Grass Fire has been cooking in the background now for a bit while the previous client was completed, and I’m ready to bring it forward with some fast and furious design directions. I’m not entirely sure this month’s brand is going to necessitate an Inspiration Board, but I can’t forget how important it is to baste yourself in the concept of a brand so that your mind does most of the work. What I mean by that is by brainstorming and image digging for a company’s identity, avenues open that may not have been apparent if you took a more intellectual approach to design.
In lieu of an inspiration board this month I’ll be tossing out imagery that’s caught my eye that seems, at least initially, to be in the universe of Grass Fire. Hopefully by collecting these images I’ll begin to develop the mother ship of a its brand, which will in turn dictate the visuals. I’m not entirely sure why some of these images inspire me, or look like the brand (some have nothing to do with either grapes or fires), but they do. They may or may not stand, but they are a great place to get the brain cracked. Also here are a few concepts that just come to mind or have substance behind the brand’s character, someone distilled in the five words used to describe it. This is more like a visual mind map, and it’s the path I’m taking for this month’s brand inspiration board.
For Grass Fire, our goal is to come away with a logo or brand mark of some sort, and two labels they can put on their best selling bottles of wine. What interests me most about these vintners is how to bring in the history and story of their wine making business without it being gimicky. The story is simple, there was literally a fire in the valley where an old vineyard used to be, they lost lots of the crop, and the company that is now known as Grass Fire stepped in to take over the business. Without embellishing on more than the pivotal circumstance of purchasing the burned land, the owners wanted to embrace the fact that they are a newer winemaker, but the land they’re growing on comes with a lot of baggage.
Certainly the first things that come to mind are fire and grapes. Since the client has asked for something less traditional than an illustration of a windmill or simple label with centered text on it, we’ve got an opportunity to open the boundaries just a little. We want Grass Fire to remain mature, but eye catching, and though illustration may be a key, simple rendering is too bland for the client (and for me). Conceptually, however, there might be merit in the association with smoke, fire fighting or fire as a myth regarding rebirth and purging. I’ve done the myth thing already though, so I’m not drawn to that route. One of the things about the brand that I do love and would like to focus on is the land. It’s not so much the grapes or the vintners who bring you the wine, but the land. Of course, we’ve seen terra cotta pencil drawings of vineyards on the labels of hundreds of bottles, what can I do to distinguish Grass Fire in this respect?
Going on, no time to waste, there are labels of wines out there that have already associated some of the themes into their designs. Though most wineries that produce reds will want words like “bold” to be associated with their taste, the history of Grass Fire could easily have similarities to other brands that actually exist. Some of the labels pictured reflect that, but some of them simply inspire the kind of quality in label design that Grass Fire sees is their window. I’ve dug around a lot on the internet and in wine stores to see the breadth of designs out there, and there certainly is quite a wide array of approaches, from sensitivity, restraint, tact and humor. Somewhere in the middle is probably where Grass Fire stands, but one in particular sings a tune that harmonizes with this monthly brand. It’s called Celestia, and after you take a minute with the beautiful ligature and fascinating pin-striped falling star motif, notice its balance of approachability and tact; the bottle has a unique quality that is stands apart from 90% of standard text-on-cream-colored-label wines, but you could easily see it proudly standing among giants on a shelf in Bar Veloce or the Bourgeois Pig. Then, of course, to really put the nail in the coffin, it’s printed with luminescent ink, which means that it glows in the dark. A kitschy tactic to say the least, but it seems relevant and inspired.
I’m not sure if Celestia is even real or a pet project like Monthly Brand (seems to be a legitimate brand by sponsored by Costers del Sió, designed by FeedbackMP, but it’s not displayed on their site), but it stands as a great touchstone for my own foray into the design of wine labels. A wine’s brand could be romantic, tactful, clever, stimulating, unique but overall it should make you want to enjoy the product. Grass Fire seems to be erring on the side of sympathy for its history, but also pride in where they come from. Let’s see if we can bring those qualities into sketches and then into a design.