Unexpected Inspiration: Tequila Bottle Design
As web designers, it's easy for us to become myopic and lose sight of the world of design outside of our own niche. However, one of the best ways to grow as a designer is to shift gears and look for inspiration in completely different areas. Today, let's head south and ditch pixels in favor of an unexpected source of design inspiration – tequila bottles.
It's easy to dismiss the appearance of a tequila bottle when a margarita beckons us, but the bottle design is definitely worth a second glance. A dedicated observance of Mexican heritage is visually apparent in the packaging of many types of tequila. Made from a plant called blue agave, this beverage is typically distilled in the higher elevations of the Mexican state of Jalisco. A proud Mexican spirit is apparent in the label and bottle design of a number of high-end tequilas.
Inspirational Tequila Bottle Design
Each of the bottle designs featured below integrates a unique aspect; try to think of how you could apply each to your digital designs.
Espolón, a premium quality brand, updated their label design in 2010 to represent the celebrated “real Mexico” culture. Ramon the rooster, an iconic symbol of national pride, can be found carrying one of the brave revolutionists on Espolón’s Tequila Blanco label, in the fight for independence from Spain.
The labels are illustrated using the traditional “Dia de los Muertos” (Day of the Dead) style filled with skeletons and skulls, common representations of this Mexican holiday. The use of black and white illustration allows the word Espolón, printed in a brightly colored sans-serif font, to stand out.
In addition to the illustrative nature of the label, the bottle itself is wide and low, setting it apart from other brands. This design decision is also functional in nature – the wide bottle gives the label more surface area, and therefore the prominence that it deserves.
The flawless artistic execution by the package designer makes for a memorable tequila bottle, but the true genius of Espolon’s packaging is the ability to tell an interesting visual story about Mexican history using only a small label as its canvas.
Metallurgy and Textures
Ancestra’s Single Barrel Añejo employs a different approach to its packaging. Although the shape of the hand blown glass bottle is fairly common, Ancestra produces metal “labels” for the front of their bottles in place of a typical adhesive label.
Metallurgy played a large part in Mexican history, dating back as far as 800 AD, so the use of such an important material on a tequila bottle seems appropriate.
The stamped letters give the packaging a tactile quality, while the reflective metal itself lends a glossy aspect to a usually matte surface. The metal tarnishes over time, a reference to the aged quality of the tequila inside. A decorative typeface and simple logo add a bit of ornamentation, offsetting the industrial feel of the hard substance.
The type of material is key here; the packaging would be very ordinary if the label were made of the usual adhesive paper.
Shape, Simplicity and Placement
The use of metallic elements continues with DeLeón Tequila, a relatively new addition to the market. DeLeón uses a combination of classic designs and modern lines in its packaging. Dia de los Muertos-style embellishment sits atop the vessel in the form of a metal bottle stopper, a nod to Mexico’s storied history. The textured aspect of the cap will not go unnoticed, as this is the part of the bottle that the consumer will touch the most.
The front of the bottle is sandblasted with the DeLeón logo, a gothic-style letterform, for a subtle yet memorable brand reminder that does not obstruct your view of the premium spirit inside. The black label on one side of the glass bottle mimics the style used on the ornate metal top - silver on black.
In sharp contrast to the monochromatic DeLeon bottle, the 1800 Limited Edition Essential Artist Series emphasizes the colorful styles of artists such as Chad Shore, SteveOramA and Michelle Villasenor. Chad Shore’s design portrays a 60’s-style inspired woman with a blank face consisting of only a mouth. Although this design does not outwardly refer to Mexican history, the artist is known for drawing inspiration from his own community in Atlanta, Georgia.
Instead of attracting buyers using familiar Mexican imagery, 1800 has decided to take advantage of the fame and familiarity of these artists to lure potential customers toward their brand. It should be noted, however, that 1800 did not change the bottle shape for the limited edition series; by doing so, they were able to maintain a certain level of brand recognition.
Geometry, Ornamentation and Minimalism
Moving from a common household name to a lesser-known high-end tequila, Corzo’s sleek and modern bottle unites perfectly with its simple label. The bottle, developed by renowned perfume bottle designer Fabien Barou, was intended to reflect the strong rectangular shapes often found in modern Mexican architecture. To then contradict this appealing simplicity with an ornate label would seem ridiculous – the sophisticated serif font and bright lettering exist in harmony with the shapely, boxlike glass container.
