I used to have a poster hanging in my office that said, “What Can You Do with Your Biology Degree?” It was a cool poster that listed 97 different career choices, including a regulatory affairs specialist, plant breeder, criminal intelligence specialist, clinical programmer, geneticist, marine biologist, health and safety specialist, public relations, forensic specialist, patent agent, qualification engineer, biofuels expert and dozens more.
I took this poster home, put it on the refrigerator and had my kids search the internet for descriptions of a career they thought sounded interesting. For the longest time, my young daughter was determined to work as an R&D (research and development) Chemist at an ice-cream factory. Her dream job!
I’ve always been interested in how people chose their occupations or if they “fell into” them. One such career that I stumbled upon was designing wine labels. Cindy Gander, a freelance graphic designer focusing on wine industry branding, recently talked with me about her career choice.
So Cindy, what exactly is a wine label designer?
I design the “brand” or logo of the wine label front and back, capsule design, cork design and bottle style for specific wine varietals. Wineries may also hire me to design point-of-sale material, brochures, websites, business systems, or even shipper boxes that help promote the wine that’s in the bottle.
How do you like your work?
I love designing wine labels! I don’t think I’d still be doing this if I weren’t designing wine labels. Most of the time, the winery owner is also the winemaker, so I’ve learned a lot about the process of the vineyard, winemaking and how important the brand/design is to reflect what you taste inside that bottle. Winery owners, who hire me, are generally very happy people who come to work wearing jeans and a sweater and want you to call them by their first name right away. I also like being a freelance graphic designer because I can stay at home with my two boys and work during the day while they’re at school or in the evenings if I have to. Everything is done on the computer these days, so that makes my work easy. I can converse with my clients with e-mail, design on the computer, and email final artwork to the printer.
What is your educational/training background?
I went to UC Davis where I received a B.S. in Design. After graduating from UCD, I worked as a secretary/advertising assistant for a company in Santa Rosa for four years where I put some of my rusty design knowledge to use. At that point, I decided I needed to learn more about graphic design and I also needed more knowledge on the computer as a graphic design tool. I enrolled in a wonderful two-year Applied Graphics program at Santa Rosa Junior College. I really enjoyed those two years and felt if I hadn’t taken those courses, I would not be doing what I’m doing today.
How did you obtain your current position?
Let’s see… it was luck, really. One of our last projects we had to complete before graduating was to either re-design an existing wine label or create a new one. I decided to re-design Rabbit Ridge Winery’s label. Rabbit Ridge is a winery located in Healdsburg, CA. My husband convinced me to call the owner of Rabbit Ridge to show him what I had done. I got lucky! The owner said to come by and show him what I worked on in class. He wasn’t looking to revise his label, but he had a colleague who did need a designer for a brand new label. I was hired! Thanks to that phone call, I was on my way to designing wine labels. Here it is fifteen years later and there are still enough wineries out there that need a new label or a facelift.
What has been your most rewarding work-related experience?
I guess the most rewarding aspect about graphic design is how happy I feel to be able to do something I love rather than dread. And how lucky I feel to be doing this job out of my house so that I can stay at home for my boys. I’m truly blessed.
Can you give advice to someone thinking of working in this field?
Work hard, organize your time well, become a master in graphics on the computer and don’t get discouraged if they want to see more designs after you’ve put your heart and soul into the first set of designs.
To see Cindy’s portfolio, please visit Gander Design at http://www.ganderdesign.com/