Brown-Forman, Cooper’s Craft Interactive Tour

We created an interactive tour to honor the hard-earned heritage of the Brown-Forman Cooperage and its coopers, craftsmen of bourbon barrels.


The Challenge
In Bourbon Country, most people are familiar with how bourbon is made. Lesser-known, though, is the process that goes into how the barrels themselves are constructed. Brown-Forman approached us to honor the heritage and tradition of the Brown-Forman Cooperage and its coopers and help introduce their newest bourbon brand, Coopers’ Craft. 

The Outcome
Following a human-centered design approach, we formed a lean, interdisciplinary team to tackle user research and testing, content creation, design, and development for this project. Our goal was to create an online experience to tell the story of a time-honored, traditional process in a modern way. The result? An informative, easy-to-follow tour that champions the materials and process of raising a barrel, all the while honoring the tradition, skill, and pride of Brown-Forman Cooperage and its coopers. 

Phase One: Inspiration
Before we begin any project, we immerse ourselves into the environment and subject matter to become a true extension of our client’s team. For the Coopers’ Craft project, we toured the cooperage and distilleries, did bourbon tastings, met with industry experts, ran workshops, and more to distill our ideas into strong concepts. 

By becoming deeply involved in the cooperage experience, we increased our understanding of the challenge and became more empathetic toward the end user. We were inspired by the rich heritage of barrel-making -- the sounds, sights, smells, and feelings we experienced while touring the cooperage really stuck with our team. We wanted to capture as much of that as we could in the online experience to create a truly visceral, tactile, and memorable experience for the user. 



Phase 02: Ideation
From there, we moved on to concept sketches. Our team explored how to truly tell the story from bark to bottle from the point-of-view of the cooper, while also calling importance to the materials used. We wanted to use the material as a way to navigate through the story. We distilled the process down to eight steps and incorporated rich, candid photography, sounds, and video to capture the feelings we had while touring the cooperage in-person. We worked to capture the rawness and grit of the coopers and the cooperage in a clean, modern, and professional way. 



Phase 03: Implementation
We collaborated with the Brown-Forman team, employees of the cooperage and distillery, and end users to incorporate their feedback and best illustrate the process of raising barrels. Here’s a glimpse into that process.

Visual Design
There is a lot of information that goes into describing the barrel-raising process. Our design challenge was to condense that information down into approachable, bite-sized chunks, making it easy for users to follow along. Pairing that with strong visuals, candid photography and video, and interactive elements allowed us to capture the tradition of the cooperage and craftsmanship of the coopers. The result was a fully-responsive design combining old and new to tell the story of the Brown-Forman Cooperage in a way Coopers’ Craft could own


Photography, Video, and Copywriting
Our team worked closely with Brown-Forman’s master distiller and cooperage foreman to write an eight-step story describing the life of a barrel, from bark to bottle. We had several on-location days to take photos, shoot video, and capture audio in an effort to capture the feeling of being there in-person, and to elevate the tour for a multi-dimensional on-screen experience.


User Testing
As an interdisciplinary team, it's important to always remember that we are not our users. Throughout the project, we conducted user testing sessions to test the usability and functionality of the tour experience with users who did not have prior context or experience with the site. We gained important insights through our efforts regarding the design, functionality, and content of the tour. 


Development, SEO, and Analytics
The Coopers' Craft tour was written using the Vue.js framework for its simplicity and efficiency, especially as we continually tested and retooled our messaging and design. While the main goal was to create an interactive tour highlighting the barrel-raising process, our team made sure to optimize the site with SEO in addition to adding robust tracking for analytics.


3D Modeling
With physical samples of a retired barrel on hand and our new-found cooperage know-how, we decided to raise our own barrels -- in a virtual 3D world, of course. Each piece of the barrel was meticulously modeled and rendered on-screen to highlight the importance of the material. The result was an eye-catching, interactive visual that simulated each step of the process in an interactive way.


Conclusion
We truly enjoyed working with the Brown-Forman team to create a sensorial, interactive tour experience to honor the hard-working coopers and the heritage and tradition of barrel-raising. This project is a great example of the work we love to do -- truly creative projects that incorporate team collaboration and a shared respect for the brand and product. We learned a lot more about the bourbon industry than we did going into this project (which can be hard to do for Kentuckians), and have a newfound appreciation for the most important ingredient in the bourbon-making process -- the barrel. 

Take the tour for yourself at tour.cooperscraft.com.