Proprietary Design for a New Brand and a New Wine Region
Barrie Tucker, founder and principal of Barrie Tucker Company, has had his share of accolades. Over the course of 30 years, the Australian native has designed packaging for some of wine industry’s most prestigious international brands, including Stag’s Leap and Voss Vineyards in the U.S., Mission Hill Winery in Canada, Nautilus in New Zealand, and Penley Estate, Yalumba, and Greg Norman Estates in Australia, among many others. His innovative work with glass has played a leading role in the advancement of contemporary wine brands, as well as Australia’s wine industry. He recent shared his work on a design project for Smith & Hooper that illustrated how proprietary package design can boost brand recognition in the marketplace and still be affordable.
The two-pronged project required Tucker’s design to not only introduce the new Smith & Hooper brand, it would also launch a new Australian wine region: Wrattonbully, an area located between Coonawarra and Padthaway vineyards. George McEwin was the first to plant wine grapes in this limestone coast region in 1885. Today, the area boasts 50 grape growers and close to 20 wine producers of Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Merlot, and Chardonnay varietals. Smith & Hooper was launching two varietals, a Cabernet Merlot and a Merlot.
“The Terra Rossa mineral-rich soil, topography, and weather is perfect grape growing terrain,” says Tucker. “It all brings a unique character to the wines produced here. It was important to express that singularity in my design.”
To contain costs, Tucker chose to embellish an existing bottle rather than create a new bottle mold. For many years, Tucker has worked with Erica Harrop, founder and CEO of Global Package LLC. In fact, he created her company’s identity and also worked with her on the Stag’s Leap project. So he immediately contacted her former associate in South Australia. “Erica sources glass from many suppliers, and we had worked often together to select handsome bottles for a variety of projects.” Because both wines are priced at the mid-range level, Tucker wanted to demonstrate that customized, proprietary packaging could also be affordable.
Smith & Hooper was established in 1995 and is one of few pioneers to produce wines under the Wrattonbully appellation. The winery is now owned by S. Smith & Son, which also owns Yalumba wines, Australia’s oldest family-owned wine company. The wines are made from estate-grown fruit, which gives it a distinctive regional character. “I knew Barrie wanted to capture the unique ambiance of the region in the packaging, as well as the superior quality of the wine, so we didn’t want a bottle that looked or felt cheap,” Harrop says. “It needed to have some heft while being economical, so the Bordelaises Premier was a good choice. It weighs 715 grams and is 329.5mm high with a base diameter of 72.1mm.”
Once the bottle was chosen, Tucker went to work on the design details, beginning with the creation of the brand identity. He then tackled the bottle presentation design and, finally, the label and carton designs. Because there were two SKUs under the Smith & Hooper brand—a premium Cabernet Merlot and a super premium Merlot—Tucker was able to achieve economies of scale by using the same bottle for both brands, but embellishing them differently.
He first created the Smith & Hooper logo in a sophisticated, flourishing script, which would be featured on the label as well as embossed across the shoulder of the bottles. He then designed an S&H icon, which would be debossed and then embossed in a diamond shape into the front surface of the bottles. For the super premium, limited edition Merlot product, the S&H icon would also be acid etched, giving it a superior quality appearance and a point of differentiation between the two products.
The label presented its own design challenge. “Wrattonbully is an unwieldy and unglamorous name for a wine region. But it had to be front and center on the label, since we were also introducing this new wine-growing region to the world,” Tucker recalled. “The wines are reputed to be at least as good as those produced by the neighboring and more-famous Coonawarra region, so I decided to use an elegant traditional typeface to lend sophistication to the name.” Combined with the deckeled edge on the paper label, the entire presentation was one of exceptional refinement.
The package was voted “Author’s Choice” by the Australian wine company, Samuel Smith & Son, who described the Smith & Hooper package as “Exceptionally classy packaging for a wine at its price.”
According to Tucker, the two wines had immediate impact when they were introduced and they continue to succeed in wine shows and in the retail arena. “It’s gratifying to work on a project that has had such far-ranging influence and success,” he enthuses. “I understand my designs are still be used by the winery, even for a new white wine product. It’s proof positive of the effectiveness of proprietary design when it’s well-conceived, skillfully rendered, and doesn’t break the bank.”
About Barrie Tucker
Barrie Tucker founded the globally recognized Barrie Tucker Creative (also The Barrie Tucker Company) in Adelaide, as well as groundbreaking sister studio, Designer Wines. Over the years, his creative output has touched upon practically every facet of the design spectrum. Untold numbers of international awards, publications, exhibitions, distinguished commissions and successful brands are testimony to his talents. He is recognized as a master designer by his peers and was inducted in 2008 into the Australian Design Hall of Fame. He is a member of the élite Alliance Graphique Internationale, a Life Fellow of the Design Institute of Australia, and has been described by AGDA (Australian Graphic Design Association) as an ‘Australian graphic design legend.’ Samples of his work can be found at www.barrietucker.com.