Dragon Rouge on how it gave Coke a “premium” mixers range

The design consultancy recently created the branding, packaging and structural bottle design for Coke’s latest venture, its signature mixers for spirits. We speak to creative director Dave Robinson about bringing Coca-Cola into a new market, borrowing from its 133-year-old history and stripping back the visual identity.

Design Week: What aesthetic did you go for with the new signature mixers range?

Dave Robinson: We wanted to convey authenticity while also bringing modernity to a classic. We spent a lot of time with Coke’s design team, looking back into the archives to create something credible that respected the past, while helping the new product stand out.

DW: What are the main design features of the new sub-brand?

DR: Authentic craft was key to the design – we wanted to give Coke’s well-known brand a fresh look. We set Coca-Cola in black to elevate the brand into this premium space. We then placed the Coca-Cola brand at the top of the bottle label, and connected it with the flavour notes and the individual signatures of approval from the mixologists who created them.

We purposefully paired back the label design to reflect the craft of the product. Handmade white paper with the black logo gives a strong, bold new look and feel for the Coca-Cola brand. It looks to be understated but premium, allowing it to stand out as an experimental range of mixers in any high-end bar environment. Across the batch numbers and bottle seals, a sophisticated, rich colour palette was chosen to give a flash of flavour, to suit the ingredients.

DW: Why does the bottle design deviate from the curved, contoured glass bottle shape that Coke uses?

DR: After looking back through the Coke archives, we discovered the sleek Hutchinson bottle that pre-dated the famous contour bottle. This was a gem. Dating back to the era of pharmacist John Stith Pemberton (who invented the original Coca-Cola in 1886), it was the perfect fit – it was authentic yet still relevant to mixology today. We retained the original silhouette and carefully made some minor tweaks to the structure to allow for production. This included replicating the embossing on the bottle. We adjusted this, giving credit to the original mixologist, Dr Pemberton.

DW: What were the main creative challenges?

DR: Ensuring that the overall vision for the signature mixers range felt credible and authentic to the big design idea – bringing together the well-known brand of Coca-Cola and the modern world of mixology. It was a tension that was fun to work with but challenging.

DW: How did you go about creating a distinct look for the mixers that didn’t deviate too far from Coca-Cola’s design?

DR: Coca-Cola is one of the most iconic brands in the world, with such a memorable and unique logo – this made it a super exciting challenge. We retained the unique word mark, moved away from the red and white palette, and changed to black and white as the core colours for the new premium range. The balance then allowed the language of mixology to play a role on the lower part of the label.

DW: What does the new signature mixers range hope to do for the brand? Is Coca-Cola trying to change its image or attract a new demographic?

DR: The new range now allows mixology to be accessible to everyone, enabling them to try new flavours with different spirits. It offers a chance to learn and understand the exciting world of mixology through unique combinations of flavour. The main aim of the project was to create a range of premium mixers that stayed true to the brand but also had a credible space within bar environments.

DW: How long did the project take to complete?

DR: The project took just over a year, working in partnership with Coca-Cola’s team and specialists from across the drinks business.

Hide Comments (7)Show Comments (7)
  • Craig Coultman-Smith June 5, 2019 at 8:22 am

    This is the first time a design project has ever given me goose-bumps! The strategy is spot on, the aesthetic evokes images of white-coat attention to detail and the ambiance draws on the power of heritage. A big WELL DONE to Dragon Rouge!

  • Harrison Reed June 5, 2019 at 10:24 am

    Sorry – but this is a cliche ridden vanity project. It looks like a 2nd year graphic design student’s college project.

  • Henry Walker June 5, 2019 at 9:12 pm

    Harrison, your damn right. This vintage apothecary look has been copied over and over again. Ex. I copied it 1986 for Diesel Jeans.

  • Kelsey Grammar-Nazi June 10, 2019 at 6:54 pm

    You’d think an editor at Design Week, of all publications, would know the difference between “palate” and “palette”.

    • Sarah Dawood June 11, 2019 at 2:51 pm

      Hi Kelsey, apologies for the typo. We’ve fixed that now. Thanks

  • Ian Mennie June 16, 2019 at 10:10 pm

    Looks more like a concept stage of something you’d try out rather than a final tasty product.

    The pharmaceutical bottles look awesome but paired with a white label too, feel a bit too clinical to me. Plus there’s lots going on on those labels! Of course easy to criticize without seeing the brief I guess.

    I feel the logo should’ve been white and not on a label but printed on the bottle – or on a transparent label. Then Fever Tree-style metallic labels could have made more of each of the flavours and given that premium feel.

    Or you could extent the coloured label down the bottle and have a smaller, more refined Coca Cola logo underneath in white.

    Such a cool project but disappointed to not be wowed by a cooler design you’d usually expect form Coca Cola.

    : (

  • Jonathan Ford June 21, 2019 at 11:47 am

    ‘Ol time lazy craft pack design – secret recipe formula revealed!
    1 part monochrome colour
    1 part faux hot metal typographic grid look
    1 part uncoated paper
    1 part apothecary bottle
    1 part neck strip
    pour: everywhere
    effect: sense of deja vu

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