Bare Bottle: Wine Label Design for the Creative Palate

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by Nadja Sayej

Whenever San Francisco-based designer Erik Marinovich strolls down the grocery store wine aisle, he buys wine based on the label. “Labels that stay clear of a template look are what get my attention and money,” he says.

Let’s face it: Not everyone is a wine connoisseur. We’re all guilty of making design-based decisions, which isn’t always bad. It makes sense, then, that Marinovich is one designer behind Bare Bottle, a new limited-edition collaboration project. Every month, a designer and a winemaker team up to present a new (or aged) flavour with a newly designed wine label — which taps into our need to choose wines based on their labels.

Founded by Berkeley-based Corey Miller, a MD and PhD student turned winemaker, it began as an idea in 2011 as a way to strip wine of its pretentious garb and reach out to new audiences with better design.

It was also a way to bring the winemaker and the designer into the spotlight (there are tons of ‘designer thinking productively in the café’ shots on their website, which constitutes as “creative process” shots, not PR photos). All in all, they hope to “reimagine” the wine industry and find new reasons for people to collect wine (including the bottles, long after the wine has dried up).

The first bottlw featured an elaborately detailed wine label with a dark crow designed by Don Clark of Invisible Creature, a Seattle-based design studio, who paired up with Napa-based Aaron Pott from Pott Wines for a 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon.


Production process for Don Clark’s wine label design


The second bottle, “Rain or shine I’m on your side,” was designed by Marinovich, a lettering artist with Friends of Type, with a Sauvignon Blanc Semillon blend and wine by California-based Helen Keplinger from Keplinger Wines.

The bottle is emblazoned with the phrase “Rain or shine I’m by your side,” a phrase Marinovich pulled from his personal experience with enjoying wine. “Sometimes it’s the perfect remedy to a bad day,” he said, “other times, it’s what makes another sunny day a more memorable one.”


Marinovich, who runs the hand-painted lettering project Do Not Open It, first found out about the project through other designers who had been developing the project since its early stages. He jumped on board as one of the first project designers since there is room for creative freedom.

“As a lettering artist, I look forward to working with clients who let you be you,” said Marinovich. “That independence gave me the space to find an idea that would put a smile on whoever may be drinking the wine.”

For more package design inspiration, check out Cool Beer Labels by Daniel Bellon & Steven Speeg.

Inspired by the pop art of Andy Warhol (although, it looks more like a revival of the lost art of sign painting), he said he wanted the bottle to be the center of attention on a table. “Warhol produced work that stopped viewers in their tracks,” said Marinovich. “I wanted to sprinkle in a little bit of that flavor. The color and foil helps boost its presence by making the wine label “annoyingly loud” that a stranger might stop to ask about it.”


Production process for Marinovich’s “Rain or shine I’m by your side” wine label


The Wall Street Journal said his comedic style is better suited to cheaper wine, while expensive wines match better with “simple labels.” Here, the wine costs $25 a bottle ($50 for two).

“Bare Bottle is the bridge to connect a younger demographic into experiencing good wine,” Marinovich said.

It’s more than just a flashy way to get sales. “A label should visually taste as good as the wine, not trick you into thinking it’s something it’s not,” said Marinovich. “I needed to make sure the label could hypnotize you into trying to discover how good it is.”


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