing energy, and sometime it was needed to work on my own and let the ideas come.

Ferment: Although the Oedipus designs have had a very distinctive look right from the start, do you see them as a work in progress?

Victor: The crucial keystone in my work was to find the equilibrium in this energetic, psychedelic, colourful whirlwind that Oedipus is, and despite this constant boiling, it is important to make Oedipus’s voice (as a brewery) clear and recognisable.

When we sit together to plan the identity we developed a lot of concepts, and one feature which I want to maintain and expand is the fact that Oedipus’s beers are part of something bigger, they are not just names stuck on a bottle; they have to reflect a combination of elements. So I designed the labels to give each beer name a unique logo which is part of pattern. And Oedipus, as a brewery, is the living organism from which those things came out.

Ferment: In general, what do you think of beer labels as a medium for art? What makes a good label?

Victor: I think it is a very fun and playful thing to do, because the craft beer world is bursting everywhere, there are less and less mandatory ‘beer rules’ to follow. Beers become catchy, arty, and their names are often intriguing, giving you no clue what it will taste like. Putting an art piece on it, or a design, is a way to make a statement. Beer is not only for big companies, it can be local, small in scale and very personal.

I think, for all those reasons, a good label has to say ‘take me’, ‘taste me’, and once you've drank it you will connect all those dots together, and the name or design on it will confirm your instinct. I noticed that a lot of new brewers, or beer addicts, just get passionate about it. They switched job because they wanted their own thing, and I think their energy is not yet burdened by a how-to-make-a-good-craft-beer mentality.

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