Big Ideas on a Small Scale

How small producers can use their size to their design advantage.

I got my start in the wine industry designing labels for custom crush facilities. Most of the clients I worked with made one to three barrels of wine (25-75 cases), either as a hobby project with their spouse or as an affordable way to start their own wine brand. The goals of these clients might have varied, but there was one thing all my clients had in common; they wanted their label to be unique and reflect themselves... their story.

Sadly, due to time and budget constraints, the labels I produced often lacked the level of creativity and personality I felt they deserved. Many didn’t reflect the handmade quality and loving attention with which my clients spent years making their wines.

Looking back, I feel like we (the winery, my clients, and I) missed a huge opportunity to approach label design differently. We were so busy trying to make labels that looked "professional" like the large wineries that we didn't take advantage of the flexibility and creativity that small scale production provides. 

So I asked myself, "What could we have done that was more unique? Something perhaps less professional and more personal; something the large wine producers couldn’t?"

Here are some ideas I came up with:

Let’s say you and your golf buddies decided to make a barrel of wine together and you, of course, want golf to be the theme of the label. Well, why not cut squares of astroturf for the front label? Or find colorful, uniquely patterned golf pants at a thrift store and use the fabric to wrap the bottles.

Maybe you love cooking or baking. How about scanning vintage recipe cards for your labels? Or use alphabet cookie cutters to bake the letters needed to spell out your brand name?

Perhaps automobiles are your thing. Why not buy sheets of blank Avery labels, lay them out in a column, ink up your car tires, and drive over the paper?

Love shooting guns and/or hunting? Similar to the golf pant idea, find used camo, cut it up and use the fabric to wrap the top of the bottle and secure with string. Or purchase and shoot up small, brightly colored targets and attach those to the bottle. Would be a great way to brag about your perfect aim in addition to winemaking skills!

Perhaps you are known by friends as the “funny one” or “sports fanatic”? Grab the comics or sports pages from newspapers and wrap the bottles in those.

Are you a gardener, or nature-lover? Gather dried flowers and leaves and feature them on your bottles in clear adhesive pockets. Or make charcoal rubbings of fresh foliage. Or maybe you create your label using those specialty papers some greeting cards are made from; those cards that have seeds embedded and are meant to be planted after use.

Are you an educator or simply love chalk? Paint your bottles with chalkboard paint to turn them into mini chalkboards - and attach a piece of chalk to the bottle with twine. 

My point: No matter what your story, there is a creative way to transform it into a customized label that is unique and memorable.

Now gather up your friends, make some wine, and get crafty!

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Love these ideas but not sure how to apply them to your wine project? Shoot me an email, I'd be happy to help come up with some creative ideas unique to you!