What's in a name?

"Dolphin is no longer just my name - it’s also now mine and Andy’s creation."

The first time I really remember realising my name meaning something other than it being my family’s surname was my 5th birthday, when I was given a dolphin bracelet. My school friend looked really pleased with making the link, assuming that naturally I was a fan of dolphins. Little did she or I know it would kickstart a childhood of receiving dolphin-related gifts and a full range of puns. 

I didn’t particularly like my name as a teenager: a name that makes you stand out or can easily be made into a joke is your worst nightmare at a time you are desperate to be the same as everyone else. Like most other teenagers I just wanted to hide and I thought a forgettable, plain name would help with that.

It was years later when I realised a recognisable name can come in handy - I rarely have to spell my name or repeat it. When on the phone to the bank or utilities I just get a lot of ‘Like the animal?’ when it comes to giving them my name. And at work my name is often remembered - for better or worse.

By the time I met Andy I actively liked my name and wouldn’t have considered changing it, much to my teenage self’s horror - when we got married the subject of not changing my name wasn’t a conversation we had to have. We started planning for a future brewery and we considered names; we wanted something simple but meaningful. We went through a range of options, but ultimately most of those we discussed were meaningless for us even if they sounded great (my favourite was Sunshine Brewery).

I hadn’t considered Dolphin for the brewery name... it’s just my surname, an everyday word. It wouldn’t have crossed my mind. So I was quite surprised when Andy told me one afternoon he thought Dolphin was a good name. It ticks the boxes - simple, and holds meaning to us. I understood this but I was a little embarrassed the brewery was in my name and not Andy’s; after all, he is the brewer.

Nonetheless I was excited and daunted about creating a new brand. I have worked in communications for 15 years - including roles in brand development and management, and marketing - so the branding was and is really important to me. We started by talking about what we wanted to achieve: the message we wanted the branding to give and who we wanted it to appeal to. The branding aimed to match the vision for the beers - simple, clean, good quality and accessible.

I initially worked with a very talented designer on a beautiful logo, featuring a lovely stylised grain. We started off using this, sharing it with trusted family and friends for their views and using it in different contexts - trying it on for size, if you like.

Despite being exactly what we were looking for, something wasn’t sitting right. Andy eventually voiced this, suggesting that the reason the name Dolphin works is because of the image it brings to mind, and the beautiful grain was jarring with this. Andy had to leave this with me to accept - I reluctantly acknowledged it makes better sense for a tiny business trying to create recognition to have instantly recognisable branding. So with a heavy heart, I briefed our designer, Elle, to change the logo. Elle understood immediately and re-designed the logo, creating a simple line dolphin. We both really liked it straightaway - it’s not tacky or sentimental.

So now the foundation was in place, it was time for the label design. Being so small, changing the label design for every beer wasn’t going to be affordable so we wanted one design that could be changed to denote different flavours and styles, using colours and simple design changes. I took lots of photos of branding, images and colours I liked, to use as reference points. In particular I took inspiration from a trip to Canada and New England, noticing bold retro designs in Montreal and Vermont.

Using this inspiration Elle went on to create a beautiful label design for us, which unexpectedly made the dolphin very prominent. Despite - or maybe because of - having a whacking great dolphin in the middle, the labels were just what we wanted - colourful, bold and simple. Seeing a dolphin leaping on beer shelves is striking, and the design is simple enough to accommodate different styles, with consistency in the core look and feel. It has potential to develop as we do, and we’re excited about how that might happen.

And now, my name has taken on yet another dimension. Dolphin is no longer just an animal and my family name. It’s also now mine and Andy’s creation, our current focus and our future. Despite being the starting point, my name now feels quite secondary to all of that. And we have more dolphins in the house than ever before.


Our designer is Elle Nelson - ellenelsondesign.com