Letter to the editor: Will work for wine

By , 5 May 2020

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The following received via email from John Pace, creative director at Cape Town design studio At Pace.

This Covid-19 lockdown is getting right up my nose, and I cannot help feeling for the wine industry which I have often done work for. The laws imposed are outrageous, and they’re bringing this industry to its knees. As a graphic designer and business owner we too are feeling the pinch from these laws that are in place. If the cogs of the wine industry don’t move, then neither do ours! I could spit teeth.

Right, I just needed to get that off my chest.

Over the years, I’ve been watching and participating in the Wine Label Design Awards as convened by winemag.co.za, and it’s been a superb process with some great results. It really has helped raise the bar on every level including typography, illustration and overall design.

As designed by At Pace.

Great design helps wine brands win the hearts, minds of consumers and in some cases, great design has helped put winemakers on the map, always bearing in mind with great wine. For this great work to get through to the design finals, you need a great client – so hats off to them, those clients who have allowed the designer’s creativity to flow long enough for a strong, worthy design to unfold.

But I do feel for the smaller winemakers that don’t have the big budgets to invest heavily into design. I believe that good, simple design can be just as effective as complex design, without very elaborate craft, and at a reasonable price.

In my draw, I have at least 15 fabulous designs (even if I say so myself…) that never made it to the bottle, and strangely enough, these are the ones I share the most with prospective clients as they show off our creative ability. NO, I’m not trying to sell them, but merely demonstrating that some of our clients have not been so brave, or just not willing enough to take the leap of faith with the design.

If wines on the supermarket shelves had voices, you would hear a cacophony of noise. And our job is to make sure that your brand is the chosen one. Again and again.

The playing fields are changing, and it’s going to be online communication, sales from your website and delivery straight from the cellar door. How should your label look to work effectively on the Internet AND in-store?

An aside: How to brief a designer is as follows: Go to Pinterest – it’s full of great wine labels and find some that you like, and drag them into a folder – share with your designer some visual clues. Put anything else you like into that folder, history, stories, an old medal. If you have a story to tell, tell it and tell it well. Allow the designer to have concepts without design first. Evaluate the idea first, and the execution will come after.

Too much time can be wasted crafting labels where the client doesn’t like the idea in the first place.

There is nothing more exciting for a designer than that small piece of white paper, just bigger than a Post-It note (the metaphorical “clean white canvas”) to work on. By the same token, there will always be another winemaker to help with some TLC on his or her label in order to take it from good to great.

Right now, my design studio is here to help, and we are offering a trade exchange – design for wine – it’s the least we can do to help out.

I wish all wine producers and their distribution channels and sales teams a speedy recovery, and as soon as possible.

To make contact, send an email to: me@johnpace.co.za or call 082 901 0039

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  • Coleen Kriel6 May 2020

    I agree, we need to get real and realise we can not go on without all industries as they are integral to each other. Those who want to, should work, and do so with caution. Our country will die in any case so carry on.

  • Angela Lloyd5 May 2020

    This youtube video, featuring Neil Tully MW and label designer, and one of Robert Joseph’s Real Business of Wine Zoom discussions, backs up what John Pace has to say with some illustrations. It’s well worth watching. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ys_ZbSmvSNA

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