Return of the Living Red
Film noir meets pinot noir; zombie meets zinfandel. These illustrative and evocative wine labels designed by Adelaide-based Mash seem to have more in common with pop culture than château styling.
Things people love:
- combinations of the above
When it comes to wine there's often a lot of rambling about New World and Old World. New World was perhaps originally defined by the Australian, and then latterly the New Zealand, approach to wine making. At it's simplest level, I'd venture that the new school method had much to with cleaning your vats at the end of each vintage. New World wine is generally fruitier, cleaner and more alcoholic. Old World wine is sometimes flavoured with a certain "funkiness", and I'm not necessarily talking James Brown funk, i.e. "heavy emphasis on the first beat of every measure to etch his distinctive sound".
But as with many things, there's often a little bit good about the old and a little bit good about the new. What's good right now is the approach Adelaide graphic design firm Mash is taking with its wine design work. In a strange twist of fate one Mash co-founder is also named James Brown, so perhaps it's unsurprising that this firm is mixing genres, referencing popular culture, literature, art and movies and injecting some energy into the sometimes tired genre of wine branding. We asked Brown a couple of questions:
ProDesign: Much of your wine design work is a little more left-field than classical “château-style” branding. Is this your response to what has been described here as a “wine glut”, i.e. a way to make the more adventurous wine producers you work with more distinctive and memorable at retail level?
James Brown: Our studio is full of different types of artists so you couldn't really pidgeon hole us, however a lot of people come to us with a view towards doing more adventurous packaging and artwork, almost like an album cover … more expression and more depth behind the art rather than the rolling hills of the vineyard (yawn!). In saying all this we are illustrating vines at present for a big American project so we are adaptable but everything has to have a Mash twist. We always set out to create something that is original.
ProDesign: Stylistically, your work seems to run through genres more closely associated with popular culture and the arts, pop horror, film noir, and reading the description of your work for Burn Cottage (see the next issue of ProDesign for more on the Mash's work for Central Otago winery Burn Cottage), German literature from Goethe. Where do these connections come from?
James Brown: All these subjects, pop horror, film noir, have a quality that is lost… back when graphic artists where actually "artists" or "painters" and not computer experts. When an artist had time to do a poster properly rather than "I need this in 1 week", "we only have $4" type scenarios! Times have changed (I sound like my father at 29! Eek). It doesn't mean to say we don't like modern things, we have done a lot of work that is highly modern and then a lot of classic looking pieces — we are veeeeery adaptable!