Self Directed Brief 2 – Information Design

I have spent today trying to find people who can print on my bottles for me, or make labels or letraset. Other than that I have also been testing out print out labels.

Note to self : liquids and inkjet prints don’t go hand in hand.

So far I am okay with the design, its simple, straight to the point – As I have been going for this no nonsense approach, I found another saying “The bottom line is” so for my project the bottom line is, its all about the taste of the wine, not these lavish labels. Its abit of a conceptual connection but I also feel that the line anchors my text to a place on the bottle.

Yesterday I came up with the idea of using the cork to place information on. It would be that the user would purchase the bottle of wine purely on the description of the taste, then once they had got to the drinking stage they could find out what wine it actually was. However its actually really difficult to print on to cork, plus could ink have implications with the wine?

Anymore I have moved on and was looking at other ways I could have information there and it would/could be revealed at a later time.The Tanaka is a great example, this would well with the red wine as it would be quite straight forward, but it instantly gets harder with the rose and white wine, trying to colour match so that the text was invisible when the bottle was full… pretty much impossible in my current technical state.

I’ve also been trying to decide on what colour wine bottle, so far I have green as white text would stand out clearly against the bottle, but I would also like to see the colour of the wine… so I will test out both. I will also test out white and black text. Really the white I will have to do photoshop test as obviously I can’t print white text.

While googling ways to to have hidden text then reveal, I made an amazing discovery. A company that does Blind Taste testing using the metal cap to hide text. AMAZING! So I plan to use this idea with my own wines, I think that its a clever idea that links well. You buy the wine on taste, then go to drink it, and discover more about it, so in future you know whether to buy this again or not.

Now I just need to finalise my design, get it send to the printers and do some more tests myself. Finally all coming together.

Does All Wine taste the Same?

JUNE 13, 2012



Editors’ Note: Portions of this post appeared in similar form in an April, 2011, post by Jonah Lehrer for We regret the duplication of material.


On May 24, 1976, the British wine merchant Steven Spurrier organized a blind tasting of French and Californian wines. Spurrier was a Francophile and, like most wine experts, didn’t expect the New World upstarts to compete with the premiers crus from Bordeaux. He assembled a panel of eleven wine experts and had them taste a variety of Cabernets and Chardonnays1 blind, rating each bottle on a twenty-point scale.

The results shocked the wine world. According to the judges, the best Cabernet at the tasting was a 1973 bottle from Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars in Napa Valley. When the tasting was repeated a few years later—some judges insisted that the French wines had been drunk too young—Stag’s Leap was once again declared the winner, followed by three other California Cabernets. These blind tastings (now widely known as the Judgment of Paris) helped to legitimate Napa vineyards.

But now, in an even more surprising turn of events, another American wine region has performed far better than expected in a blind tasting against the finest French châteaus. Ready for the punch line? The wines were from New Jersey.

The tasting was closely modelled on the 1976 event, featuring the same fancy Bordeaux vineyards, such as Château Mouton Rothschild and Château Haut-Brion. The Jersey entries included bottles from the Heritage Vineyards in Mullica Hill and Unionville Vineyards in Ringoes. The nine judges were French, Belgian, and American wine experts.2

The Judgment of Princeton didn’t quite end with a Jersey victory—a French wine was on top in both the red and white categories—but, in terms of the reassurance for those with valuable wine collections, it might as well have. Clos des Mouches only narrowly beat out Unionville Single Vineyard and two other Jersey whites, while Château Mouton Rothschild and Haut-Brion topped Heritage’s BDX. The wines from New Jersey cost, on average, about five per cent as much as their French counterparts. And then there’s the inconsistency of the judges: the scores for that Mouton Rothschild, for instance, ranged from 11 to 19.5. On the excellent blog Marginal Revolution, the economist Tyler Cowen highlights the analysis of the Princeton professor Richard Quandt3, who found that almost of all the wines were “statistically undistinguishable” from each other. This suggests that, if the blind tasting were held again, a Jersey wine might very well win.

