September 06, 2010

Wine labels from Imprint Design in Portland

For the move from garage winemaking to a commercial enterprise, we had to change our wine label. Two reasons. One is that the home label was a quick thing a neighbor friend put together back when we bottled the 2006 Vincent Pinot from the Wahle Vineyard. It didn't have much thought, aside from ripping off the simple script on white style you find so much in France. Think Lapierre's Morgon. In reality, so many French producers who had script labels are going for something a little more up do date. Catherine et Pierre Breton in Bourgeuil come to mind. They didn't go up market, rather changed to something simple but refined. If we ripped off Lapierre at first, now it's the Bretons' turn. [kidding, of course]

Second, as an astute reader pointed out when I first posted about that label for the 2006 Vincent Wahle Vineyard, what my neighbor and I came up with looked a whole heck of a lot like the simple script labels from California producer Stephen Vincent. Same look, similar name, ack. This could have been horrible. In my research about using the Vincent name - there are so many people who have it as part of their name, but they do all manage to co-exist - I wrote to Stephen and he called me as I was shopping in my local Trader Joe's. The name is no problem, he said, but when I mentioned the label I had at that point, he did think it would be a good idea for me to go in another direction.

It made sense. I wanted something more professional considered, and something with a graphic element to completement the Vincent name and perhaps to stand on its own as our symbol. So...who to work with on wine label design? I had some names to consider, but I really wanted to work with someone good. Luckily, I had heard about Angie Reat of Imprint Design. Her partner is Matt Bereson of Love and Squalor, wines that I enjoyed and wrote about here before getting to know Matt personally. His wines are delicious, and Angie's design work seemed promising. So it made sense to meet with her and see if there was a good fit.

Turns out Angie and I both went to San Francisco State for grad school (my wife went there as well). She had worked for years in SF, in Italy as well, and now had been in Portland for some years, working and being active in the design community. In short, she's a pro and that was clear from meeting with her and discussing design. In my work at Portland State, I hire professionals to teach what they do, in classes geared for other professionals looking to advance in their careers. Angie immediately struck me as someone who I'd hire to teach, and naturally someone who I wanted to work with.

We met a number of times during the course of this project, always at Little T Baker on SE Division and 26th. Great bakery, Angie's choice, obviously a good sign for a pastry fanlike me. We talked about specific elements of design but also about the big picture, branding. She encouraged me to embrace ideas that were uniquely Oregon, not French, something local and natural to our place where this wine is grown. Her initial design ideas varied widely in direction, giving me choices about where I wanted to go with my labels. That was great. I loved two ideas in particular, and we went forward with them, refining the concepts until it was clear what I wanted. The final design is based on a waking dream I had where I envisioned wheat like on the old Lincoln pennies that I grew up collecting. On the back, they say "One Cent" and I imagined "Vin Cent," my name, the patron saint of wine and wheat, the source of bread and a staple of Wheatland, the northern part of the Willamette Valley. It all just fit and when I mentioned the concept to Angie, she was obviously pleased and ran with it. (I didn't want anything literally like a coin on the label, but it is true that the first Wheat penny came in 1909, one hundred years from Lincoln's birth. Now, cent years later, our first wines from the 2009 vintage. Strange, no?)

From a rough idea, we ended up with the Vincent type face, the wheat kernel over the "i" and the graceful shaft of wheat as the design element I had been searching for. I wanted something that could stand on its own, aside from the name. Or with the name. Or the name on its own. With this design, we have exactly what we want. Simple, elegant, graphic but subtle, something I would want to see on my dinner table and something I hope many others would feel similarly about. That's exactly what I talked to Angie about at the start, and she did it.

For the "reserve" wine, we opted for a reverse of the main label. This year, our only single vineyard "reserve" wine is the Zenith Vineyard. In future years I anticipate several special bottlings like this, so that this darker label may become the signature of our brand as we grow. Or perhaps we'll have another variation of the design for something especially special? We'll just have to see.

I love the design we've ended up with. We have a cohesive package that has already gotten incredible feedback from consumers and industry people alike. Just the other day I mentioned my project to a retailer aquaintance, and specially mentioned design and he cut in with essentially, oh, I've seen it on the web site, it's really good. I don't love the design because I think other people who need to like it will like it. But that really helps. Another restauranteur mentioned how she likes the overlap of Vincent and the wheat. Me, too.

In addition to the labels, Angie put together the web banner for my Wordpress site, she designed gorgeous business cards and got them printed, and in addition to working directly with the label printing rep, she put together imagery for printing on our corks so the website and wheat image are on each cork in our 200+ cases of wine.

In the end, I'm obviously very happy about my experience with Imprint Design. If you're looking for a wine label designer in Portland, definitely talk to Angie Reat. I'll continue working with her, and I'd love to see others working with her as well. I've since met other designers who are terrific, but Angie has something special to offer. Definitely look her up.

No comments: