Spirited work: Brilliant liquor label designs

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99designs does not recommend drunk designing. However, we are absolutely blown away by the caliber of liquor label design found on the world’s shelves.  To conclude our series on beverage label design (earlier, we looked at beer and wine), we’ll jump into the most impressive category yet: spirits.

Why do liqueur and liquor label designs make for such a creative hot spot? Our theory is that many average consumers wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between one mid-range vodka and another based on taste alone, so label designs become a distinguishing factor and deal maker.

Absolut Vodka‘s standard label uses a simple, strong and elegant juxtaposition of script and bold sans-serif typeface, which allows for lots of freedom. Their city series includes great illustrations, and in a bold and genius limited edition, they go totally bare. “In an absolut world, there are no labels,” it reads.

Then, among the super high-tier limited editions, bottles become more a collector’s item than just a beverage. In both situations, excellent design is key. Let’s take a look at some other winning approaches.

1. Old school

Many of the world’s most famous liqueurs became prominent around the turn of the 20th century, when American and European bar and cocktail culture was raging. Hence, the design influences of the times – Art Nouveau and Art Deco – are permanently stamped on liqueur label design.

The strong, almost architectural design style seen in St. Germaine and Cointreau are classic examples of early 20th century styles.

2. Illustration

Many spirits opt for ornate, highly illustrated designs to indicate luxury status. These bottles are not just for holding liquor; they can be proudly displayed in the home and on the bar.

Kraken rum and Peat Monster scotch both have beautifully illustrated labels. The bottles for Michelberger Booze Company (below) take a colorful, psychedelic approach.

3. Background and foreground

Another common and highly effective bottle design choice is to have a patterned or lightly illustrated background with a strong, clean label for the foreground.

10 Cane Rum‘s label is excellent – an intricate, monochromatic background illustration with an eye-catching orange sticker in front. Flora&Fauna scotch makes a similar move in all black and white, with its label by Dan Hinde.

Lovejoy plays with  patterns, as you can see in the two variations below.

Liquor label design: Lovejoy

4. Minimal

A clean, minimal design that emphasizes typeface or composition is never a bad idea. This is true across the board and liquor labels are certainly no exception.

Alacrán mezcal’s logo by Sociedad Anónima, placed on an opaque white bottle, is an intriguing and brilliant choice for the spirit. Blossa Glögg‘s vibrant bottle, also opaque, is a great example of austere typeface paired with playful design.

Liquor label design: Silk

R1 Whiskey shows that just a small band, artfully done, will suffice in catching a consumer’s eye. Milk is actually a wine bottle, designed by Emily Hale… but that typeface? We just could not say no to that.

5. From the 99designs’ community

99designers have produced some seriously awesome spirit label designs that could keep pace with any of the above. Check ‘em out:

Hollywood Dinner Club

This design for Hollywood Dinner Club, by SchmeelyBug, is tastefully ornate.

Walla Walla Gin

TokageCreative‘s design for Walla Walla gin takes on the not-so-easy task of marketing a gin to women, and does a great job with it.

Green Acres Vodka

The design for Green Acres vodka, by 1302, utilizes the background and foreground method with smart typeface.

Skittfiske Aquavit

Skittfiske aquavit, by Xebeche, integrates minimalism with a touch of illustration.

Egoist Vodka

Designs for Egoist vodka, by mrcha (right) and TTOM (left). Minimalism at its finest.

Do you have a favorite liquor label design? Share it in the comments!

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Alex contributes from New York City on topics ranging from branding and typography to the history of design.