Label design: how to make your product stand out

A well-designed, effective label can be the first step in getting people to pick up your product, but what is the best way to go about creating a label?

“It doesn’t matter how good your product is on the inside; the first time people choose your product is going to be because of the packaging,” says Nina Chalmers, director and designer of Graphic Language Design in Adelaide. “If you can’t get their [a consumer’s] attention in the beginning, nobody will ever know how good your wine is on the inside.”

In February, Barossa Valley winery, Jacob’s Creek, launched the most significant brand redesign that it had undertaken since 1976, after market research uncovered that consumers found the Jacob’s Creek brand to be traditional, conservative and slightly old fashioned.

“Given many shopping decisions are made in-store, a great label is one of the most important assets a brand can have,” Derek Oliver, marketing director for Jacob’s Creek says. “In many cases, it is all the information a consumer has about the product in that moment when they are deciding what wine to buy. It has to be eye catching, distinctive and also reflect the personality of the brand, as well as the quality of the product.”

At the centre of the redesign was the aim to communicate that Jacob’s Creek is a real place, founded by a family of winemakers and a family of grape growers, after research found that many consumers didn’t know that Jacob’s Creek is a place in the South Australian wine region, the Barossa Valley.

“We found out that if we could actually connect with our consumers and show them what the story behind Jacob’s Creek is, it would make a very significant difference in terms of appreciation for the brand itself,” said Jacob’s Creek brand manager, Louis Cheng, at the launch of the brand’s redesign.

Above: the Jacob's Creek redesign.

An effective label starts and ends with communication.

Nina Chalmers says the first step to starting a project as a designer is to create a relationship with the client.

“Through getting to know our clients and the story behind their brands, a truth starts to develop behind that brand and consumers can actually see that, they can feel it. If your story comes through in your branding, that actually makes for a really successful package,” she says.

“It’s got to be something that tells a story. It can be a small thing, like they can say that their great grandfather used to wear these particular boots when he was working in the vineyard and maybe they have photos of them.”

Chalmers says it’s also important to establish what the client likes, and to get to know the target market.

“I think the most important thing is for them to have had a think about what they want and what they like,” she says. “Bring some examples of labels that you like and that can be the start of our conversation because those labels are actually talking to that winemaker or that client so there’s something in those labels that elicits an emotional response for them already.”

Sasha and Danae Goldsmith developed Endless Cider in 2013 and decided to design their own label.

The name “Endless Cider” was the starting point for their design.

“We had the name so we were just throwing out some things: ‘what in your mind is endless? What does it look like?’ Danae says. “We looked at all sorts of things but what we were seeing in our head wasn’t translating to paper at all. We just tried the stripes horizontally because we’ve liked the stripes for a long time and Sash just flipped it by accident and we went “yes!”

For the Goldsmiths, finding a gap in the market was an important part of their process.

“There has to be room for another great label,” Danae says.

“I don’t think there’s any cider that we’ve seen with stripes. There’s packaging out there, be it wine, cider, beer or shampoo that has stripes in it, that’s nothing new. It’s the way we have used the stripes that seem to be unique,” Sasha says.

Above: Sasha and Danae's Apple Endless Cider

Chalmers says getting a customer’s attention in-store is the first purpose of a label.

“Once you’ve caught somebody’s attention with the look, you’ve got two seconds and now you want them to pick it up. If your paper’s got a beautiful texture or you’ve got an emboss, or a high-build, something that makes people want to reach out and touch it, you’ve now got them holding the bottle in their hand,” she says.

Sasha agrees it’s not just the look of the label which is important, but the touch as well.

“What I noticed from [my time in] hospitality is that people play with the label, they don’t necessarily know that, but they naturally do it.

“It was really important to us to not have it two-dimensional, because the product to us is not two dimensional. When we were developing the cider it was important that it had a lot more going on in your mouth than normal ciders that seemed thin to us, so we want the label to actually represent what’s in the bottle as well,” Danae says.

Chalmers says there are design rules and conventions which are vital for every label.

“You have to have a focal point and then there has to be a hierarchy of information. So it will go from your focal point – so that’s where you want people to look first, and then there has to be a hierarchy of information. If it’s done properly, there are design cues and ways that we ensure that people look at that information in a certain order.”

Above: One of Graphic Language Design's labels.

In contrast, by designing the label themselves, the Goldsmiths said they were able to make their product stand out, and create something completely different to the other labels on the market.

“I’ve worked with some designers before and they haven’t necessarily translated what we thought was how we wanted it to end up,” Sasha says.

“I don’t know how we’d actually communicate this label to anyone,” Danae says.

“Because we aren’t designers, we’re not constrained by laws of design. We haven’t got any guidelines so we can just do what’s in our head, make a few mistakes and work out what looks good that way.”

Danae says if you choose to go to a designer, it can be useful to translate a little of what you’re thinking onto paper beforehand, so they have “a little more of an idea of where you’re heading.”

Chalmers says sometimes clients approach Graphic Language Design with a mock up already done, but often they’ll end up moving away from what they originally drafted.

“It’s a sensitive point for a lot of designers because people think ‘oh I can just do this in Word’ but unfortunately, it looks like they’ve done it themselves in Word. Your really good, successful designers have generally have at least four years of training, and they understand the science and the theory behind perspective, hierarchy of elements, and all of those things that make up a successful design. It would be the same as saying to the doctor ‘why can’t I just go to a nurse?’” she says.

Unsurprisingly, Sasha has a different perspective. “That’s the question: do you need a formal qualification in design to be a designer? Or do you need to have been around it all your life?”


18 thoughts on “Label design: how to make your product stand out

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *