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Wine label design competition highlights the power of creativity and the boundless possibilities of design

by Gerrit Bester

Imagine a scenario where judges are faced with a dazzling array of extraordinary brand design concepts entered for a prestigious wine label competition. The creativity and innovation are so off the charts that picking just one winner becomes an impossible task. So, what do they do in the face of such brilliance? They defy convention and choose not one, but two exceptional designs that truly stand out from the crowd.

In a tale reminiscent of the previous year's event, the 2024 ROTOCON Wine Label Design competition adjudication unfolded in a whirlwind of excitement and anticipation. Like clockwork, the competition drew in a wave of submissions from the fresh talents of the design world – the new vanguards of creativity.

Among them were the spirited third- and fourth-year Integrated Communication Design (ICD) students from Tshwane University of Technology (TUT), honing their skills under the tutelage of the esteemed Department of Visual Communication within the Faculty of Arts and Design. These budding artists brought forth a kaleidoscope of innovation and inspiration, setting the stage for a showdown of design prowess like never before.

After presentations by the top nine and a rigorous judging process, Zenele Nkambule (34), an Advanced Diploma: ICD student, was named the winner of the competition at an event held at the TUT Arts Campus on 16 April. He received R30 000 as well as return flights and accommodation to attend the prestigious WineLand Media/ROTOCON 30 Under 30 Awards in Paarl on 14 June. His design, entitled Route 62, impressed the judges with its clever simplicity.

The design draws inspiration from the picturesque landscape of the garden town of Stellenbosch. The intricacies of the garden landscape, characterised by its aesthetically pleasing shapes, are imbued with elements reflecting the rich cultural heritage of the African Ndebele community. This illustrative approach breathes vitality into the design, endowing it with an air of sophistication and refinement reminiscent of the esteemed historical and cultural legacy associated with the vineyards along the Cape Town Route 62.

Nkambule, who works at the National School of Government, said that as a returning student he thought he was "out of the game" and was very excited about being named the overall winner.

In an unexpected turn of events, Syamdumisa Mbele (22), a third-year ICD student, was named runner-up with his design, Soet Uitnemendheid (Sweet Excellence). He won R15 000 and will also attend the WineLand Media/ROTOCON prestigious 30 Under 30 Awards, all expenses paid.

He said he never expected to be recognised in this way and is looking forward to the event in Cape Town. It will be his first time in the Mother City.

He chose the Cape Sugarbird for his design “because it is native to the Western Cape and it is a bird that enjoys nectar, which also connects to the name of my wine label.”

“The grape in its beak and the grapes behind it, which are silhouettes and form the background, symbolise the vineyards of Cape Town, and the waistcoat the bird is wearing is intended to convey refinement, sophistication and excellence.” 

ROTOCON has partnered with TUT for the second year in a row to give students the opportunity to pitch a brand design idea for their wine labels.

This partnership was spearheaded by Banie Stafford of ROTOCON's Marketing and Advertising agency and a proud TUT Arts alum. "This is an opportunity to give back to my alma mater and to challenge students who are not necessarily familiar with the wine industry to carefully research what they ultimately incorporate into their designs," he said.

Michael Aengenvoort, ROTOCON Group CEO, who were also on the judging panel, were equally impressed by the students’ level of creativity. “The ROTOCON Wine Label Design competition is a showcase of our wide range of label printing and finishing solutions.”

Speaking at the awards ceremony, Aengenvoort gave an interesting account of the fascinating realm of labels. “Labels are like the unsung heroes of the retail world. They are like the sidekicks to Batman, or the trusty steeds to knights in shining armour – always there, always reliable and occasionally a bit flashy.”

“In a world where consumers are increasingly conscious about what they eat, drink and use, labels serve as trusted guides, helping them make informed choices. It can make the difference between a product being picked up or ignored, chosen or passed over,” he added. “Studies have shown that consumers often make split-second decisions based on packaging alone. That is the power of labels. That is the power of good design.”

He challenged students not to be afraid to let their creativity run wild. But, he stressed, that with this power comes responsibility. “You must understand the impact your designs have and use it wisely.”

This year, students were challenged to develop innovative, cutting-edge wine label designs that factor in the design process and strong ideation. The designs had to consider the use of contemporary printing processes as well as finishing, including foils, varnishes, die-cuts and embossing. A total of 49 entries were received.

Before taking on the challenge, ROTOCON hosted a series of bespoke lectures at TUT, led by Stafford.

Students had to apply a number of key design considerations to their designs. These included simple and clean lines, minimalist design, bold modern typography and high-quality professional materials. 

Contemporary wine label design draws on many pop culture references and influences. In recent years, there has been a trend towards more minimalist, post-modern wine label designs, with many wineries opting for clean, simple and elegant label designs that emphasise the quality and craftsmanship of their products.

·       With headquarters in Cape Town and branches in Johannesburg, Durban, Europe and Asia, ROTOCON provides tailor-made turnkey solutions for the label printing and packaging industry.

Zenele Nkambule (34), an Advanced Diploma: Integrated Communication Design (ICD) student, is the winner of the 2024 ROTOCON Wine Label Design competition.

Syamdumisa Mbele (22), a third-year Integrated Communication Design (ICD) student, was named runner-up in the 2024 ROTOCON Wine Label Design competition.

Zenele’s winning design, Route 62.

Syamdumisa’s design, Soet Uitnemendheid (Sweet Excellence).


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