Design and Illustrate a Label with Jon Contino, from Skillshare


“Label designing, as different as it is is still a very unique and special art form.”

In the second part of the lesson, My Favorite Hand-illustrated Labels, Jon gave three different stages in creating a label design:

  1. Research: Research the product’s competition, products, style, history of the company, and where the product will sit on the shelf.
  2. Sketching: Sketch your product. How will it exist? You want to make sure that the correct items are emphasized.
  3. Finalizing: Self critique yourself, get ready for production, go back to your research and make sure you’re on track with the goals.

He shows us some old items with labels he really likes, a whiskey bottle and a whiffle ball box. He points out that on the whiffle ball box, there are only two colors, but it looks like three because white acts as a color. It’s so cool that you can use the white to add that extra dynamic to your design! You can also use transparencies to create different colors out of the existing color.

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Jon Contino’s favorite kind of labels to create are apparel labels. He shows us some tags that have a nice tea stain and a distressed look that he created by using rocks in a dryer. I love homemade, organic look of this tag. He says label design like this is all about going out and finding a way to create it in the simplest way possible.


The third part of the lesson is called Translating  your mood board in to Sketches. He talks about how the company who hires you to create a label can’t communicate exactly what they want you to do. The best thing for a client to do is send pictures of other labels and brands that they like to five you ideas and inspiration. They can create a mood board for you. You are going to take all of the elements they give you and develop a language for the company. You need to find a way to translate all of the visual information into one  label in order to tell the story of the product.

“Clients should give you idea of aesthetics in visuals so you can know where they are coming from.”

He sketches out a wine label with us. He figures out where different items will go and starts drawing images and text. After he’ done he points out the most important area vs. less important area. He points out the requirements, the 750 ml, 2010, etc. that that customer will want to see.

The last part of the lesson is Working with your Top Design. At this point we have a lot of different ideas to compare. They have different hierarchies, layouts, looks on the shelf, and all together styles.

After choosing the best design to represent the product thus far, Jon creates a final black & white ink piece. Black and white is great because it creates a high contrast, so it will be easy to separate in Illustrator. He brings the image into Illustrator and creates a vector. Now that the design is on the computer, it will be easy to play with different elements and colors and mix and match different aspects.

Here you can see the comparison of some of Jon’s different ideas. The colors and style relate back to the Argentina flag theme. The right image is the final design.

I enjoyed this video. Jon Contino did a great job of getting his point across in a concise way. I also like his hand-drawn style.

View the video here.


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