Only a few decades ago, a common belief was that the more contemporary the design of the label, the more mediocre the quality of the wine inside. The legendary luxury wines of Europe remained faithful to the centuries-old tradition of featuring labels with ornate script lettering, fine line engravings of chateaus, gold foil borders and corks sealed and stamped with red wax. Only upstart nouveau wineries in places like California ignored proper wine labeling etiquette by hiring graphic designers to come up with something colorful and stylish.
But perceptions have changed. Fine wines are being sold in supermarkets, online and even Costco. Wines from around the world compete for consumer attention and shelf space. The assumption that bottles with traditional labels contain better wine no longer has validity. Wine packaging and labels are projecting unique brand personalities, and not shying away from presenting a look that is bold and innovative.
At first glance, the packaging for Coven, a new hand-crafted vodka made by Arbutus Distillery in Nanaimo on tiny Vancouver Island in Canada, looks deceptively traditional, fitting right in on retail shelves with the products of large spirit producers. But darkness changes everything.
Asked to develop a product name, brand personality and package design for Arbutus Distillery’s inaugural product, Nanaimo-based agency, Hired Guns Creative, sought to take consumers into the deeper realm of the spirit world. Hired Guns chose the name “Coven” for the Arbutus vodka brand, not only because it was a play on the idea of spirits, but because it suggested gatherings, mystery and a hint of sexual allure. From a design perspective, creative director Richard Hatter also found Coven “a very clean, balanced word that is easy to work with on a graphic level. And, of course, there are the other obvious criteria; it was easy to spell, say, pronounce, read from a distance, and it was available to trademark.”
To bring credibility to this new product in stores, Hired Guns used several traditional indicators of quality: hand-dipped wax, die-cut label, foil and embossing details, and lots of whitespace. What isn’t seen in daylight, however, is a gathering of witches and night creatures made visible through a glow-in-the-dark phosphorescent coating overprinted on the bottle. The text on the back label adds to the haunting impression: “Shrouded in the mist of the West Coast, a timeless rite enchants those who seek a greater spirit. Initiation requires strict dedication to the craft. There is power in numbers, so gather together because when the lights fade, the ritual begins. We’ve been waiting for you.” Drink up and be merry; the spirits are alive.
In many ancient cultures, traditional patterns are imbued with symbolic meaning that turn the objects on which they appear into amulets believed to bestow powers that protect a person from danger or harm. What better place to add this extra measure of safety than on a bicyclist’s headgear. Korean designers Kim Jungwoo, Kim Yoonsang and Park Eunsug found that the dramatic Sun Ja Mun pattern, a symbol for love, living and luck, was well suited to the cut-out design of a bike helmet, and also appealed to the bike rider’s philosophy of life.
Here’s a new twist on an old Japanese folk art – painting kokeshi doll faces on matches. The original kokeshi figures, introduced a couple centuries ago, were inexpensive souvenir items that visitors to the onsen (spa) villages of northern Japan would buy to give to friends back home. (Even in California, we used to have a half dozen kokeshi, along with snow globes from New York, native American trinkets from the Grand Canyon, and seashells from Hawaii – don’t know what happened to any of them.) It’s the kind of gift that would merit a T-shirt that read: “Grandma went to the onsen and all she brought me was this wooden kokeshi.” Kokeshi dolls were distinguished by their simple rectangular torso, lacking arms and legs, and their enlarged round wooden heads, minimally painted to indicate eyes, hair and maybe a mouth or nose. (Think “Hello Kitty,” who is also missing a mouth.)
Orchestre Symphonique Genevois, comprised of about 70 amateur musicians, is Geneva’s premier amateur orchestra. In rebranding itself, the Orchestre sought an identity that combined the elegance of classical music with contemporary communication and interactive media. Swiss brand strategists KW43 Branddesign took this assignment literally and developed a logotype that evoked both the look of music and the actual sound. The dot of the “I” and the whimsical finials for letters like r, y and g can be read as musical note heads. Put the notes together and they create a melody that the Orchestre calls its new “sound logo.”
