Blasted Barcode


Say what you will. Wine is not a quilt; it's neither handmade nor one-of-a-kind. It is a commodity. Even if production is minuscule. 500 cases, for instance, still yields 6,000 bottles which is higher than I'd ever like to count out loud. If you don't care to admit this, I offer you some evidence: the barcode.

The barcode is a sign of the times. The world has become itemized and scannable. Those who wear loathsome looks on their faces while reading this ought to think about how long it would take to buy groceries at the supermarket without barcodes. Evil or not, the barcode is necessary. Those wineries that send their bottles out into the world without barcodes display disregard for those wishing to sell and buy them.
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Graphically pleasing to begin with, these wines playfully integrate the barcode as part of a newspaper or hymnbook to make for a more cohesive visual.

Similarly, CheapSkate's Miser Meritage turns the barcode into a toothy grin conspicuously reminiscent of the Cheshire Cat's menacing smile.

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Now don't get me wrong. Not everything about barcodes is all sunshine and kittens. While our eyes have become habituated to the way they look, barcodes tend to visually clash with the rest of the back label. Such design is often awkward and disjointed. Viewer complacency is no excuse for lazy design choices.

Some wine label designers have taken to the challenge the barcode offers. They incorporate it into the story the label tells thus enriching our experience while giving us pause to think how a little creativity goes a long way.

These are but a few examples of what a quick search yields. I welcome comments that point to other such examples of barcode innovation. After all, there's nothing wrong with a label that has a boring barcode except for the fact that it doesn't have to be boring.

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  • Snooth User: Mark Angelillo
    Founding Member Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    2 5,324

    Good post, Scott. I tend to think more of the data than the aesthetics — of course it would help us if all wine were barcoded! But the aesthetics of wine are clearly important!

    Kudos to those with an eye for practical design.

    Jan 18, 2008 at 4:14 AM

  • chris

    I agree that barcode detractors should tally up everything they want to purchase on pen and paper before getting in line. Come hard or go home, as an old friend used to say. Great art happens when a banal idea is re-thought.

    Jan 18, 2008 at 4:36 AM

  • Snooth User: Philip James
    Founding Member Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    1 12,574

    Agreed, it would make our lives so much easier if each wine had a SKU number / barcode. It may not look pretty (above examples excepted), but it will mean that one man's wine can be cleanly linked to another

    Jan 18, 2008 at 5:06 AM

  • Paul Mabray

    Scott - I agree that a high end wine should find an aesthetically pleasing way to add bar codes but more importantly wineries need to CHANGE bar codes from vintage to vintage. This is even more of a problem with wineries utilizing bar codes that makes inventory management and more extremely cumbersome in the wine industry.

    Inertia - Powering the Wine Revolution

    —Paul Mabray - CEO

    Jan 18, 2008 at 5:31 AM

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