If you’re in the business of bottling wine, chances are you’ve already looked at more labels than most people will in lifetime. (Admit it – you’ve lurked in the grocery store wine aisle so long you’ve feared store security would start asking questions!) So it’s understandable if you have some pretty firm ideas of what you’re looking for when it comes to creating a label design for your own beloved brand. Why, then, do so many of our winemaking customers tell us the task seems so daunting? Because the hardest things to design are often those that seem the simplest at the outset.

This doesn’t have to be the case, though – and we’re here to tell you why. So pour a glass of your favorite varietal, grab a pen and pad (brainstorming, as you’ll see, is key) and read on to learn the five things anyone embarking on a wine label adventure should do before getting started. (We’ve included examples from 99designs’ wine label design contests for some visual inspiration.)

1. Identify your USPs (Unique Selling Points)

Why does your wine stand out from the pack? In other words, what are your most important selling points? Your wine label is an advertisement – one potential customers will examine for just a few seconds before reaching out a hand or moving on. So you need to know your USPs without missing a beat – and so does your designer.

You might think of it this way: if your final design needs to convey just three things to a customer to make them understand and appreciate your wine and your company, what are they? Do you have a unique philosophy, methodology or varietal? Does your company’s origin, evolution, or location set you apart?

Communicating a few core messages through your label is far more effective than trying to cram in a dozen. A mantra to keep in mind when drafting your design brief – and thinking of your label, for that matter – is “less is more.”

You might end up with three USPs like:

  • My husband and I quit our corporate jobs to start a winery from scratch in order to live and breathe our passion.
  • Our wine is friendly and accessible to everyone from wine newbies to wine snobs.
  • We use only organic grapes.

Once you have your three USPs, give some thought to how and where the information might best be conveyed. Through the design and text on the front label? Explanatory text on the back? You may not be sure – that’s okay at this point.


Opting for a playful vibe, Flogites’ label appeals to consumers with a less serious approach to wine, while at the same time sending the message that they mean business through clean and clear design. Winning design by Magdalene.


Ask yourself, “Who am I designing the label for?” Unless winemaking is merely a hobby and you plan to dole out bottles solely to your friends and family – in which case we’re happy to send you our mailing address! – “my customers” should be your response. Your wine may be a very personal labor of love, but the label should not be a mere reflection of your own personality and interests. You may be fixated on the idea of featuring a likeness of your favorite pet on a bottle, for instance, but if you’re not 100% certain your target customer shares your love of felines and wants to think “cats!” when uncorking a bottle, it’s time for a rethink. Your wine is your business, so approach it like the entrepreneur you are.

How can you make sure the customers you have in mind pluck your bottle from the shelf? Start by envisioning your target customer in a concrete way. If it’s a woman, what does she look like? How old is she? Where does she work, shop, vacation? Where and under what circumstances does she drink her wine? Be creative – you may want to name her, draw a picture or even draft a bio. Identifying your core customer – or several – in this way may seem silly, but it will help you determine how to create a bottle that will leap into their hands.

Doing this enables you to examine your design preferences from a new, more objective perspective. The shift in thinking means that instead of asking yourself, “Do I like a mostly brown label on a green bottle? Would I buy a bottle with a parrot on the front?” but “How does Jenny (a 37-year-old mother of two in Minnesota who daydreams of visiting Paris) feel about the color brown on a green bottle? Does Jenny like birds?”

For more on this process and how it can help you, check out marketing pro Heidi Cohen’s post on how to develop marketing personas.


In its minimalistic yet sophisticated label the brand incorporates the Applecross name into an old communion token. The old-world style conveys high quality through a clean and timeless approach. Winning design by kto.

3. Take stock of your competitors – and be objective

What’s that? You say you’ve already done this? Do it differently. You may have to take a field trip or spend some quality time with your laptop to do this, but it’ll be time well spent. Forget you’re a wine pro and put yourself in the shoes of the target customer you’ve identified. Ignore all you know about the wine inside the bottles – focus solely on the labels themselves, and the fact that you’re someone who simply has to pick a bottle and get on with your day. Let’s say you’re Jenny.

Which labels is Jenny immediately drawn to? Does she like the sensuality of a black label with gold lettering? A crisp white label splashed with a bright color? What design elements stand out – for instance, a certain font size, a contemporary motif, a central image? And finally, does the label instinctively jive with the price tag?

The key here isn’t to figure out exactly why certain styles would appeal to your target audience – the why isn’t always important. What’s important is instinctively identifying clear “dos” and “don’ts” when it comes to creating your own brand. Snap pictures or take screenshots so you’ll remember when it’s time to nail down your design brief. That way you can tell designers with certainty what not to do and give them guidelines for what they might consider incorporating.

Two Blind Mice

Drawing inspiration from the brand’s name alone, the designer playfully incorporated illustrations of a pair of blind mice, while emphasizing the theme by using braille on the label. Winning design by Dizzinessdesign.

4. Capture your brand’s spirit in 10 words, or less

Make a list of words or phrases that come to mind when thinking about your brand or the particular wine you’re designing a label for in particular. Aim for ten, and don’t let yourself think too hard about it. Your list might look like this: smooth, surprising, sunny day at the park, chocolate-covered strawberries, ripe, relaxed, a conversation starter, a rich burgundy color, blue jays, affordable luxury.

Ask friends or colleagues to share their own list. Wine is first and foremost a communal activity, so by all means use your own community to help you out. This is a great way to conjure ideas for the label, and to hone in on some to incorporate into its shape, size, font and imagery. You may be surprised by what you come up with that you can include in your brief to give designers inspiration and a push in the right direction.


The brand’s logo is the focal point in this more traditional label design. Winning design by SoulDriver.

5. Give your designer the right set of tools

Be sure to provide your designers with a toolkit guaranteed to get your contest off to a good start, including:

  • A high-quality vector file of your logo in AI or EPS. Putting your best foot forward by providing a top-quality file will allow designers the freedom they need to work with your existing design, if that’s what you’re looking for. Even if you don’t plan to make your logo the focal point of your design, it’s still an important source of inspiration.
  • Label dimensions. Giving your designers a well-defined space to work within will save a lot of back-and-forth. Not sure? At least do your best to describe the shape you have in mind – a standard rectangle? Oval? An animal or other silhouette? (The latter may be tough to produce, but believe us, we’ve seen them all!)
  • Bottle color. Light green? Dark green? Clear? It matters!
  • Label specifications. Make sure you tell designers every bit of text they’re required to include on the front label (alcohol percentage, year, grape, appellation, etc.), and if any need to be a specific font size. And don’t forget the back label – give as much direction for this as you can.
  • Examples of wine labels you like for inspiration.


For its “Baila” wine, A La Vida relies on an overarching theme – romance, here we come! – and highlights its origins through illustration. Winning design by Tavernerraynes.

So you’ve identified your USPs, put a face on your target market, looked critically at your competitors and nailed down some technical specifications. You’re now ready to write your brief. Keep it clear, simple and professional. Use headings (“About the company,” “Key messages to convey,” “Target market,” etc.) and directive bullet points, rather than long explanatory sentences, to tell designers how to proceed. Have a friend or colleague review the brief – it’s always good to have another pair of eyes. And then launch your design contest! When you do, please post a link here in the comments so we can keep an eye on it see what you end up with.

To see some other examples of cool wine label designs, head over to this recent Designer Blog roundup. Need a new wine label yourself? Head to the wine label design section of our site for more information.