In the world of TV advertising, the “Pardon me, but do you have any Grey Poupon” commercial that first aired 32 years ago is a classic. Now it is back, but expanded and embellished for Internet and interactive viewing.
The latest Grey Poupon campaign started with a traditional television ad that aired on the Oscar Awards TV broadcast last Sunday. The 30-second spot, played like a trailer for the feature-length online version. Titled “The Chase,” the commercial, created by CP&B, picks up where the original left off in 1981, with two uber-rich gentlemen dining in elegance in their separate chauffeur-driven cars. As before, one gentleman leans out his window to ask the gentleman in the passing car if he had any Grey Poupon. Once he receives it, his car speeds off and that’s when the excitement begins…and leaves off. To see where the plot goes from there, viewers are told to visit the Grey Poupon website and click on the 2-minute “lost footage” version. From there, viewers are enticed to re-run the video and find the hidden “haute” spots to win prizes such as caviar and champagne flutes.
New technologies go through a number of phases as they progress from “drawing board” idea to prototype to public awareness, assessment of possibilities, learning and experimentation, to practical applications. Augmented reality (AR) seems to be in the late experimentation phase, although some very practical commercial uses are being introduced. Here two Swiss AR experts Martin Kovacovsky and Marius Hugli demonstrate the possibilities of AR by bringing the pages of “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” to life. The images printed on the paper leap into action on the screen when a camera (in the lamp) is focused on a page. Suddenly, traditional print becomes a multimedia vehicle, and the boundaries between analog and digital content all but disappear.
Sydney-based design agency, The Creative Method, says “give us a great story and we’ll give you a great brand.” So when Alternative Organic Wine asked them to design the packaging for a premium limited edition of its organic Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, they focused on the product’s naturalness and not on the traditional way that luxury wines are presented. Creative Method explains that the “concept shows a vine, from the leaves to the bark to the wine.” Every aspect of the packaging was natural, from the outer wrapping paper with the grape leaf pattern printed using organic inks, to the laser-cut balsa wood label, to the string and the wax seal used to affix the label. Just by looking at the packaging, it communicates unique and organic.
Today design trends ricochet around the globe instantaneously, thanks to the Internet. But a look at these posters, advertisements and magazine covers produced in Japan in the 1920s and 1930s show the integration of art movements from European cultures, including Constructivism, Surrealism and Cubism. The graphic works — which appeared in “Modernism on Paper: Japanese Graphic Design of the 1920s-30s” by Naomichi Kawabata – represent a period when communication design was emerging in Japan. The posters and ads from this period are sometimes referred to as “city art,” because merchants wanted to appeal to urban consumers by departing from traditional pictorial naturalism and embracing message-driven avant-garde visuals that implied that they were keeping pace with styles from the West. The aesthetics and composition communicated this awareness of the larger world and established many of the principles of early graphic design in Japan.
Those who really want to get into religion may want to check out the Son of Heaven Hotel, better known in China as the Tianzi Garden Hotel. Located in the little town of Langfang, Hebei Province, near Beijing, the hotel is constructed in the likeness of three traditional Chinese gods — (left to right) Shou, the god of longevity; Fu, the god of fortune, and Lu, the god of prosperity.
The ten-story hotel was recognized in 2001 by Guinness World Record for being the “world’s biggest image hotel.” The rooms are said to be “adequate,” but the Son of Heaven Hotel does have two suites — one in the “peach” held in Shou’s hand and a presidential suite on the ninth floor. The windows are camouflaged by the brocade-like pattern. The inconspicuous hotel entrance is on the left, at the bottom of Shou’s long sleeve. It is unclear whether any guestrooms are available in Shou, Fu and Lu’s heads. Although this hotel has not received a prestigious Michelin star rating, if you get to sleep in the hand or belly of a god, it’s bound to be a heavenly experience.