When Indianapolis’ CODO Design was approached to brand a brewery project in Beijing–Prodigy Brewing–they jumped at the chance. It turns out, they might’ve jumped into the process a little prematurely too. As Isaac Arthur, CODO’s design lead, would come to find out, the design firm’s initial concepts were unfortunately lost in translation. With the project now in the rear view mirror, he shared some insight with us, as well as documenting the process–good and bad–in a great recap post, here.

Said Arthur, “When we were first approached by Prodigy Brewing, an upstart craft brewery in Beijing, we were excited and a bit nervous. While we’ve worked with several international breweries, China presents an entirely different language and culture with very little carryover from the States. And making this a more damning challenge was that there was no plan for travel.”

It wasn’t until CODO concepted two initial directions to present to Prodigy Brewing’s team that they learned they were not exactly on the right path. The issue? They had designed a pair of visual identities that read as ‘too Japanese’ for the Chinese market; enough so, that they would be a contrast the the other 300 or so craft beer options currently in China. It was then that Arthur and team realized they had to jump a plane to Beijing to see the market first hand. When they arrived back in Indiana, they were able to refocus, and the new direction was a bit of a surprise–create a Chinese beer brand with an American aesthetic…

“After a few days to decompress, we’re able to sit down and formalize what this should all look and feel like, and where we had gone wrong the first time around. Working with the Prodigy team, we began to define anew their audience, brand essence and what positioning and messaging we needed to explore. The answer; American Craft Beer. You read that correctly—we had to travel nearly 7,000 miles around the world to realize that the Chinese craft beer consumer wants a Western-made beer brand.”

We had to travel nearly 7,000 miles around the world to realize that the Chinese craft beer consumer wants a Western-made beer brand. Or at least, a craft beer that has some semblance of America.

— Isaac Arthur, CODO

The first direction focused on a crane—a revered symbol in Chinese mythology that represents longevity and wisdom. While contemporary in line weight, we had some wiggle room as to whether it looked old or new through color.

The second direction was a literal combination of Chinese and American craft beer aesthetics. The four Chinese characters nested perfectly within big, friendly English typography. Color and and pattering would round out the system.

— Isaac Arthur, CODO

  CODO's initial Concept v. 1
CODO’s initial Concept v. 1
  CODO's initial Concept v.2
CODO’s initial Concept v.2

We were proud of where we arrived and the Prodigy team loved both directions. But then we hit a snag. After sharing our initial branding concepts with the Stateside Prodigy team, they shared the work with their community in China. This round of critique brought up a frustrating and humbling issue; what we had made looked Japanese. Not overly Japanese, but enough that it would immediately stand out to a Chinese beer drinker. Turns out, a lot is lost in translation when you’re unable to experience something as foreign as China firsthand.




Images provided by CODO Design.