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Dreams by design

In collaboration with the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT), ROTOCON launched a wine label design competition earlier this year, specifically targeting undergraduate students enrolled in TUT’s Department of Visual Communication within the Faculty of Arts and Design. The winners of this competition were acknowledged during the WineLand ROTOCON 30 Under 30 Awards, a prestigious event hosted at the posh Leopard’s Leap wine estate in Franschhoek, during the month of June.

The aim of the competition was to broaden the recognition of young movers and shakers in the wine industry, encompassing not only winemakers and viticulturists, but also acknowledging the talents of young individuals involved in various other sectors of the value chain, including designers.

Since its establishment in South Africa in 2008, ROTOCON has embarked on a series of initiatives and projects dedicated to enhancing the skills and capabilities of the country’s young workforce. This is a subject that the group’s CEO, Michael Aengenvoort, is fiercely passionate about. ‘Despite the challenges that the youth of this beautiful country are facing, there’s incredible potential that can be unlocked. We’re committed to the development and mentorship of the young leaders of tomorrow. We look forward to seeing how they will apply and further refine their skills in various industries and hope that these awards will inspire them to go above and beyond.’

Michael is confident that these competitions will not only enhance the employability and productivity of individuals but also contribute to the growth and competitiveness of businesses and industries in South Africa.

The wine label design competition was the result of a collaborative partnership spearheaded by Dr. Herman Botes, the Head of the Department of Visual Communication, and Banie Stafford, a former design student at TUT who now works at the marketing agency B Creative. The competition adhered to a strict brief that challenged undergraduates to develop innovative, cutting-edge wine label designs. The artwork had to factor in the design process and strong ideation that resonates with contemporary printing processes and finishing, including foils, varnishes, die-cuts, and embossing. The competition brought a significant realisation for Schalk van Staden, a lecturer in the Department’s Integrated Communication Design programme. He observed that the students not only recognized the value of their work but also discovered their potential. ‘The students showed great pride and enthusiasm for the competition. It allowed them to think creatively, logically and approach a design project that’s research-driven.’

Herman expressed his satisfaction with the well-organised and structured planning of the ROTOCON-TUT partnership and competition right from the start. ‘A lot of the success of the project was generated during the planning stages. We came together in 2022 to conceive the idea and put everything in place. It was integrated into our curriculum from the beginning of the year. For any company that wishes to collaborate with a tertiary institution like this, the project must be structured in such a way that it’s planned the year before. It can’t be a quick fix or afterthought. A lot of time and planning needs to go into it. We can give Banie a lot of credit for that.’

According to Mohammed Jogie, the department’s programme coordinator and part-time lecturer, the competition encouraged innovative thinking among the students. ‘This project allowed us to push that innovation in the thought- and design process as well as in creative output. Another valuable lesson for the students was the real-world exposure they received. They realised that this is how a studio potentially runs, with the exception of a very generous deadline. Beyond that, the student got a sense of how you treat a client, how you present to a client, and all the other good things you learn working in the field.’

Herman emphasises the importance of establishing a mutually beneficial work relationship in any partnership. ‘It shouldn’t be a situation where one party benefits more than the other one. We all got what we wanted out of the project, and it presented our students with valuable and real-world learning opportunities.’

When asked why a tertiary institution in Pretoria was chosen for the competition, instead of one closer to the Western Cape, Banie answered by saying that the idea was to give this competition a national footprint. ‘If you consider that most of these students have never set foot outside of Gauteng, let alone visited the Cape Winelands, I was blown-away by the research-driven design that they implemented and presented. It was truly phenomenal.’

Herman adds: ‘These students are not wine consumers at all and have no experience of the wine industry. The competition took them out of their comfort zones and exposed them to a different world. But the designs really surprised me, and it was clear that their ideas came from a fresh, unbiased perspective.’

Michael Aengenvoort, Mpho Moema, Jimmy Libese, Patrick Aengenvoort, and Banie Stafford celebrating winning label designs at the WineLand ROTOCON 30 Under 30 Awards luncheon.

Inspired students

Among the 30 design students who participated in the competition, two winners emerged. Jimmy Libese, a fourth-year student at the age of 25, was announced as the runner-up and landed himself a sizeable cheque of R15 000. After much deliberation, the winner of the competition was none other than Mpho Moema, a third-year student aged 20, who grabbed a generous cash prize of R30 000, courtesy of ROTOCON. The prize money of R45 000 is no chum change, and for Jimmy and Mpho, this kind of money has the potential to be life changing.

Mpho and Jimmy were flown to Cape Town and presented with a certificate at the WineLand ROTOCON 30 Under 30 Awards luncheon. The winning label designs created by Mpho and Jimmy were printed on a press with auxiliary technologies, all represented by ROTOCON, and applied to wine bottles for presentation at the awards. The labels were printed by RAM Labels in Cape Town.

Following the awards ceremony, the winning duo spent the afternoon marvelling in the beauty of the winelands at the grand and stylish Leopard’s Leap wine estate in Franschhoek while networking and mingling with the 30 Under 30 award winners. Neither Jimmy nor Mpho had ever visited the Western Cape. In fact, they’ve never set foot outside of Gauteng or even seen the ocean in person.

Mpho was over the moon upon hearing the news that she won the grand prize. ‘I’m proud of myself. It’s a great achievement, and it solidifies the path I want to take with my design career that could potentially lead me to success. I’m ecstatic about the win and it gives me a lot of confidence in my ability as a designer.’ Her dream is to open her own studio where creatives can collaborate on distinct African designs.

Mpho’s winning design was inspired by scenery from the glorious Cape Winelands, illustrating the vineyards in the foreground and the iconic Table Mountain in the background. Dots were used to form these illustrations, giving the perspective of viewing this scene from a distance. ‘The dots represent stars, as the design was inspired by a scene of the landscape under a starry sky. When looking at the dots from afar, it gives the illusion of a subtle glimmer.’

Jimmy expressed his surprise at being chosen as the runner-up, since initially, only one winner was expected to be selected. However, the judges were so impressed with his creation that they decided to announce a second prize, shelling out an additional R15 000 for the runnerup. Jimmy’s design was inspired by animals, particularly baboons, stealing grapes from vineyards. He described the illustrations as whimsical and playful, targeted at a younger, more adventurous consumer seeking a fun and unique wine-drinking experience. According to Jimmy, his design aimed to create a positive emotional connection between the brand and its consumers.

‘When I heard the announcement, I felt happy, special, proud and confident. This award instilled a renewed confidence in my design skills and a sense of self-belief that I can achieve anything I put my mind to,’ Jimmy comments.

Hats off to ROTOCON. Through this rewarding partnership, it has once again succeeded in uplifting young talent in South Africa, doing its bit for skills development and putting its mantra of #bringingpeopletogether into practice. ROTOCON’s efforts have undoubtedly made a positive impact on the local design industry.