Characteristics of Good Design

Recently, while speaking at SOWine2, I had the opportunity to enjoy a design presentation given by Richard Roberts, Creative Director at Palazzo Creative in Seattle.  I was pleased to connect a name and firm with some work I'd already admired -- Palazzo did the re-branding for L'Ecole 41, a known Walla Walla based winery, which I saw during the Taste Washington event held in Portland two months ago. 

Richard noted that good design has three key characteristics: consistency, transferability and ability to project extrinsic cues about the brand promise.  For a new brand, design consistency is about keeping look and feel similar throughout all marketing materials.  (In a broader marketing sense this also means consistent messaging, placement and promotion.)  With an established brand like l'Ecole 41, consistency can be more challenging -- with a redesign, there is a question of what design elements should remain the same and what should stay in the past.  I love how Palazzo maintained the brand's iconic school house image, but elevated its positioning by transforming it into a more serious package with less classic color and polished design.

Transferability means that the design works in different mediums.  For wineries, this typically means that it works for logo, packaging, and marketing materials.  A very important area for wineries to consider is how the design will appear on the shelf.  I've seen beautiful work that just doesn't work given the rather small amount of label "real estate" on wine bottles.  Additionally, fonts and nuances need to be easily translated to other marketing arenas.  L'Ecole 41's new website features its revised logo with the new color palette and tone.  An example of poor transferability would be a wine label that doesn't translate to a website, ad or other collateral.

The ability to project extrinsic cues is perhaps the most challenging since it's multi-dimensional.  The l'Ecole 41 label sends a message of an upscale experience that has an element of the old world but is not stuffy.  It speaks to the very good and consistent quality in the bottle.  When designing for a wine brand, you must always consider what message the design is sending, and make sure that it appeals to the audience of buyers you've targeted.

This of course means that you should start with the buyer in mind... in my next post, I'll discuss how to get the most out of your experience working with designers and creatives.