The Ultimate Guide or The Ultimate Guise?

A few words of warning to help new winemakers avoid the pitfalls of cheap label design.

I recently came across a blog post that appeared to be a helpful guide for independent winemakers on how to go about creating/obtaining the perfect label for their wine, while on a budget.

I appreciated the spirit of the piece as I am also sympathetic to the financial constraints of small producers; over 90% of my clients over the years have fallen into this category. I felt the author provided some great advice for winemakers about how to use type, colors, and imagery to express a certain style that will attract a particular audience, help covey the winery's story, and set them apart from their competitors. 

However, it was clear that the author's lack of technical knowledge led her to greatly oversimplify the label design process. I fear this lack of understanding plus her obvious underlying sales goal to promote design contests will lead winemakers down a path that, while appearing smooth at the start, will become very bumpy (and costly) along the way.

I understand the appeal of design contests as they are a great way to get a handful of designs to choose from before committing to spending much (or any) money. But as the saying goes, "you get what you pay for". Most designers that participate in such contests may know how to make something look pretty, but chances are they won't have the skills or expertise needed to create a label that will work in the real world.

Here are some important things a professional wine-focused designer will have an understanding of and take into consideration when creating a new wine brand; things that weren't mentioned (or were skimmed over) in the article:  

- Trademarks (You shouldn't design anything until you obtain a registered TM)
- Confusing and ever-changing wine labeling laws and COLA application process
- Consideration for bottling & labeling machinery specifications/limitations
- Knowledge of pressure-sensitive label paper options (i.e. wet strength, silver, clear)
- Alternate label options such as silkscreening and etching
- Experience with designing other required packaging elements (i.e. cork, capsule design)
- Which bottle style pairs with which varietal and how that influences the design
- And much more...

In the end, if you work with an inexperienced designer, you could end up spending thousands of dollars on labels you can't use. Worse yet, you might not find out until you get a call from your bottling manager on bottling day saying he can't apply the labels because the COLA application was rejected, the labels won't fit on the bottle, or the label rolls won't work with the machinery because the specs weren't followed. 

Avoid the nightmare. Hire a professional.