Wanna craft your two loves into a dream job!? Thats exactly what Matt Burns, Creative Director of Thirst did 🤠Combining his love for beer and his love of design—starting out solo to now with business partner Chris and an awesome team—Matt has crafted his career around his passion.
Give us the elevator pitch on what you do? I am the Creative Director at Thirst, the specialist drinks packaging design agency that builds creatively rare, commercially right brands.
When did I fall in love with design? Although quite a fair few years into my career, my first true love for design was when I merged my design practice with my other passion in life… beer!
In 2010, I started visiting The Local Taphouse in Sydney, which featured 30 taps of beers from around the world. I spent a fair bit of time there, went to the members’ nights and really started to learn about beer. I loved it. I really wanted to design for beer. I started designing keg lenses for the guy who ran the members’ night, Doctor’s Orders Brewing, and started to involve myself more with the industry.
Around the same time, Blair Enns was visiting Sydney, who wrote “The Win Without Pitching Manifesto” — which speaks about specialising your design business. This is when I really started to vision and believe in a design agency that specialised in beer!
It wasn’t really until I moved to Scotland that I put this fully into effect and specialised solely on the beer industry. For the first three years in Scotland I was a one-man-band, sticking to my guns and believing in the ‘Manifesto’. Six years on, I’m now the Creative Director of Thirst and, with my business partner Chris, have a team of passionate and highly skilled individuals working with producers all around the world. We have also diversified into the wider drinks industry. You can’t love beer without loving spirits and wine as well, and this was a very natural progression for us.
I love beer. I love design. Perfect!
What does a typical working day include for you right now? Our team manages a pretty full and constant work load. What is critical to us is maintaining the quality of our work. We have in place a design process which we have designed over time to suit the style and culture of our studio.
A part of our process is managing the traffic of work. We spend a lot of time making sure that the workload is organised, just so the design process and quality of work is never jeopardised.
So a typical working day, I could find myself doing any aspect of the design process — researching, conceptualising, sketching, executing, artworking. Certainly keeps things exciting and interesting.
“No idea is a shit idea. What may sound like a shit idea to one person, might set off inspiration for another.”
How do you solve conflicting ideas within a group of collaborators? We pride ourselves on being a very open and collaborative studio. We encourage everyone to relax and say whatever ideas come to mind — no idea is a shit idea. What may sound like a shit idea to one person, might set off inspiration for another.
I fully believe in the ability of the team. If there are multiple ideas surrounding a project, then the backers of those ideas can roll with it and make it work. We aren’t shy to over deliver on the agreed number of creative-routes of a brief. We definitely do not see this as being indecisive, just passionate!
What has been your highlights since you started out? I absolutely love working with drinks brands around the world. A highlight is being able to travel and visit clients wherever they’re based. It’s also great having a few beers with your clients no matter where they are.
My first experience of visiting a client was when I first moved to the UK and drove to the Fyne Ales Brewery. That drive is still one of my favourites that I’ve ever experienced — it feels like you’re in an episode of Top Gear.
A dream was to work with a Belgian Lambic brewer, and when we started working with Lindemans in Brussels, visiting them was a truly special experience. To see your work displayed in the reception of a brewery built in 1822 is super cool.
And last year we travelled to Virginia Beach to visit the Commonwealth Brewery. It was really fun seeing the locals holding our cans and chatting to us about the work we’d done for the brewery.
Any passion projects you’d like to share? Being a specialist studio, we are constantly exploring new techniques and execution methods for drinks packaging. We explore this by doing internal projects, which follow the exact same design process as our client work, including the final execution. We take the project to print, which helps us understand the final execution. As well as photographing the work for our portfolio.
The studio projects allow us to explore a new segment of the drinks industry, disrupt a segment we currently work in … or just simply scratch an itch for a particular style or execution. These outlets are really fun, which is arguably the most important thing.