What can we learn from these tests? First, that tasting wine is really hard, even for experts. Because the sensory differences between different bottles of rotten grape juice are so slight—and the differences get even more muddled after a few sips—there is often wide disagreement about which wines are best. For instance, both the winning red and white wines in the Princeton tasting were ranked by at least one of the judges as the worst.

The perceptual ambiguity of wine helps explain why contextual influences—say, the look of a label, or the price tag on the bottle—can profoundly influence expert judgment. This was nicely demonstrated in a mischievous 2001 experiment led by Frédéric Brochet at the University of Bordeaux. In one test, Brochet included fifty-four4 wine experts and asked them to give their impressions of what looked like two glasses of red and white wine. The wines were actually the same white wine, one of which had been tinted red with food coloring. But that didn’t stop the experts from describing the “red” wine in language typically used to describe red wines. One expert said that it was “jammy,”5 while another enjoyed its “crushed red fruit.”

Perfect explanation. Wine tasting is subjective, it cannot be put into a clear taste category therefore being ambiguous about the taste of the wine allows the design of the label to influence heavily upon our perception of the wine.

Another test that Brochet conducted was even more damning. He took a middling Bordeaux and served it in two different bottles. One bottle bore the label of a fancy grand cru, the other of an ordinary vin de table. Although they were being served the exact same wine, the experts gave the bottles nearly opposite descriptions. The grand cru was summarized as being “agreeable,” “woody,” “complex,” “balanced,” and “rounded,” while the most popular adjectives for the vin de table included “weak,” “short,” “light,” “flat,” and “faulty.”

The results are even more distressing for non-experts. In recent decades, the wine world has become an increasingly quantitative place, as dependent on scores and statistics as Billy Beane. But these ratings suggest a false sense of precision, as if it were possible to reliably identify the difference between an eighty-nine-point Merlot from Jersey and a ninety-one-point blend from Bordeaux—or even a greater spread. And so we linger amid the wine racks, paralyzed by the alcoholic arithmetic. How much are we willing to pay for a few extra points?

These calculations are almost certainly a waste of time. Last year, the psychologist Richard Wiseman bought a wide variety of bottles at the local supermarket, from a five-dollar Bordeaux to a fifty-dollar champagne, and asked people to say which wine was more expensive. (All of the taste tests were conducted double-blind, with neither the experimenter nor subject aware of the actual price.) According to Wiseman’s data, the five hundred and seventy-eight participants could only pick the more expensive wine fifty-three per cent of the time, which is basically random chance. They actually performed below chance when it came to picking red wines. Bordeaux fared the worst, with a significant majority—sixty-one per cent—picking the cheap plonk as the more expensive selection.

A similar conclusion was reached by a 2008 survey of amateur wine drinkers, which found a slight negative correlation between price and happiness, “suggesting that individuals on average enjoy more expensive wines slightly less.”

These results raise an obvious question: if most people can’t tell the difference between Château Mouton Rothschild (retail: seven hundred and twenty-five dollars) and Heritage BDX (seventy dollars6), then why do we splurge on premiers crus? Why not drink Jersey grapes instead? It seems like a clear waste of money.

The answer returns us to the sensory limitations of the mind. If these blind testings teach us anything, it’s that for the vast majority of experts and amateurs fine-grained perceptual judgments are impossible. Instead, as Brochet points out, our expectations of the wine are often more important than what’s actually in the glass. When we take a sip of wine, we don’t taste the wine first, and the cheapness or expensiveness second. We taste everything all at once, in a single gulp of thiswineisMoutonRothschild, or thiswineisfromSouthJersey. As a result, if we think a wine is cheap, then it will taste cheap. And if we think we are tasting a premier cru, then we will taste a premier cru. Our senses are vague in their instructions, and we parse their inputs based upon whatever other knowledge we can summon to the surface. It’s not that those new French oak barrels or carefully pruned vines don’t matter—it’s that the logo on the bottle and price tag often matter more.

