Making of: Tommy Shelby Packaging

The process for this entire project was incredibly extensive and took about four months to complete. The images below still don’t do the process justice because I sadly didn’t document all the errors and various minor stages throughout this journey. Regardless, I wanted to share my mindset and thoughts throughout this project.

To begin, I watched the Peaky Blinders series about three times through. Yes, that’s two seasons and a lot of hours watching! I absolutely LOVE everything about this glorious Netflix series so it was definitely worth it. I always try and get into the right mindset while designing. So, throughout the project I listened to the Peaky Blinders soundtrack on Spotify which you can find here if you feel so inclined.

Preparing a Mood Board

With all of my projects, it starts with research and developing ideas for what is to come. I generally always begin with a mood board. I scavenge the internet to find the perfect images that portray the mood and look I am trying to achieve. In this case, I took a lot of inspiration from the show itself. Since it was set in a post-war 1919 Birmingham, England, I knew I wanted to incorporate that time-period. The characters and history behind this Netflix show were key to the entire design process.

Sketching Ideas FAST

Next, after all of the inspiration is gathered, it is time to begin sketching ideas as quick as possible. Getting the terrible ideas out first and leaving the golden ones for last.

In the sketchbook below, you can see I began by writing out all of the content I may utilize on this bottle. The content ultimately dictates the look of the design. Things like the name of the brand, bottle sizing, slogan, descriptive text, etc. had to be kept in mind at all times.

Additionally, I began to draw the beginnings of the packaging that would contain the bottle. At this point, I had already picked up an empty stock bottle from a company that designs custom alcoholic bottles. I obviously had a design constraint here because I wasn’t going to pay a large sum of money to create a custom bottle. The stock bottle was cheap and I could purchase them in very small quantities. It was perfect.

Beginning with the Logotype

I started designing the logotype first since I knew this would help guide the overall look and dictate the structure of the label. Again, quick sketches were completed to get the ideas rolling. This logotype required its own mood board to find the perfect letterform construction. Keeping in mind the time period, the below examples of french script were the ideal candidates to base the logotype off of. The forms were indicative of that time period and were edgy, yet sophisticated, just like the Shelby boys.

Starting with the rough sketch, you can see how the logotype evolved over time going back and forth via vector format and analog methods. After many rounds of tweaking and perfecting those curves, the final logotype was born!

Developing a Monogram

With the logotype complete, I knew it would much easier to develop a monogram. I took the same letterform style and redrew the T and S characters more upright to help interlock them together. Again, you can see the process from analog to vector below. Minor changes made between each step to ultimately end up forming what you see on the bottom-right.

This monogram was designed as an extra piece to really develop the “Tommy Shelby” brand I was creating. Something to be utilized across various materials such as tissue paper, wax seals, stamps, etc.

Designing the Label

Moving forward, I designed the label. It was difficult to stay with a rectangular shaped label because I really wanted to have some crazy custom die-cut type of label…But again, working within my design constraints, that was just not logical money-wise.

I designed within the rectangle box that I gave myself. Always keeping in mind the content, time period, and characters from the show. With this label, I wanted to have another subtle cue to the razor blades the Peaky Blinders kept in their caps. Thus, I developed a jagged edge for the bottom of the label to keep the razor blade theme throughout the packaging.

The initial type comps were sketched on paper and later formatted in Adobe Illustrator to see how the final type lockups would interact with the other elements on the label. Lots of content to keep in mind throughout this process! You can see the evolution of the label and possible color schemes I tinkered with before ultimately selecting the black and white option at the bottom.

Creating the Packaging and Dielines

Once the label around the bottle was complete, it was time to move onward and develop the packaging to hold the bottle. The rectangular bottle design helped guide the packaging. Like I mentioned, the Peaky Blinders were notorious for hiding razor blades in their “peaked flat caps”. The gang would blind their enemies by swinging their caps (with razor blades hidden in them) at their enemies faces. Anyway, the razor blade shape was utilized for the box packaging as a nod to the history of the gang.

Taking elements from the already designed label, I pieced together a die-line for the laser-cutter to follow. Using baltic birch plywood, the laser machine etched into the wood what you see below. Lots and lots of trail and error occurred during this stage as the laser is very finicky. If the power was too high, the wood would get burned. If it was too low, the typography wouldn’t be readable after the wood stain was applied. I needed to find the perfect settings to get the box just right.

Printing the Tissue Paper

This tissue paper was the biggest problem throughout the process. I could not pay a large company to print tons of custom tissue paper! So, I brought it upon myself to buy single sheets of glassine and manually feed those sheets into a large format printer.

The problem with that is…The glassine is so thin. When feeding in the paper, the printer sucks it down using a vacuum-like airflow so it doesn’t move. That same vacuum-like airflow is used when the paper is being printed on. Every single time I attempted to print on this super thin glassine paper, the paper would either rip or get shredded in the process. It was just too darn thin to go through the printer.

But! Through that trial and error I discovered I needed two people to print on this special paper. One person on the feeding end of the printer, and another on the receiving end. Essentially, this allowed the paper to stay completely horizontal and allowed an easy but slow passage through the printer without ripping and it finally worked! (After shredding nearly 6 sheets).

Tommy Shelby - Tissue Design

The Final Piece

After nearly four months of piecing everything together, it was done! I had a custom stamp made with the monogram I designed to utilize it with wax seals on the bottles. Additionally, I actually filled the bottles with apple juice to save a bit of cash (color correcting is the bees knees). Next, I hand-dipped the bottles in wax myself…Holy cow was that a pain. Hand-dipping bottles is definitely an art form in itself. Lastly, I discovered some amazing gilded books that were actually published around the early 1900’s. Perfect look and feel for the time period.

That is about it! If you would like to see more of the final photos check them out here. If you have any questions regarding this process, feel free to comment below. Hope you enjoyed!

Tommy Shelby Full Comp