Many pieces of art hang in museums. Others are found wrapped around cans in a beer drinker's fridge.
Lauren Jane Carter, creative director and resident artist for Legal Draft Beer Co., knows how to craft the right aesthetic for a brewery. She spent four years as art director at the Balcom Agency in Fort Worth designing marketing and branding material for well-known companies such as Justin Boots and Zyn22. But her creative process took a tailspin when she joined the Arlington brewery in 2015.
"Printing cans is such an antiquated method," Carter says. "You only get a certain number of colors to work with because it's an older style of printing, and with every line there is a trap space where the colors need to meet."
Carter began her job by studying trends in craft beer art and was surprised to find a lack of visual coherency among cans, bottles and the breweries producing them.
"I would walk up and down the beer aisle at Central Market, and I couldn't tell who makes this can or that can," she says.
"If you're wanting to put yourself out there as a new brewery, why wouldn't you want to make yourself easily identifiable?"
To make Legal Draft's cans easily recognizable, Carter maintains a "base structure" on each design that features a scene, color and a white stripe that showcases the brewery's logo: a gavel made of a beer can.
For the first beer can, Carter presented four stylistically distinct options to Legal Draft co-founder Greg McCarthy and his wife, Sherri, who is the company's head of merchandising. The winning idea, a woman at the bar with her fingers crossed behind her back, still graces the Legal Blonde lager.
"We knew that some people could see our legal theme as negative, so we knew humor had to be one of the elements in every design," Carter says.
Of all the cans she's created, the Hung Jury Hefeweizen is Carter's favorite. It didn't come easy, though. "The Hef's artwork was a beating," Carter says, and inspiration came from the most coincidental of places.
"About the time Greg said we needed to get going on can art, I got served a jury summons that day," she says. "It was hilarious."
After sitting through a long voir dire process, Carter went straight to her computer, where she worked on sketches of oranges sparring with all the zest of a heated legal battle. She knew she nailed it when Legal Draft's German-born, Hefeweizen-loving brewmaster Henryk Orlik saw what she had sketched.
"The first thing I remember when I saw the can was the oranges, and I thought that was fascinating," Orlik says. "In Germany, our beer labels are very classic because it's such an old tradition. Not a lot changes there, but this can was so modern."
"I wanted him to be proud of the can art," Carter says, "as much as he's proud of what's in it."