Great explanation again, if you buy wine with the mind set of 2007 is a good year or its older its going to taste better then of course the wine will taste better, as you have already convinced yourself that it will. You sell the wine to yourself when reasoning what to buy.

So go ahead and buy some wine from New Jersey. But if you really want to maximize the pleasure of your guests, put a fancy French label on it. Those grapes will taste even better.

Editors’ note: This post was amended to correct factual errors.

1Spurrier’s initial study involved both Cabernets and Chardonnays, not just Cabernets.

2There were also Belgian judges, not only French and American.

3Richard Quandt’s name was originally misspelled.

4Brochet included fifty-four experts in the test, not fifty-seven, as originally reported.

5The expert did not praise the wine for its “jamminess,” as originally reported, but, rather, said that it was “jammy.”

6Heritage BDX costs seventy dollars, not thirty-five, as originally reported.

It annoys me that the taste of the wine can be changed by the design, but not just design in general but the conventional design of wine and its labels. There is a kind of system in place where designers either try to follow the french, vintage and expensive bottle designs as they want their wine to be considered as good as that. Or designers go against it… rarely in actual shops but in personal projects.

Its interesting that perception plays such a large part in our buying/choosing behaviour. This is the point I feel like I am getting at. What happens if you strip all this clutter and wine label conventions away. You get something new, untraditional… but it also brings to light about the responsibly you have as a designer to design honesty. I feel that honesty means nonsense design.

Today I went to my final third year crit about my last every project within this building, but there was no time to be sentimental about it. I have now received some great feedback on my work.

Feedback I was given before I misunderstood, I thought that I was being suggested to go into a new direction and leave what I was doing behind, however this wasn’t the case… just a bit of miscommunication.

Overall I feel there is an issue with my work and how I connect with it. I have very bold views about design and what is good/bad but I don’t really show this… as they say actions speak louder than words. I am currently all talk and no action.

As I am always told, I need to work outside my comfort zone and push the ‘boundaries of design’ but only now it has slotted into place. I now understand what is being said. If I have strong and opinionated views about design the best way to prove what I am saying and be taken seriously with my points, I have to do it through design.

Currently my work is sitting on the fence. I am doing a bit of what I believe. ( for example of the wine labels, I am looking at taste, but still hoovering around the aspects of user friendly etc .) I need to jump straight in and experiment and push to the extremities of design and use my issues (with labels and there conventional design) as the starting point, and to say : Look I believe design should be like this.

If the design is as bold as my opinions then that would be a pretty massive step, and realisation I have had in the final week of my degree. I believe that this has all just slotted into place due to feeling that I had nailed this project but other people did not believe in it, therefore I have had to fight my corner. By defending my work I have managed to figure out what I feel about design and what I should do to prove everyone wrong.


Today I have spent 7 hours and 20 minutes doing work. I’ve found that recently that if I time myself/day at the end of the 8 hours (usually) I can look back and ask myself “does it look like I have done enough work in that time” Plus it also forces me to do work as it makes the time pass quicker.

I have been developing my labels. I have played with colour, layout, type sizes etc. Its has been difficult to get the layout correct for a while as the icons at the bottom are not exactly the same dimensions or shapes. I think the next step is for me to show people these labels and see if they understand all the information or whether some bits maybe slight confusing – such as the summer piece at the bottom… this could mean that the berries are picked then etc. When it is meant to communicate when its best to drink. Happy with progress, but need to push and refine the labels further…

Just over one week has passed since I started this project and I have wasted far to much time on other things as well as spending time on other projects. But I have forced myself just to focus on my current one and worry about the rest in the week I have to sort my portfolio out.

So I was doing tonnes of research and not really getting any where so basically stopped doing my sort of beneficial procrastination and just jumped in to doing sketches and testing out the info graphic idea – which wasn’t mine.

I pushed a lot with this info graphic and looked at various books such as data flow 1 & 2 etc. But I think I found the real issue.

