Melbourne studio, Swear Words crafts a dynamic, modern, and bold visual language for Birra Zonzo & Zonzo Estate, drawing inspiration from 20th Century European posters to create an alcohol brand like no other.
First of all, tell us about the studio.
Swear Words is a small team working with great people to brand and package some of the best products in the world. The business was started in 2003 and we’ve remained focussed on servicing small to medium businesses in the food and beverage industry. We’re based in Melbourne but work with a diverse range of national and international businesses. We don’t take ourselves too seriously and we hope this is reflected in the approachable style of our work.
We don’t take ourselves too seriously and we hope this is reflected in the approachable style of our work.
Can you tell us about the initial project conversations?
After purchasing the adjacent vineyard in 2015, the restaurant and function venue “Zonzo” became “Zonzo Estate”. After a false start with another agency, owner Rod Micallef came to us looking for an inspirational solution that would revitalise and realign the communication of the new brand. Rod is a passionate man who doesn’t believe in doing things half-assed, so we knew a solution that would challenge him and appease his appetite for risk-taking, was the only way forward.
What did the design process look like for this project?
The goal for the design of the Zonzo brand was always to create a dynamic and modern interpretation of classic wine cues. It is all about celebrating, taking the time to appreciate and enjoy the moment. Considering Rod’s Mediterranean heritage and the amazing Italian food at Zonzo, we drew a lot of inspiration from the bold typography and colour palettes of 20th Century European poster art. Zonzo is Italian slang for “wander” and this concept drove the expression of the logomark and its random arrangements and repeats. Prefacing the initial concept presentation with “you’re going to hate this, then you’re going to love it!” set up a do or die scenario for the initial concept, fortunately, it was well-received and we’re still working with them today.
Can you talk us through the thinking behind the final design?
It was always our intention for Birra Zonzo to represent the ‘fun-loving uncle’ of the Zonzo brand. Beer, in general, is a less-expensive product than wine and, some contend, can be drunk at any time of the day. We, therefore, needed to contrast the sophistication of the wine brand with a more approachable and energetic tone that still shares a strong lineage with the established Zonzo style.
Thankfully the in-built flexibility of the brand allowed us to push the boundaries for the Birra Zonzo pack. Colour comes to the forefront and we go bananas with the scale of letterforms and illustrative elements to build a narrative of celebration. It is undeniably a Zonzo product but expresses a unique personality.
Zonzo is Italian slang for “wander” and this concept drove the expression of the logomark and its random arrangements and repeats.
Did you face any challenges during the project?
Although this brand now has strong interest from major national retailers, it was initially only going to be an on-premise product sold exclusively at Zonzo estate. So we faced the usual high cost-per-unit production implications of low-quantity runs. Thankfully our client was committed to producing a high-quality label and had the confidence to know that the initial set-up could be easily absorbed as the quantities grew.
What was your favorite part of the process?
Zonzo is a great example of a mutually beneficial relationship between a client and a studio built on trust and value creation. So far we have delivered art direction for several photo shoots, four hot air-balloons, custom wine bottles and boxes over two ranges, wine and beer glasses, signage, menus, function brochures, merchandise and uniforms, the Birra Zonzo packaging, and now their revised digital presence. Obviously, we’ve had a lot of interaction with our client during all of these projects and quite honestly, this is our favourite part of the process. It’s truly inspiring to first hear the grand vision, then watch it unfold before your eyes over 3 short years.
Zonzo is a great example of a mutually beneficial relationship between a client and a studio built on trust and value creation… we’ve had a lot of interaction with our client during all of these projects and quite honestly, this is our favourite part of the process.
In what ways did the initial concepts differ from the final execution?
Thankfully it was a very efficient process due to strong foundations of the brand that had already been established. Colour for the Pale Ale execution was the main thing that was revised. The Lager palette was always going to bright and primary and the Pale Ale ended up moving from hoppy greens to a largely complementary palette of light blue, purple and dark blue.
Whose work is inspiring your studio you right now?
This is a surprisingly tricky question and different for everyone here. As design professionals, we certainly see a lot of different work out there, but there are so many good designers and studios, it’s difficult to pinpoint an inspirational influence from the design field. So each of us has compiled a list of our 3 current favorite things:
- Grilli Type’s new typeface, Zirkon, and its minisite
- Type@Cooper’s Vimeo videos
- Russian food posters
- The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker
- Sharp Objects by HBO
- Elon Musk
- Graphic Design for indie garage rock bands like The Growlers
- This ethical clothing brand
- Female entrepreneurs and business owners who are doing cool stuff (e.g Elenor Ozich, Gemma O-Brien, Jordan Rondel, Gemma Adams).
- Modernist Canadian graphic design. Check out Canada Modern. There’s also a great doco coming up about the golden era of Canadian graphic design.
- Ceramic art in general. I’m a big follower of Ted Secombe’s work in Australia and Elisa D’Arrigo in the US.
- Ikebana and dried flower arrangements. Beauty in the small things. I’ve just discovered Mark Antonia’s work in NZ.
Behind the Brief is an interview series celebrating the creative process where we speak to the team behind the project, pulling back the curtain on their design thinking, strategy and process to learn how they arrived at the final design.