Design Wine Labels for Fun and Profit

65_qna_125bMaybe it’s the nearness of the holidays, maybe it’s just that PaperSpecs readers are a bunch of lushes (probably both), but it seems we can’t post wine- and spirit-label-related stories fast enough. And it all began with Kevin Shaw’s excellent free PaperSpecs webinar, “Designing Spirited Labels.” (You can still catch the instant replay of that eye-candy cavalcade here.) Shaw is the founder and creative director of Stranger & Stranger, and the work of his wine-and-spirits-packaging firm speaks for itself.

After that hugely successful webinar, you spoke for yourselves, hurling several questions his way afterward. The following are his answers, crafted with the same love and attention to detail he devotes to his packaging. Drink up, you lovely lushes 🙂

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In your experience, how do you get a client to buy into a forward-thinking or “scary” concept?
I used to offer a money-back guarantee. Worked every time. To this day I’ve not come across another creative firm who is really willing to put their money where their mouth is. A long time ago, last century I think, I came up with an idea for a lenticular label featuring Tango dancers. No one had ever put that tech on a bottle before; we had to create a special lens. I said, ‘This will put you on the map, it will get you so much PR that you won’t know what to do. If it doesn’t then don’t pay me.’ It did 2 million cases and they had to hire a village to work around the clock to fulfill the orders.

How often do you need to sacrifice design elements because of the limitations of the printer/converter?
We try to know the limitations up front and design to fit, but every designer has to be flexible and skilled enough to make something cool out of one color and an interesting stock.

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How can a designer break into the wine label business?
I used to do them for a hobby. Then I went to the local distributor and offered to do them for nothing, then for wine, and eventually for cash. If you do a good job and, most importantly, increase sales, then word will get around.

If someone wants to work at Stranger, all they have to do is show us some beautiful work, doesn’t even have to be real, and we’ll hire them regardless of experience.

Any comments on using PCW recycled papers?
Do it. Ours is one of the most energy wasteful sectors in all of retail and we should be trying to be as sustainable as possible. Recycled papers are really good these days and there’s a decent selection.

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How do you create your intricate illustrations? Various freelancers or an in-house graphic design team?
All drawings and paintings are commissioned. Illustrators are much better at illustration than designers. And vice versa. Designers are better at type so all type and decoration is done in house by the designers.

How large is your company? Number of designers? How many designers work on a typical project?
We’re a small company, 19 people of which 11 are creative. Only one designer works on each brand so there’s a lot of pressure to nail it.

Are there ways that you can extend the brand such as coasters, napkins, etc.?
Absolutely. We must keep a lot of agencies busy doing support work for our brands.

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Where do you get your inspiration? Do you keep clip files of things you like? Where do you find those great, antique, obscure fonts?
We do a bit of research but most of the type is drawn in Illustrator by the designers.

How long do you typically spend on the design of a new product package – research, design, etc.?
A few days for the research and concept and a few more on art and production. We don’t mess around. I guess that’s what comes of being specialists and knowing the market.

More for your wine-, beer- & spirits-label enjoyment:

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