I don’t have any data.

Yup. Words are data but not enough to make an info graphic. So I went to my crit with my experiments and explained that this did not work. For some reason the response was disagreeing with my snub of the info graphic. Maybe I didn’t explain clearly enough.

I and not doing an info graphic and I feel that is being dishonest to the proper use and need of info graphics. Infographics are used to explain complex data in a visual way. I do not have complex data so what I am doing is then using the visual aesthetic of a info graphic is hide my mistake… or try to make something look cool.

I am not that designer. I am not going to do that.

So I have moved on as I feel that I have a better visual response.

When thinking about this project I had a few possible solutions 1. Infographic. 2. Using materials to communicate. 3. Form / Statement / Sheet.

Now I have gone back to the form idea. I am very much a no nonsense person. I think this is why I have a problem with wine labels as they are not transparent. Their real meaning or content hides behind a lavish illustration and gold calligraphy letters. I like to know what i’m getting.

So I have a look in my favourite book – The Form Book by Borries Schwesigner, and found a paragraph that explains what I am looking for;

“The aim of this type of form is to send a message in which the content has been unified, making it easier to produce and to read.”

I started doing some other research too. I found a fantastic redesign of a birth certificate ( there is some information that I think is pointless as well as the icons but thats another blog post altogether.)

It was done by design studio IWANT. I like that there it is bold and systemises information. Easy to read as well as interesting to look at.


I have now actually started designing my own icons and layouts. I first gathered my information (all the details that would be on each of the wine labels) and put the information into a hierarchy. Its has been beneficial to actual get started instead of thinking about what to do, just doing it and seeing what works is really the best way to go about it.

So today I have spent a good 8 hrs doing college work and I timed myself as I feel that forces me to actually be productive rather than getting side tracked every 15 minutes.

Just need to keep this level of productivity up.

People Buy the Wine Label, Not the Wine. Do they?

The Label Itself

If the information searcher wants to build his own impression by going to a shop and reading the labels instead of asking for expertise in journals and specialized shops, it is of extreme importance that the label is striking enough to stick out of the vast amount of bottles surrounding it. Only then is there a chance of the bottle being perceived and eventually purchased. Consequently, a consumer looking for a wine that goes well with fish will be glad to see a fish or the picture of a fish dish printed on the labels, thus sparing him to read all the information on the back label, mostly written in very small letters.

In picture 8 I give an example for a bottle of ordinary Spanish red wine that is pepped up with a recipe of a traditional dish of that region, “Castillan-Style Paprika Chicken”. You can find a picture of the finished dish on the front label and the recipe on the back label. Both labels can be easily peeled off so you can even collect the recipe. Picture 8: Front and back label of a Sainsbury`s Tempranillo 1998 red wine (Madrid, Spain)

It doesn’t look very arty, but gives practical information and thereby gains a competitive advantage.

The quintessence of the stage of information search is to grab the consumer’s attention. One of the simplest strategies therefore is to design unusual or funny labels – even though the strategy is simple, the realization might be difficult. Some labels try to be funny, but aren’t. See the following examples to get an impression of how marketers and designers try to reach their aim.


As a conclusion, at this stage of the process the marketer has to provide information when and where consumers are likely to search. Therefore, it is crucial to use marketing strategies striking enough to gain the individuals attention. This aim can be reached by advertising and by creating eye-catching labels, adequate type lettering as well as shapes and colours of bottles.

For the majority of consumers, the design of a wine bottle consisting of the label, typography and shape and colour, indeed will be a good help in their decision. As mentioned before, a consumer is quite impressionable during the decision process.

But if you are part of the majority of wine-drinkers, you will feel quite lost when you look at the array of wine in the supermarket shelves and think to yourself: “Isn’t it just grape-juice, after all?” It is exactly then that you have to build up an opinion in order to come to a decision and therefore you’ll gratefully rely on every help you can get – a well designed label is one.