Tag Archive | "gifts"

There’s Still Room for Fresh Design When it Comes to Wine

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There’s Still Room for Fresh Design When it Comes to Wine


I’m one of those relatively new wine drinkers that knows next-to-nothing about actual wine, but just enough to pretend that I know what I’m doing when selecting one. If I’m with a group of people who don’t usually buy wine, they defer to me. This is about as good an idea as closing one’s eyes and selecting a wine at random, but hey, I’ll take the extra responsibility.

This is mainly because it lets me do that certain type of wine-browsing–you know the one–where you walk along the racks, picking up certain bottles, turning them over, and muttering comments to yourself that you hope your friends take for informed musings on a particular vintage. If they only knew I was just saying “this one is a red one…” or “this one is from France…”

Despite my solid sommelier credentials, I’m not above occasionally choosing wine based on its packaging. I once bought a bottle of Ontario wine with a twist-off top because it had a bunch of well-designed raccoons on the bottle. It wasn’t that good (at least… I don’t think it was that great), but what can you do when faced with an awesome bottle?

boarding pass

That’s the question I might have to ask myself when I finally happen upon these products in-store, three examples of great design applied to the wine bottle. Our first example is a Shiraz called Boarding Pass, and comes from Australia’s R Wines. It’s a top example of creative packaging design as applied to a pretty constrained medium–if you want to be taken seriously as a wine producer, wild innovations in bottle design and shape usually mean you’ll get looked over by serious buyers. This is a perfect compromise: the design is fresh and original, and the playful luggage tag around the neck is a great touch. I’d go out of my way to buy this just so I could take it somewhere.

lazarus wine braille

The second bottle to catch my eye comes from Spain–it’s the Baud-designed Lazarus Wine, with its packaging done entirely in Braille. Another great piece of work that would have my cash if I walked by it on a rack, no questions asked. Again, it’s tricky with wine, as most innovative design skirts the original/gaudy line, and subtlety is crucial in putting out a bottle that’ll catch the eye without drawing a follow-up groan.


My last candidate isn’t a bottle design at all, but rather these custom wine tags from popptags. They’re funny, honest, and letterpressed on recycled paper. There are tons of well-written, witty cards out there now, but these are both seriously funny and beautiful to look at. I’d go nuts if I got a nice bottle of wine with a tag on it that said “Nothing Says Thank You Like a Bottle of Wine I Know Nothing About.” Plus “The Wine Store Guy Said This Was Good” is a printed version of the exact line I spoke when recently giving someone a bottle. I think my friends and family know what they’re getting this year–yes indeed, a bunch of hilarious tags attached to thick $5.00 bottles full of red liquid.

Posted in Art & Design, Eat & Drink, Featured, Product DesignComments (1)

Rediscovering Miroslav Sasek and his Wonderful Children’s Books

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Rediscovering Miroslav Sasek and his Wonderful Children’s Books

sasek top

For some reason I’ve been seeing a lot of mention of Miroslav Sasek around various websites recently. What he’s primarily known for is the series of books called This Is…, which provide a children’s introduction to various cities, but also work as charming guidebooks/introductions to readers of any age.

His idea came from noticing that parents, when on various trips with their children, tended to stay absorbed in their various surroundings, leaving the kids to figure out exactly what the hell is going on for themselves. Writing from a child’s point of view, his books please everyone through sheer charm alone. The illustrations explain, from the first time you see them, exactly why these books aren’t just pedestrian stuff for your kids, but rather bewitching illustrative glimpses of each city they profile.

Some thoughts from his official website:

This is London is the second This is book and undoubtedly one of the best. Sasek concentrates on the things he likes best: people, costume, transport and local details that somehow come together to form a whole impression of the city that still seems quite accurate today.

sasek cities

Here’s a review of one of his titles from no less than the Times Literary Supplement:

The pattern of M. Sasek’s books is now firmly established. It would be difficult for him to introduce innovations, and these would not be welcomed by his admirers, who delight in the fixed conventions of his unconventional portraits. It is the more remarkable that each book is pure Sasek and at the same time each catches the characteristic atmosphere of his subject…

This is Venice has many of the artist’s gentle digs at tourists and at the vendors who feed on them. It shows, too, that M. Sasek is primarily an architectural draughtsman. His drawings of churches, palaces and odd corners are brilliant simplifications which never depart from the essential truths of building. That he draws buildings not in noble isolation but surrounded by the mess and muddle of a living city — washing on the line, telly-aerials on the roof — endears him more deeply to the reader.

His art style renders the cities immensely appealing to every reader, and these are some books that you’d do fine getting any kids or travelers in your family this year. His images are funny, and poke at the gawking tourists and the general things touristy families like to do (or feel terribly obligated to do) in each city.

He also did some other books not entirely focused on cities but sites, including This is the United Nations and This is Cape Canaveral (now called Kennedy), which are gold mines. Check out his great UN book here, and the Cape Canaveral image below.

sasek florida

While it’s only November, it’s always useful to collect various links in the endless lead-up to Christmas, in case you need some ideas for thoughtful, interesting gifts. As each Christmas passes, I always find myself increasingly obliged to find gifts for various kids in my extended family, and since I don’t have much experience with toy stores any more, and can’t buy children’s clothes to save my life, I generally try to find gifts that seem timelessly appealing and unique enough to mean something. Sasek’s books fit perfectly into this category. They’ll thrill any parent too.

Posted in Art & Design, Featured, LivingComments (0)

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