Design Bridge works with Gerry Barney to redesign Guinness harp

“Skill and craftsmanship” is referenced as new look harp hopes to hit the right note with younger drinkers.


Design Bridge has redesigned Guinness’s harp icon to reassert “skill and craftsmanship” within the brand.

Illustrator Gerry Barney, harp-makers Niebisch & Tree, and letterpress studio New North Press have all been engaged by Design Bridge for the project.

The new look has been designed to “convey the true story of craftsmanship” to distinguish the brand from the new generation of craft beers, while also looking to appeal to Guinness’s “young growing audience,” according to Design Bridge.

Harp used continuously for 150 years

The harp symbol has been used continuously for the last 150 of Guinness’s 250-year history. Diageo global head of beer and Baileys Mark Sandys says: “The Guinness harp was originally based on the legendary ‘Brian Boru harp’, a powerful symbol of Ireland’s national identity and heritage.”

In creating the new design Design Bridge sought advice from London-based harp-makers Niebisch & Tree before designing models of harps based on sketches.

This allowed the Design Bridge team to understand details such as the curve of the harmonic neck and the way shadows are cast on the instrument.

Illustrated by Gerry Barney

Illustrator Gerry Barney, who drew a version of the Guinness harp in 1968 – as well as the British Rail identity in 1965 – then began to work on sketches based on the modelling, which Design Bridge drew up.

Design Bridge has then “dramatised the harp’s form even further” with assistance from New North Press.

Separating the harp illustration out into a series of layers, Design Bridge used letterpress techniques to build up the design by overlaying different colours, textures and techniques, such as embossing, foil block and metallic inks.

“Modern, global beer brand”

Design Bridge chief creative officer Graham Shearsby says the final design “is a result of a long and thorough process of getting to know the Guinness brand, and the harp itself, as intimately as possible.”

Working with “fine craftspeople and experts has allowed us to turn everything that we’ve learnt into a new harp icon rich with depth and history that also feels right for a modern, global beer brand,” he adds.




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  • Simon Charwey April 24, 2016 at 5:09 am

    Wow! Thanks for sharing this useful article, Tom.
    Great lesson for me, as well as all logo designers, to take a brave step to consult other experts from other fields to share their experiences and work as part of a team in greating something unique and with amazing details.

    And more importantly, Design Bridge re-emphasised that a great logo design should appeal to a brand’s “young growing audience,” and this is something valuable to keep in mind when redesigning a logo.

    Thanks, Design Week!

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