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Idealog—in the ideas business

Does organic wine need to look budget? That was the question facing Sydney design team The Creative Method as they worked on Alternative Organic Wine, an organic packaging concept for a limited edition sauvignon blanc.

Tony Ibbotson, the Kiwi mastermind behind the project, says it all started with a desire to produce something a little bit different from the usual fare.

“A lot of organic wines look and feel as if they’ve been designed by hippies,” says Ibbotson.

“A challenge we were looking to set ourselves [was] does organic wine need to look cheap?”

The concept shows a vine from the leaves, to the bark to the wine.

He says the idea was to see if they could design something that would reflect the “premium” nature of organic products, given that people often pay a premium price for them.

Ibbotson says a lot of time was spent with his team, which included illustrator Tim Heyer, researching organic packaging and looking at what was already available, along with a lot of time brainstorming and sketching designs.

Ideas were discussed and eventually, the best route decided on – in this case, a conscious decision to make as many aspects of the label as possible organic and natural, even down to the inks used for printing, the recycled paper used to wrap the bottle, and the string and wax used to fix the label to the bottle.

“Where we could, we sourced natural packaging,” says Ibbotson.

“We let the materials do a lot of the work.”

This design aesthetic extended even to the type used on the bottle’s label, which was engraved onto balsa wood.

 “We wanted it to look and feel like the vines had started to grow so much they had almost started to integrate into the type itself, so the type and the label become a little bit more as one,” says Ibbotson.

The design has received enthusiastic response from industry peers and The Creative Method’s clients, with the product shortlisted for the 2011 Create and D&AD awards, and winning Best In Show at the recent Dieline Package Design awards.

According to judge Marcus Hewitt: "The market for surprising, dramatic and even shocking wine bottle design seems to have no limit. Doing something truly new is now a serious challenge, but the Alternative Organic series rises to the challenge. The line includes labels that feature raw twine, and vine leaves. This particular label featuring laser cut balsa wood – just demands to be grabbed and marveled at, and just possibly to be quaffed!"

Ibbotson says the recognition has been nice to receive, and it has also been a catalyst for getting to work on some “really interesting projects”.

 Ibbotson, who has 20 years' experience working in design, says the key is striking a balance between doing something different that will grab people’s attention, and reflecting the story you’re trying to tell.

“When you’re designing something it can’t be different for different’s sake. It has to be within context and it has to be relevant within the market,” he says.

“Otherwise, you lose the sense of trust, which is really important with wine – when people buy a bottle they have to look at it and really believe it’s a good bottle of wine.”

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I sometimes think we over design things. We need to mainstream organic wine - most of it is premium, so why make it appear 'odd' in any way? Someone looking for organic will find it, main stream people won't be put off by it. Take a look at Sunset Valley Vineyard's label ( it's elegant and reflects the premium wine inside….

As a designer myself, I look at this and say “way cool”. I admire the design company for the innovation and the wine producer for being willing to take the leap into the unusual and unexpected. However, organic wine is already more expensive than its counterpart, and as a wine consumer and purchaser I would look at packaging and - at least subconsciously - assume that part of my purchase money is going into what is, effectively, extraneous, unnecessary adornment…when all I want is the wine on the inside. As a consumer, this may well put me off purchasing the product…uber-cool as it may be.

I agree with Sarah. I don't mind the organic wine packaging. I mind the package covering the whole product. When I buy a bottle of wine, I need to see its color on the light. That's important for me. I would suggest little ropes as a package for a bottle with a label made from hard paper. That would be stylish and sophisticated. My point of view.

Brilliant mix of strategic and creative thinking.

Looking at their portfolio, these guys are without doubt the best brand development and packaging design firm in Australasia for FMCG.

What a shame Bancroft Estate never used them when rebranding from Montana… they would have designed something iconic with attitude and personality rather than the mundane new Bancroft identity.

I have to agree with some of the comments above. Organic wine is already expensive on its own, thus we as consumers do not wish to chip in even more money that gets paid for the extravagant design of the storage bottles. A simple exterior with exquisite taste is sufficient for us wine lovers who frequently consume wine. However, it is indeed a very bold move by the manufacturers to implement a different design and risk losing old customers who might not recognize them.

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