Designing the Black Hops 4th Birthday Labels: Part Four – Murder Hornet


It needed to be scarier…

The Murder Hornet was actually the first label that was designed in the range. Dan Norris, Black Hops co-founder, had given me the brief description of the beer to kick things off at the very start of the project and see what I would come up with.

This was to be the flagship beer of the series and Dan and the team were keen for a label to match and set the tone for the rest of the series.

This was the description:

“This is Murder Hornet, a 9.2% Black Imperial Hornet IPA. Pouring opaque and black with a deep dark head of foam, like a predator sneaking up on its prey; it stings you with 100 IBU of hop bitterness that explodes in a sensation of multi-layered aromatics, challenging even the most seasoned beer hunter. Intense pine and resinous hops fight to restrain the alcohol heat, swarming your senses with rich roasted coffee and dark cocoa. Finally, yearning for the kill, it finishes you with a colossal bitter linger, leading you back to the brood… for the swarm!”

Black Hops – Murder Hornet

Well, to say my first couple of attempts were not quite hitting the mark would be kind.

Going back to the original minimal, cryptic aesthetic I wanted to create from the beginning, I tried a number of line drawings imagining a Murder Hornet in various forms and finally settled on a minimalist wasp with a styled type treatment in Hornet orange.

I sent Dan the completed design and his feedback was simply, “Very Cool – I like it”.

The first Murder Hornet Label Design.

I woke up the next morning and with fresh eyes – as always is the case – just didn’t love it. It just didn’t match the description and my first thought was that it just wasn’t scary enough.

With words like murder, kill, swarm, sting, intense, predator and prey all floating around in the description, the geo-wasp just wasn’t doing them justice, so I scrapped it entirely and went back to the drawing board.

Skulls. I dig ’em. Always have. Death. That’s scary. That’s where I’ll start.

Hornet. Skull. What does that look like?

I didn’t know, but after grabbing some images and trying a few things in photoshop I hit on a particular blending layer and boom – There it was staring me in the face. Murder Hornet.

Hornet Skull.

I started back on the can. Pulled back all the orange.

Full Black. Drop the logo. Ditch the name. ABV and Volume only. But it needed something extra. The orange needed to appear somewhere.

I tried bringing it into the tail of the hornet but it just looked a bit weird, and then I thought, what else looks kinda scary? Scratch marks. yeah they freak me out. So I put 4 orange scratches over the skull to symbolise the hornet tail markings and reference the 4th birthday.

Scratch that.

I sent the design back to Dan with the simple words:

“It needed to be scarier.”

Murder Hornet

Overall, I’m really stoked with how all these labels turned out and the feedback has been great.

On the day of the launch at the Burleigh Heads HQ, there was a lineup around the block, the website crashed and the online store sold out in 4 minutes.

Thanks again to Dan, Govs, Ed and the rest of the team from Black Hops who trusted me with the designs and I can’t wait to bring you some more design insights from future releases.



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