If you’ve opened a Nail beer recently, your fingerprints would be on the work of Zendoke. Likewise, you'll have come across the Perth operation's design work on beers from Nowhereman, Boston Brewing, Wilson Brewing, Bounty Hunter and Six String, not to mention whiskies from Perth distillery Whipper Snapper.
Yet the man behind these and many other projects dismissively lists his late 90s uni experience, when he was studying Art & Design, on LinkedIn as “ate chip kebabs. drank beer”. Clearly, however, with so many booze world clients amassed in just four years of Zendoke – and packaging silverware to boot – there’s more to Jarrod Fuller and the world of beer than cheap student meals.
For the latest entry in The Collaborators, our series that focuses on people working with the local craft beer industry, Guy Southern caught up with Jarrod for a chat that took in phone sex, Woolworths, Hardware Chic and $40,000 of turd.
“Back at the start of my career, there weren’t a lot of creative influences to be inspired or learn," says self-described "Cardigan Man" Jarrod Fuller of the earliest days of his working life in his hometown of Perth.
"The internet was barely working. There wasn’t Behance, Pinterest, Instagram and all these other endless avenues to be inspired by, so you packed your bags and left. I moved to Melbourne for two years, which was the catalyst to change my career in design."
There, he joined design firm Cato, where he "made the other creative designers' ideas a reality".
"I learnt a lot about the fabrication processes of many industries, which plays a big part in my design," he says. "Creating artwork files makes you think differently about adding to a design concept. I was there a year but it pretty much influences me today.
“I worked on rolling out hundreds of packaging items for Woolworths Homebrand which, as unglamorous as it sounds, was probably one of the most important jobs I ever worked on to understand design principles and designing information."
From Melbourne, the road led to London and work with studios like Wolf Olins before it swung back again to Perth in 2006, where he landed at a studio that specialised in wine label design, before a return to freelancing with a focus on corporate identities. However, it was far from the world of corporate identities that the genesis of Zendoke’s design studio formed...
“My first job was designing phone sex ads for Barbarellas, a local sex shop, that would eventually become Adultshop," he says. "All sorts of weird but interesting...”
Fast forward to 2014 and this disparate collection of experiences coalesced with the arrival of a start-up urban distillery in East Perth.
“I was introduced to the guys starting Whipper Snapper Distillery and I offered to redesign their identity and packaging," he says. "So I got my big break in beer from whiskey."
After that, it wasn't long before Nail was hammering at the door.
“Steve Finney, then of Feral, introduced me to John Stallwood. John makes phenomenal beers but I thought his packaging at the time was complicating people’s decision to try it or at least keep buying it, so I just made it simple," says Jarrod. "Strong brand presence and simple core range variation.
“I like to name my branding essence and his was ‘Hardware Chic’, raw materials associated with nail: wood, paint, paper. I got lucky with the cans as, essentially, they are the bottle label artwork I did without the paper but they just look epic on tins."
After working with Nail and Nowhereman, a little birdie started calling, five hours south, at Boston Brewing Co.
“They were going to go into cans and thought, 'Let’s take a step back and look at the whole thing.' So, I go down to Boston and look at them.
"First big problem: the name. That’s awkward; what are we going to do with that? Second big problem: it’s the mum’s family name – Boston is named after the matriarch of the family. Third is the location in Denmark.
"So, you’ve got a well known American beer name that was involved in the early days of craft brewing and you’ve got a European country but it’s down south … let’s just own that confusion and keep it all the same."
The decision was made to keep the logo small and "own the Great Southern" instead.
“When you go down there, every single business has a blue wren as a logo so you think, ‘How stupid that there’s going to be another business with a blue wren as a logo?’ but the job wasn’t about them, it was about Perth and then the greater WA so, if you do the bird people already associate with it, then the town gets behind it because they love their bird."
He adds: “I like to think that I take a lot of risks in my work but, if I’m gonna do it, I just want to push myself and push something. When you look at Boston, to bring out a cute bird when everyone is doing beards and masculine driven stuff at the time – and then you put a pretty cute looking elephant on a can … a lot of people were scared..."
Most recently, he's been working with another brewery just 45 minutes away, where the project focuses on different themes.
