Embrace Relationships. Do Better Work.

Published: May 13, 2016

Mariah Raner


Strong relationships are the antidotes to boring work.We’re lucky to have awesome clients who believe in us as much as we believe in them — and over time, we’ve learned that maintaining great relationships helps us as much as it helps our clients.

Cinder Wine Exploration

We’ve learned tons about trust and creating great relationships over the years, but one of our longstanding clients schooled us early on about the importance of honesty and trust.

We met the folks from Cinder Wines way back when they were in the market for a new label, and immediately we clicked: Melanie Krauss and Joe Schnerr are super cool, amazingly talented, and came armed with a great business name and plenty of their own ideas. In short: Dream client. Also, Melanie and Joe’s project would be our first wine label — we wanted to knock it out of the park.

Cinder is named for some of the unique volcanic geology we have here in Idaho (it’s the magic dust that makes Cinder wines so damn good), and our first label was a take on the striation between the layers of soil. It was a cool label. Everyone was happy.

And yet.

Something really nagged us about it. It was good, sure, but was it great? We asked our clients to try an experiment to find out. The assignment was to take a mockup of the bottle with the new label and placed it on the shelf in the store.

(Cue the wha-whaaa sound effect here.)

It just didn’t stand out in the crowd. And a wine shelf is a very crowded crowd — so much so, in fact, that we decided that simpler would be better, more sophisticated, and more eye-catching in a sea of illustrated animals, big names, and bright colors.

So how do you tell a client that the label you created and sold to them isn’t going to work?

You be honest. Melanie and Joe trusted our judgment, but we had to deliver big if we were going to disrupt the whole process.

Cinder Wines

We started out simply, with just a sketch and a simple typeface. Instead of a traditional paper label, we opted for a silkscreen version (to our knowledge, one of the first silkscreened wine labels in Idaho) so the wine itself became the star.

Melanie and Joe loved it. By the time they were ready for a brand refresh, we had already built enough trust that they were ready to push us to be even more creative. We created graphic silkscreened labels that keep the simplicity of the original labels while adding visual elements that are even more striking and eye-catching. These labels are definitely not wallflowers, and yet they’re different enough that they don’t get lost.

Cinder Small Lot Series

We learned a lot during the process (and have gone on to do much more packaging work), but we had three key takeaways:

  • Make it right, even if it comes out of your own pocket.
  • Every client is a potential referral. Keep them happy.
  • Think about what you want written on your tombstone (and live it).

That last one may seem like a tall order, but it’s not: The way you treat clients says a lot about you as a person. If you build relationships on enthusiasm and respect, you’ll not only do better work — you’ll have a better business, better friendships, and sleep a lot better at night.

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