Branding the Douro territory: wine labels – a missing dialogue
Ferrand Amoroso Lopes, Maria
This thesis argues that the design of wine labels is a crucial aspect of contemporary wine communication, in particular for niche wines operating in the global market. The thesis focuses on dry wines of the Douro Demarcated Region (DDR) and on contemporary design practice; it aims to fill a gap in the existing literature by bridging the worlds of design and winemaking. Central to the discourse is the argument that territorial branding should be used as a key concept in the visual communication of Douro’s dry wines. At the core of the research is the argument that a strategy built upon this concept could be shared by different stakeholders within the DDR and would provide an advantage for the broader wine craft in terms of longterm benefits and sustainability. The theories of embeddedness (Polanyi, 1945) and disjuncture (Appadurai, 1990) help to understand the phenomena affecting both the Douro wine craft and the path of Portuguese design, casting light on one of the thesis’ major findings, which is the persistent lack of dialogue between designers and the Douro stakeholders. Moreover, the two theories strengthen the study’s proposition on territorial branding by establishing links with valuable concepts and constructs, e.g. terroir, place of origin and visual identity. A parallel is also drawn between the two theories, social design (Margolin, 2002; Fuad-Luke, 2009), and wicked problems (Buchanan, 1992). As such, embeddedness and disjuncture constitute the theoretical framework of the study and help to define its holistic, pragmatic approach. The thesis has employed a qualitative, interpretive methodology centred on the analysis and discussion of purposive case studies. The ‘designerly’ knowledge, as it was coined by Nigel Cross (1982, 2001, 2006), has been a major influence of the thesis’ methodology. The study’s key findings suggest that design is a cost-effective resource within the DDR, yet it is under-explored and under-used. In particular, the research has identified the following problems: the persistence of homogenised branding strategies and visual clichés within the craft; a symbolic deficit expressed in the wine labels of Douro’s dry wines; and a generalised lack of awareness of the potential of communication design. Promising findings have also emerged from the investigation: the presence of an ‘excess of identity’ within the Douro wine region; the existence of exceptional examples illustrated by the case studies, demonstrating the effectiveness of specific design approaches; and the potential of territorial branding as a beneficial strategy of communication within the glocal system of the DDR.