Okay, not so fun anymore. I’ve been at the wine label now for many weeks. I can design a label, I’ve designed many things like it. Designing a label with a voice, with individuality, with energy…I am sad to say that I am struggling at that with this client. I’m less concerned about the timeline, I’ve always trained this blog to be an exploration and platform for providing good work, great design work first, and a healthy bolstering of production on a timeline second. Here I am though, tons of looking, tons of sketching, and I can’t seem to find the solution that rings my bell.
My problem is probably rooted in the fictional nature of these projects. There is no real client, I can’t go back to them for feedback, I can’t bounce ideas off anyone. I only have my own whim, which when earthquakes and hurricanes and weddings and injuries are going on around you, even my whim isn’t on. But I’m not blaming my temperament or the weather, I’m just a bit surprised and frustrated that I cannot seem to find a voice for this label. My other main concern about the process is that the branding seems to be label first, and any sort of logo second. I’ve always been so inclined to find a brand mark first for a client, and then allow that concept to dictate all the presentations of its collateral. That, and wine labels are mostly illustration in the industry, and I’m finding that to be a skill that I’m less inclined towards, and less adept at. Finally, I’m struggling with the fact that a brand mark is often simply a name laid out in a typeface. There’s no gimmick, there’s no interesting graphic bug, there’s no cleverness. I’m sure there can be cleverness in some brands of wine, but I can’t convince myself that what I’ve developed with Grass Fire is meant to be witty or even very light hearted. Is it just typography? Does the rest of the label become the identity for the brand?
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The history of the brand is what is important to this client. The history and the perspective of the winery and the land. They want something beautiful to rest on the shelf that is vibrant and new, but represents ages of refinement. I’ve boiled that down to be the Mother Ship of Grass Fire, and from that I simply cannot drag myself away from the layered label concept. I realize that a trend in wine label design is to “break the box” using screen printing, etching or some other technique that I do not have at my immediate disposal for a fictional client. Those designs can be really inspiring—they’re shocking to see such simplicity or complexity painting the surface of something we have for generations only been able to see adorned with a limited cropped sticker. But, even though I’m no authority on the subject, just looking around in any wine store anyone can see that this is still the dominant form of packaging for wine. Therefore I’m constraining myself to a paper label with the assumption that die cutting would not be a problem. Regardless, the concept that I cannot escape lends itself to this style, and so the constraint of being a single paper label is clear.
The layered label concept rings in my mind and my sketches over and over again because it represents a cross section of the land and sky. Layers of earth and rock lead to soil. Soil leads to the vegetation, vegetation leads to ash which leads into the sky, and the sky into the atmosphere. It’s abstract, and should probably be simplified, but I believe it is the focus for the brand. Layers of the world, from the core of the earth to the stars in the heavens parallels all the many levels of taste that come through in the wine. As fresh and poignant as the concept seems to be, graphically it’s giving me a tough time including a comfortable place for the form of the brand name and packaging information—the text. This is the implementation, and must be solved.
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A suggestion is to intertwine the layers representing “grass” (green) and “fire” (orange) with the typography. I’ve composed an example using some font in the neighborhood and colors that haven’t been refined. As you can see I brought out the big guns, Color-aid, to begin convincing myself that the layers of color are enough to inspire the depth of the project that I’m after. Color-aid is amazing, it’s an amazing tool, and in this case, invaluable for deciding on a palette. After I photographed the swatches together, I’ve convinced myself that some form of texture to the layers is imperative. The ghosting, burning, “toasty” edges of the swatches are a perfect dimension
I toyed with the idea of simply boxing the typography up at the bottom, but the label was just taking on a bookmark look. You could take it off and stack it up at the desk of a library, and that’s not Grass Fire wine. That’s expected. I’m not fully convinced the reversal type in the center of the layers is much more ground breaking, but it does interact with the design, it begins a conversation with the form of the different layers.
I’ve posted a few more concepts in the sketches above, some I’m excited about but I have to refine to make them work. But as you can see I’ve been struggling. I’ve gone back to the board several times and attempted solutions from many angles. I’m loving the colors on the backdrop of the inky red bottle and the crisp opal colored bottle. The layered concept is strong, but how do I implement it? Is there a logo that forms from all these systems? I’m ready to be done with the label for sure, but I want it complete in my hands. I want the bottle and its warm and elegant label to rest on my own shelf.