Looking to get into label design or just love checking out cool art projects? These 11 projects from Jon Contino’s “Design and Illustrate a Label” class are instant label design classics.
“Don’t judge a book by its cover.” It’s a tired aphorism you’ve probably heard a million times, and one that doesn’t give nearly enough credit to the artists designing killer book covers. Label designs serve as the book covers for the stuff you love, giving you a peek into the true spirit of a product, as well as the larger ideas represented by a brand. They also serve as indicators of sales and have massive influence over whether a product actually moves at the point of purchase.
(A fact that becomes glaringly true if you’ve ever been lost in a maze of craft beers, finally choosing one because “it had the coolest label”).
These 11 featured artists from Jon Contino’s “Design and Illustrate a Label” class really get to the bottom of drawing an effective, meaningful label. Some of these labels are designed for fictional products, others were created for real brands, some are on bottles, others on clothes -- one’s even designed to be attached to a dog collar.
Check out the designs and let us know your thoughts in the comments!
Artist Jason Thornton created this stunning label as a design for his hand crafted beer. The clash between the deer and the snake instantly catches your eye, and the font choice for the word “Pioneer” gives the label a distinct old-timey personality. You could actually imagine pioneers bringing barrels of this stuff with them as they headed out west. Our favorite part of this label design is how Jason’s typography works to mimic his chosen themes. Case in point, notice how the flourishes on the S and the B resemble snakes and the way the serifs on the T resemble fangs. If this stuff is venom, you can throw away the antidote.
Salt & Sundry is a DC-based brand that asked designer John DeNapoli to help them create a label for their salt jars. After sketching out a bunch of different themes in his moodbook, John decided to go with a nautical theme (as represented by the waves), with the pickaxes representing salt. The flourishes on the crossbar of the A and the ball terminal on the T contribute hugely to the overall aesthetic as well. When designing labels, the devil’s in the details.
This label design is brought to you by Jake Caggie, a designer who helped get the Hemetic brand up and running. This label was specifically made for the Hemetic backpacks -- bags that are meant to combine high quality craftsmanship and textiles with a fully functional USB power source. As Jake describes, he considered American brands like “L.L. Bean, Jansport, and Filson” as the main inspirations for his aesthetic. The final label design is simple yet rugged, and perfectly captures that modern Americana vibe that Jake was aiming for. We especially love the lightning bolt that underlines the brand name, as it subtly reminds you of Hemetic’s charging features.
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Leah-Dora Clothiers is a fictional women’s apparel brand brought to you by graphic designer Jill De Haan. Jill was inspired to name the brand after both of her grandmothers. Leah was “classy, graceful, polite, and kind” and Dora was “adventurous, quick to laugh, feisty, and endearing.” By combining these two personalities, Jill created a perfect yin-yang brand image for her company. She set out to make a brand label that marries the elegant with the adventurous, and this hand lettered label pulls it off exquisitely. The “this article of clothing belongs to” tag at the bottom of the label really seals together the whole design.
This next design comes from Alejandro Giraldo, a graphic designer and illustrator from Medellin, Colombia. Alejandro is the creator of Velmost (a clothing brand inspired by the sea), and this label was created in celebration of Velmost’s one year anniversary. We dig all the nautical references and especially like the fact that their slogan, “Going Nowhere Fast,” rests at the base of the ship. Also worth noting is how Alejandro employs great use of drop shadowing on his letters.
This charming label design comes to you from artist Rett Martin. His co-workers, Alex and Jerry, were brewing different flavors of bitters, and they enlisted Rett to help them design a label. The layout is inspired by Japanese Jōge-e designs -- drawings that are famous for resembling two completely different faces when turned upside down. Rett totally nails the Jōge-e effect and even makes each face look like creators Alex and Jerry, not an easy task. We love how Rett follows through with the theme of rotation, turning the word “Bitters” upside down, too. At 35% ABV, it won’t take too many sips of this concoction to make your world seem topsy turvy.
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Katie Palamaro is a graphic designer and the creator of Scrubalicious Hand & Foot Therapy, a homemade hand scrub that she gives to family and friends as gifts. Katie gets a lot of her inspiration for this label from vintage hand-lettering examples, and it certainly shows. She wanted her new label to appear organic, having a whimsical feel while also exuding an “I am woman, hear me roar” vibe. In particular, we love the textured background and the flourish that sits under the S. Great details, Katie!
This next label design is brought to you by Gustavo Mancini, a graphic designer from Mendoza, Argentina. Gustavo decided to name the wine “Prólogo” (Spanish for prologue) because drinking wine often comes right before good times with loved ones. In other words, the drinking of wine is often seen as the prologue for a fun night. We love how every part of the label is consistent with his distinct philosophy and how he was able to create a unified aesthetic for his brand. Even the main illustration of the man getting ready to ride the bicycle brings to mind someone about to embark on an exciting journey. Pour us a glass!
This next label design comes from Stephanie Ayres, who created it for her friends’ permaculture farm. For those of you who don’t know (we didn’t), permaculture is a way of viewing the farm as an interconnected system, “and using the natural cycles and habits of nature to your advantage.” Stephanie chose the purple crow as a symbol of transformation, community, and adaptability. It’s a graceful label surrounded by subtle agricultural symbols. From the crow in the center to the wheat stalks on the side, to the sun all the way at the top, we definitely feel like this label represents an ecosystem. Our favorite detail? The tiny plant that splits up the “2009” text.
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This next project comes from Oliver Rothenhausler, a graphic designer from Mainz, Germany. You might wonder why anyone would dream up an arugula flavored soda (though honestly, kale is getting pretty big, so it’s probably only a matter of time). Well it turns out arugula is “rucola” in German, a word that naturally lends itself to this crafty soda pun. We love the crossed arugula leaves at the bottom of the label and the slanted baselines that support the letterforms. We expect to see arugula flavored cola on Shark Tank in the not too distant future.
Debbie Kendall is a printmaker whose work is inspired by dogs. While this project isn’t really a dog “label”, it was envisioned to be made into a dog tag, to go on the walls of shelters, or even to be hung up in the homes of dog enthusiasts. The tag has a ton of information about the Portuguese Water Dog, and we really think Debbie does a good job of prioritizing the information in a visually appealing way. Could easily see this design hanging on dog lovers’ walls worldwide.
Do you have a business in need of an awesome label, or do you want to get into label design freelancing? Check out Jon Contino’s class “Design and Illustrate a Label” and bring your ideas to life today. Who knows, with any luck your label design might end up in our next project roundup!