Winery Taps Students to Label New Vintage

Winery Taps Students to Label New Vintage

The owners and winemaker at Sakonnet Vineyards, coastal New England’s oldest artisan winery, turned to RISD’s Graphic Design graduate students to develop a label for a new vintage of wine, Rhode Island Red. Their goal was to create eye-catching graphics that not only promote the Sakonnet brand, but complement the distinctive nature of the wine itself.

Rhode Island Red is a hearty blend of three different grape varieties grown at its estate vineyards in Little Compton, RI. “Its deep ruby color and silky tannins are complemented by delicious aromas of blue- and boysenberries, violets and lilac, and a subtle hint of toasted American oak,” notes winemaker Christian Butzke.

Inspired by the legendary artist label series produced by Chateau Mouton-Rothschild, which featured works by artists from Picasso to Warhol, it was Butzke who initiated the project with RISD. The red-and-black label design selected for the Rhode Island Red wine was chosen from half a dozen developed by teams of students who researched and refined their designs together.

The winning design team included graduate students Cavan Huang, Scott Thorpe, Susie Nielsen and Peter Freedman. Although their designs had to comply with all federal regulations for wine labels – a learning experience in and of itself – students were encouraged to solve the design challenge as artistically and creatively as possible.

“The teams produced an extraordinary array of design concepts that made it almost impossible for the winery and vineyard staff to choose just a single label,” note Sakonnet’s proprietors Susan and Earl Samson. The vineyard now hopes to return to RISD for future label designs, providing more RISD students with the opportunity to lend their vision and skill to marketing new varieties, while gaining real-world experience working with a small local business.

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