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Student design wins wine label contest

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Posted: Thursday, May 16, 2013 4:40 pm

A Lodi winery is the connection between a University of the Pacific graphic design student and wine bottles on store shelves in Switzerland.

It’s the result of a collaboration between Borra Vineyards and UOP’s Visual Arts Department. 

Last semester, Professor Michael E. Leonard challenged his class to a graphic design competition, with the prize of appearing on a real wine label and $300. 

Winemaker Markus Niggli with Borra Vineyards needed a label design for a new white wine.It’s a fresh, light blend of Riesling and Kerner from Mokelumne Glen Fruit, but the students got none of this information when Niggli pitched his project. 

Instead, they were handed a series of letters and numbers, and a color. 

MBKW8872, in green. He wanted a European, contemporary design. That’s it. 

Students planned, sketched, then turned to their computers to create the final design in Adobe Illustrator. 

One student, Sheng Moua, 20, was struck by how the series of numbers and letters resembled a code someone might tag on a wall with spray paint.

“My design looks a little like graffiti,” she said. “I have to take into consideration what the client wants, and he asked for something bold, contemporary and unique.”

Each design was mocked up onto an image of a wine bottle, then mounted on black paper. 

Niggli selected Moua’s design because of the metallic green theme and abstract array of letters. 

But what do they mean? 

MBK stands for the winemaker’s name, and his brothers: Markus, Konrad, Bernhard. 

The W is for Weesen, Niggli’s hometown. 8872 is the postal code. 

Since it’s hard to pronounce a series of letters and numbers, the wine’s nickname is Zipcode. 

“I did not tell them it was names or a zipcode because I was too afraid it would create a picture of the destination,” he said. “These UOP students have so much passion. They are so eager to succeed and to bring out their own creativity.”

The first blend to receive this label is already sold out between shipments to Switzerland and sales to wine club members. But this weekend, the same label will grace a 375 milliliter bottle of 100 percent Riesling ($15), available through the Borra Vineyards tasting room. 

Moua was thrilled that her first experience working with a client turned out positively. She hopes to open her own design firm after college. 

“As we design, we can communicate a message and make an impact on the audience. You can do so much with type and image,” she said. 

Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at sarap@lodinews.com.

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