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Clever design lets the label do the talking

Wine is such an experiential beverage – it sets a mood, complements a meal and ignites the senses. Debbie Sinclair speaks to DGB and Switch, two companies that, with the help of their labelling suppliers, have partnered to make good wines look great.     

The way in which wine is packaged goes a long way to informing a consumer’s in-store choice and reinforcing the experience of both brand and beverage.      

It’s therefore essential that the look and feel of the bottle and label convey the essence of the brand. When DGB decided to relaunch the packaging for its Douglas Green range, it needed just the right design team on its side, and approached Johannesburg-based agency, Switch.     

Switch Branding & Design, a department within Switch, focuses on graphic design solutions, providing brands with a consistent and memorable identity.     

Explains Gaby de Abreu, co-founder and executive creative director: ‘We offer brands a genuine competitive advantage through speed of reaction, world-class creativity and sound strategy. This approach ensures complete synergy between our client’s requirements and our work. Our solutions are based on the knowledge that design is a tool used by our clients to achieve business objectives.’      

Services offered include: brand custodianship; corporate and brand identity design; package design; product design; and the creation of a total visual brand language.   

‘DGB approached us with a challenge,’ says Gaby. ‘The company felt its Douglas Green brand had become impersonal over the years. In an attempt to appeal to a wide international market, the wine’s packaging was modernised to the point that it had lost authenticity. In a highly commoditised market, it needed to be given a “personality” of its own; a definite point of difference with which consumers could identify.’

In addressing its brief, Switch decided to tap into the 75-year heritage of this family brand. ‘After all,’ says Gaby, ‘Douglas Green was a négociant – a wine merchant who assembled the produce of smaller growers and winemakers in the region, choosing grapes only from the best vineyards, making the wine and selling it under his own name. The story behind the brand hasn’t been fabricated for the sake of marketing. It has a real, rich history and it’s this personal touch that we wanted to convey to consumers.’

In returning the heart and soul to the brand, the labels have been given extra-special attention, with a vintage but contemporary look. The labels for the varietals boast detailed pen-and-ink drawings that depict Mr Green at work, trading out of a store in Paarl and fetching and delivering fruit and bottles in a trusty old Chevy that DGB keeps in working order and shines up for special occasions.

Denver Kirsten of Paarl-based CCL Label explains the process and machinery used in converting the labels.

Flexo printed on uncoated stock, the five-colour label with a single silkscreen varnish raises and accentuates each image. ‘We applied a heavy polymer to emboss the Douglas Green seal, reinforcing the brand’s heritage-based identity,’ says Denver, ‘and it was essential that the registration of the embossing on the watermark was perfect.’

The seal was complemented with an 80% ink watermark to define the detail of the emblem. A vintage look and feel was further preserved by manipulating the background buff of the label that was then completed with a final matt varnish.

‘The combination of a raised screen and detailed embossing made use of both old and new printing processes,’ adds Denver. ‘Our cutting-edge technology and the raised screen satisfied the requirement of a contemporary look, while the embossed seal gave the labels the authenticity that the brand conveys.

‘We used the same process when printing labels for the blends, except the embossing was replaced with an overall matt pattern varnish that highlighted the message that this is a vintage brand.’

These labels are intentionally applied at an angle, to give the impression that Douglas Green hand-labelled each bottle himself.

Another DGB brand, and a very different project that Switch has worked on, is the Honey Badger wine. Here the brief was to design an irreverent and fun label that would appeal to a younger generation looking for something ‘cool’ and different. Aimed at the US market, this wine promotes ‘the sweetness without the sting’ and, together with DGB, Switch conceived of a story that plays on the notion of the Honeyguide Bird luring the Honey Badger to the beehive, so that both can reap the sweet reward of teamwork.

The striking pressure-sensitive labels for this wine are digitally printed by Rotolabel in Cape Town on Glacier Extreme material. The colours were selected by the Honey Badger brand manager and the designer, who worked closely with Rotolabel on the project. Highbuild varnish was used to enhance the brand name, and the finished product is clever, youthful and eye-catching. Just what’s needed to make a good wine look great!




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