A bespoke brewery.


Brewery Tuatara needed a branded tasting table that could be set up, packed down and transported, with ease-of-use and environmental sustainability as key requirements.

A tasting test

I love a puzzle – especially puzzles that require me to create a functional, aesthetically pleasing object that fits a client’s needs. So, when Tuatara came to us wanting a printed, branded tasting table for events, I began mulling it over straight away.

Tuatara wanted the tables made from wood and knew we could design, print and cut plywood, as we’d previously made them some small tabletop signs. As a sustainable material, using wood suited the Tuatara brand, and they were keen to invest in using this durable and environmentally friendly product.

Drafting the table

For me it was a straight-forward brief. In Adobe Illustrator, I drafted a first design using measurements I’d taken from taping out the area required to display beer bottles, an ice bucket, some cups, allowing room for someone to work behind the table.

My design also had to be sturdy enough to hold the weight of beer bottles and ice, be robust enough to survive in a crowded tasting environment, and clearly display Tuatara’s branding.

After using Adobe Illustrator for the 2D designs, I imported my drawings into CAD to see how it would all work together in 3D, and applied Tuatara’s artwork to mock-up the look. In many ways it was similar to work I’d done for Foodstuffs, Farrah’s and Hutt City Council, creating 3D, slot-together, flat-pack cardboard display units.

Printing onto ply

The final tasting table design was essentially a five-sided box, with a top fitted above – each piece slotting together in a certain order. While the table kits come with assembly instructions, they’re very easy to put together, especially when matching up the branding.

While printing on ply is environmentally a good decision, it’s not the cheapest, so I designed the entire table to be cut from a single sheet of ply, with almost no waste.

The great thing about this design is that it’s completely customisable. I made thousands of micro decisions on this so it’s entirely customised to what Tuatara needed and is easily customisable for another client.

Sign off and delivery

The tasting table designs went through a handful of iterations, each tweaked slightly from each other, before the final design.

From there, a file for the ZUND digital cutting machine was sent to our production team, who made an unprinted (to reduce costs) test model from ply to check it met all requirements – that is, it goes together and comes apart easily, and is structurally sound in real life.

Once signed off, the job was slotted into our print and cutting schedule, and into production.

Tuatara could definitely not have purchased its new tasting tables off the shelf. The advantage of coming to us is that we design specifically to the brewer’s bespoke requirements, then print, produce and deliver. The advantage is that we do it all.

Q & A

Ruben Norris – Structural Designer

It’s little surprise that a young boy who played with a lot of Lego has found his vocation solving clients’ needs by building 3D solutions.

What is a structural designer, exactly?

It’s a print industry term and might be a little misleading, as it sounds like I’m an engineer. I studied industrial design, which is about designing objects for people, so as a structural designer I design 3D functional objects.

Is good design important even if one doesn’t understand it?

We use the analogy that if you go to a café and sit on a good, comfortable chair, you think nothing of it. But if the chair’s uncomfortable, that will be your lasting impression of the café. It’s actually satisfying to create something people enjoy but may not even notice because it works so well.

Do you have design pet peeves?

Definitely furniture that’s only thought about aesthetically with little thought for ergonomics or functionality. For example, a cheap chair might knock off a famous design – it might look good but have little of the original’s functionality.

Why is plywood so good?

Lately there’s been a definite uptick in using FSC certified plywood in preference to corflute and moulded plastics. That’s fantastic as plywood is a much more sustainable material to use and it’s something we definitely recommend to clients. It is more expensive, but we work hard to design and cut carefully for as little wastage as possible.

Did you play with a lot of Lego as a kid?

I grew up on a farm, so was always hands on, using machinery or helping Dad in his workshop. But I definitely played with Lego a lot, and frankly, if I still had my Lego I’d still play with it.

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