We love a gorilla in a spacesuit as much as the next person, so when we saw the New Bristol Brewery range of beer cans we inevitably wanted to know more. Freelance designer – and gorilla-wrangler – Tom Moore talks about some of his design influences and how he’s helped the brewery’s founders Maria and Noel James extend the famous Alfred’s journeys to bring the brand to life.
Hi Tom, first things first – what’s your background as a designer? “I have studied art & design since secondary school, specialising in theatre design at university. Since then I have worked as a freelancer alongside artworking or assisting for various art, design and print companies near to Bristol.
What are your design influences? “I’m influenced by so much that I see around me. Instagram has been a huge part of that in recent times as well. Mainly, I’m attracted to bold colours, strong contrast and good composition. You can find great examples of that in the beer world with the likes of Drop Project, Masquerade Brewing, Unbarred Brewery etc… but also with amazing artists like Sean Lenn, Muskerton, Helyn Gulley, APOLAR and Micah Ulrich (to name a few). Music, film and nature also inspire me a lot and feed back into my artwork.”
Can you fill us in on the gorilla on the cans before we go any further? “Well, Alfred was the very famous gorilla who was a resident at Bristol Zoo until his death after WWII and he remains a mascot of Bristol. New Bristol Brewery have taken them as their mascot in their own right, and it was Maria and Noel’s vision to send him to different locations on the beer cans. It’s been fun to get to know his character a little bit through designing; he can be a bit grumpy and prefers his solitary time I think. It’s been great to flesh out this character, with multiple dimensions… doing the details on his space suit was a designer’s dream! I’ve just done his “house” too, so that should be cool to see the reception to that.”
Tell us a bit about your work for New Bristol Brewery. “I knew Noel and Maria a bit from when I worked at another local Bristol brewery, but we’ve really grown a lot closer through working on these cans together. I love them, they’re really great people with kind hearts and the passion and drive to make fantastic beers. I applied for the job via a Facebook ad they put out in late Spring 2020. The application included 4 designs, 2 of which got through to being actual labels. It’s like Alfred (the gorilla) is a sort of Mr Benn… visiting all these different worlds and places on his many adventures. The design process is fun, with Maria coming up with the ideas and me making them a reality. She has a great vision of what she wants for each beer can, and we share a lot of ideas and inspiration imagery before I start working on a new label. It’s been one of the most detailed and involved artistic projects I have ever been a part of and I’m really proud of the cans as a body of work. The best part is that I don’t have to pretend to like the beers, as they are all delicious!”
Apart from your own, which is your favourite beer design and why? “I really love Buxton Brewery‘s style. They’re striking, clear and distinctly Buxton. I like that they do these little series of beers which all share a design style. My favourites are probably King Slayer and King Maker – I love the colours and textures.”
Favourite pub or bar? “It’s been a while since I’ve been to a pub or bar!!! Beer Emporium on King Street, Bristol is one of my favourites. An iconic part of the city for beer drinking, otherwise for a nice quiet country pint I’d choose The White Hart in Iron Acton, or the White Horse in Compton Bassett – I’m a country boy at heart.”
Favourite bar snack? “Dry roasted or chilli-coated peanuts.”
What music are you currently listening to? “Loads of different stuff – lots that’s new for me. I’ve just got into James Acaster’s Perfect Sounds podcast and I’ve been picking up loads of recommendations from there. A few recent favs include Royal Swan by Phoxjaw, Prime by Arcing Wires and Everything Else Has Gone Wrong by Bombay Bicycle Club.“
Are you reading anything interesting? “I’ve been listening to the Arc of a Scythe series of audiobooks by Neal Shusterman, while I’ve been designing. It is set in the far future, where death by natural causes has been virtually eliminated thanks to advances in technology, and an advanced computer system known as the “Thunderhead” controls society. The Thunderhead is a form of artificial intelligence who does not make mistakes or have regrets. However, the Thunderhead can communicate with others. The Scythedom is an organization separate from the Thunderhead tasked with deciding who must die, as overpopulation has remained a problem.”
What are you looking forward to in 2021? “More adventures with Alfred and New Bristol Brewery and some other projects I have been working on should be coming to fruition this year so I’m looking forward to seeing how they are received and how they grow and develop. Of course, I’m hoping for life to get a bit easier as regards the pandemic and I hope my family, friends and loved ones continue to be healthy and safe.”
Cats or dogs? “Dogs. Obviously!”
Obviously. Thanks, Tom!