Art of the Label

May 1, 2009

No limit to creative applications in Oregon wine label design

With the number of Oregon wineries poised to surpass 400, what goes on the bottle is proving to be even more diverse—if not more delightful—than what goes in it.

Given the independent spirit of winery owners, that hardly comes as a surprise. But what they have come up with for their label designs and the process they went through to arrive at them, has so many different variations it would take a book to describe them all.

Marketers will tell you one of the most important purposes of a wine label should be shelf presence, to attract a potential buyer’s attention by making it stand out from competitors. But if that were its only purpose, large type and bold colors would do the job.

The message conveyed by a wine label goes well beyond that single goal. For Oregon wines, in particular, the label makes a statement—often a very personal one—about the people who have committed their lives to the product inside.

Here are a few of our favorites. They represent a broad range of artistic styles and graphic techniques, which indicates the almost limitless possibilities that can be explored when seeking to establish a unique identity.

Among the following examples selected by the OWP, you will find everything from portraits to period photography, abstract art to bold typography, vineyard scenes to birds and animals, line sketches to crests and monograms.

Breaking the designs down into specific groupings proved to be a useful approach. There are so many themes and variations on themes, defining and including examples of each one would have been impractical.

Instead, by utilizing a range of basic categories, we have sought to give readers a look at labels we feel exemplify each category as well as some insight into how they came about.

It should also be mentioned that some labels employ parts of more than one category, such as artwork depicting a person, a photograph of a person, or artwork of people in a series. The dominant element dictated which group it best fit into.

Perhaps the most important thing about this sampling of creative endeavors is that they are distinctly individualistic expressions of an industry noted for its intense individuality. They state, in no uncertain terms, “label me Oregon.”

Modern art takes on many forms. That one of them might be the semi-abstraction of a cowhorn is unusual though certainly not unimaginable. Ever heard of the biodynamic tea preparation created by composting in a buried cowhorn?

Cowhorn owners Bill and Barbara Steele wanted to have their label symbolize the winery’s commitment to biodynamics. When that desire met modern art’s uncluttered dynamics, the concept came together seamlessly.

The spare, simple elegance of this label attracts curiosity and therefore commands attention. What more could you ask in the way of both image and shelf presence?

– Karl Klooster