Message on a Bottle: 70 years of South Australian wine label design

UniSA and The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre are celebrating the journey of wine label design through a new exhibition – Message on a Bottle.

The exhibition, showcasing 70 years of wine label design, features 150 wine labels from 15 wine label design studios, encompassing early pioneers to contemporary corporate and boutique brands.

These include some of South Australia’s most prolific wine brands such as Gemtree, S.C Pannell, Hugh Hamilton, Sevenhill Cellars, The Other Wine Co., d’Arenberg, Tapanappa, and Samuel’s Gorge.

Held in The Hawke Centre’s Kerry Packer Civic Gallery throughout September 2021, the exhibition presents the integral relationships between label designer, grape grower, wine producer, and sales marketer – weaving the threads of education, commerce, and research for the public to sample.

Exhibition co-convenor David Blaiklock, and program director of UniSA’s Bachelor of Illustration and Animation, said Message on a Bottle highlights the important roles and contributions of wine label design in building South Australia’s wine industry and its brands, including the associated economies such as tourism and manufacturing.

“The design of memorable and successful wine labels has seen South Australian designers and design studios gain international prominence and recognition over the past 70 years,” Blaiklock said.

“Wine label design now has significant influence on purchasing decisions and a big impact on the economic, social, and cultural capital of South Australia.

“Of course, wine labels signal wine styles, regions, quality, and brands, but beyond these essentials, wine label designs have the power to capture the cultural and spiritual values of where wine is grown.”

Message in a Bottle was conceived by the late Rita Siow, former general manager of the Australian Graphic Design Association (AGDA) and an outspoken design advocate and educator. She credited design studios such as Parallax, Voice, and Black Squid as leading the charge of a diverse and growing wine label market.

Following Rita’s vision, the exhibition has been curated and developed by members of the UniSA Creative Unit, Marchelle Matthew, Lynda Kay, Dr Doreen Donovan and David Blaiklock, design educators and practitioners who were all mentored by Siow.

“The unsung influence and impact of design and creative practice within South Australia has, and continues to, been enormous across a range of industry sectors,” Blaiklock said.

“Starting with the legendary Wytt Moro, and followed by designers such as John Nowland, Ian Kidd, Barrie Tucker and Karen Seja, wine labels have now become synonymous with how South Australia’s wine sector is perceived across the world.

“Just like the wines they represent, the designers behind the labels are also recognised on the world stage. The convergence of design and wine is what we’re celebrating in this new exhibition.”

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