“The difference between Boston and Wilson is that Wilson can tap into a whole town, a community of 30,000 people, whereas Denmark is tiny, it’s 3,000 people. There’re different propositions.
"The biggest thing that’s tied to the Wilson work is the one strap line, 'Albany Proud'. It’s not just a throwaway line, it’s because they are – the whole town. They are so focused on that region. [Brewery founder] Matty [Wilson] will be the mayor of Albany in three years. He has that passion for the town; he’s born and bred."
But aside from the approach to individual projects, are there guiding principles he brings to his work?
“I guess I’m different. A lot of people designers will do three concepts of work, hedge their bets," he says. "I pretty much just do one. And I spend a lot of time, way too long, and it’s all run by gut. I go in and I look at something and there’s no rhyme or reason. I think it’s 20 years of experience and you get a feeling.
“The basis I learnt was, ‘Don’t do what anyone else is doing, occupy a different space’. If you just want to do another version of something else then it’s a dollar split in half. You’re sharing your business and how can you be memorable?"
He says it's guided the way he goes about gaining clients too.
“There’s certain jobs where it would help to have someone do a massive PowerPoint presentation but my issue with Venn diagrams, branding propositions and all that shit is that they might cost $20,000 and then you give it to the creative team and that’s going to cost another $20,000. And then you see stuff, especially when I fix jobs, where these people aren’t even using the in-house strategy document so there’s $40,000 of just turd. It doesn’t matter how good the strategy document is, if the creative is shit then it’s just an expensive piece of shit.
“If I think about why I’ve got my clients in the beer industry now, it’s because I’m actually out there drinking the beer and meeting the people, whereas you see other people that do the beer work, they’re not that connected to the beer industry."
So where does he think an industry he views as still in its infancy should be heading when it comes to design?
“It’s bloody difficult to get it right. You open a fridge and you go, ‘How the fuck do I decide what I’m gonna get?’. I always make a purchase on how they look.
“Core range is where you make the money but no one wants to buy core range. I think a lot of the craft beer industry, they just want cool can art, which is perfect for seasonals. I think if you do seasonals they should be crazy and that’s great, but there should be an idea behind it that links back. A lot of people don’t do that and it's scatterbrained."
That said, he believes the maturing of the beer industry is leading to some positive changes, as well as fresh challenges and the need to evolve thinking.
“People are starting to understand that they need good branding. Branding is what people think of you and you have to follow through on the promise otherwise the problem is not this year, it’s actually two or three years in, when you just feel lost," he says.
“Craft beer is interesting and what I love about it is that, for a lot of people, it’s a hobby that became, ‘Let’s do it for a life’. Then they realise that it’s a lot of hard slog, and you’re selling a commercial product... Unfortunately, sometimes that takes the fun out of it.
"You have to think like Woolworths: you’re putting something on a shelf, it’s not a cottage industry, so aim higher because you need to sell beer. It doesn’t matter who you are and what you do, if you don’t sell beer then you’re fucked. Good branding helps but a lot of decisions that you sometimes see are personal decisions, they’re not business decisions. The person making the decision is making it for themselves and not making it for the business."
For someone that’s immersed in great products, people and design, broadening horizons remains creatively important.
“It’s important for me to get away – travelling near, far, everywhere," Jarrod says. "I like old stuff. Well made, good products, industrial. Renovating and upcycling.
“I think my favourite beer design is BrewDog purely from a rollout point of view. There’s so many variants but they’re all individual and have solid typography. Also, there’s a lot of the beer stuff coming out of America, especially Austin, Texas, which is great, plus anything done by Stranger & Stranger or Chad Michael Studio."
With beer now flowing through his veins, plus time spent living and working in London, surely Fuller's would be high on the potential client list?
“I lived a suburb away from Chiswick in London and had big plans to get as many hand pumps and decals while I lived there to bring home to my bar, but sadly it never eventuated," he says.
"I would love to work on Fuller's stuff, though, and have had plenty of sore heads from London Pride. I also worked opposite Young's in Wandsworth too – the horse and cart carrying kegs would pass me each morning. That was cool."
You can view other entries in The Collaborators series here.