Even the spout was taken into consideration, unlike many other brands. Corzo has created an offset flat spout with a hidden cork, supposedly shaped to enhance pouring accuracy. A centered spout would have been the easy solution; Corzo took the design a step further though, adding detail at the top of the bottle also.
Preeminence of Form, Sentimental Association
Kah Tequila makes an extreme reference to the Dia de Los Muertos, with an ornately decorated skull-shaped bottle. More than just a marketing ploy, it is inspired by the Calaveras (skulls made of sugar) used during the Dia de los Muertos rituals to symbolize death and rebirth. The Calaveras are given to family and friends who are invited to eat the sugar skulls, hence acknowledging that death is no more than passing from one life into the next. Because of this strong visual parallel, Kah Tequila invokes a powerful sentiment in those who are familiar with this tradition. For those who are not, the uniqueness of the bottle is enough to set it apart from its competitors.
Both the shape of the bottle and its ornate markings make for a memorable drinking experience.
Reference to Source
Milagro’s Unico Tequila stands out from the crowd with a tall, thin bottle and a hand-blown glass agave plant protruding up into the bottom of the vessel. The founders of the brand wanted to develop a product that would represent modern day Mexico City, a place filled with innovative architecture yet also built on a strong traditional foundation. The slim bottle towers over the others on the shelf, accomplishing a metaphorical height over the competition.
Unico, a super premium limited edition blend, even adheres to this juxtaposition of new and old – combining old world distilling traditions with modern innovation. Strategically placing the label at the top of the lanky bottle leads the eye upward from the hand blown glass agave plant all the way to the company’s logo at the very top. This unusual approach sets it apart from the rest of the pack. The label itself is not so much the draw here, as much as its placement and the bottle itself.
Oro de Jalisco Reposado Rosse Tequila is housed in a uniquely shaped bottle as well; however, this one is short and squat with a shape reminiscent of a pear.
The use of the agave plant as decoration can be seen on this handmade bottle as well, only in this case it is used as a textural element rather than a sculptural one. By placing the agave plants around the bottom of the vessel, it becomes suggestive of a crystal decanter – probably a deliberate choice on the part of the designer.
Metallic text graces this label also, but this time a fancy gold script was the font of choice. The decorative script fits perfectly with the pink hue of the rosse. Speaking of color – the tequila is aged for eight months in French wine barrels, giving it the unique rose shade. Because the bottle is made of clear glass, the color of the tequila actually adds to the design of the overall product, giving it an interesting monochromatic feel.
Here we have a hand-painted bottle, Clase Azul’s blue and white ceramic decanter designed by artist Tomas Saldivar. It takes three hours for local communities to craft each one, numbering them as they go. Because they are handmade, each decanter is slightly different; this offers an air of exclusivity to the brand, giving it that one-of-a-kind quality that consumers often crave these days.
Pottery is a prevalent part of Mexican history, dating back to ancient times. Using clay to create a vessel for Clase Azul’s tequila seems appropriate given the traditional manner in which the alcohol is distilled. In addition to the hand-painted elements, Clase Azul added a metallic agave medallion to the front of the bottle.
The logo, designed by renowned artist Leon Fernandez, lends a bit of modern flair to the overall design.
Although all of these tequilas are very different from one another, they are all in some way rooted in local culture or history. When we go to Photoshop to create our designs for the web, do we have this same awareness of culture and history? In our effort to appeal to a worldwide audience on the web, I think we too often overlook the rich and unique heritage that each of us brings to the table. How can you integrate culture and history into your designs?
There is a certain attention to detail apparent in all of the tequilas listed above; it is fascinating to compare the vastly different marketing techniques used by each company. The taste of the tequila plays a large part in the success of a brand, but sometimes the creativity of the packaging is just as critical. Imagine seeing each of these tequilas together on a liquor store shelf – which one would you pick?
I hope that the creative details on all of these bottles have helped to get your creative juices flowing, so you can approach your designs with some fresh inspiration. If you can create websites that exude as much character as these bottles, you'll be in good shape!