Responses by Chad Makerson Michael, founder and designer, Chad Michael Studio.
Background: Paso Robles, California–based PIUS Estates approached our studio to develop and design its first wine offering last year, a product rich with story aimed at the savvy wine connoisseur. The request was to launch its 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon, the first of many varietals using its namesake. The name Pius, meaning virtue and devotion, was more than enough to build its brand story and pave a path to discover its aesthetic influences. Furthermore, after a taste testing of PIUS, we understood that it was indeed an unequaled wine worthy of high praise. The label design needed to reflect that in every aspect.
Design thinking: The solution came about during our research into PIUS’s name and what that meant in relation to the product. This project is an exceptional example of how copywriting before the design process shined a light on the finished work. To quote the strategy presentation pitched to the client: “A wine truly and faithfully crafted with righteous quality and high devotion. Devotion possessed by the vintners who make the wine, and devotion felt by the consumers after they’ve tried it.” We wanted to induce feelings of praise and worship without calling attention to any specific religion.
Favorite details: Within the borders that frame the painted illustration is a unique printing technique called sandblasting. This technique is not used very often, especially not in partnership with a blind embossing. These two aspects together created a new type of finish we’d not yet seen in wine labels, while simultaneously mirroring many textures used in historic Byzantine paintings.
Challenges: The primary challenge with PIUS was to be mindful of not directly associating with any one religion—or to even come close to the feeling of doing so. We pulled inspiration from many saintly materials, so the brand presents an amalgamation. We wanted to walk a line of generalities and evolve all elements in order to make it our own, thereby not alienating any consumers.
Visual influences: After completing the strategy, copywriting and primary package design, we reached out to renowned illustrator Marc Burckhardt to bring the painting featured on the label to life. Inspired by the Byzantine era, frescos and stained glass, the painting serves a metaphor to describe the story of the vintners who sacrifice all to create a superior offering. The painting also possesses subtle enigmatic imagery that speaks to the wine’s provenance as well as the owner’s passion for the winemaking craft.