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The Design & Packaging Masters 2015: Results

Heritage, storytelling and innovation were the watchwords at this year’s Global Design Masters – and in the digital age never have the three been so difficult to channel in a clever, concise and effective way.

From innovative illustrations to functional form, the results are in for the Design & Packaging Masters 2015
From innovative illustrations to functional form, the results are in for the Design & Packaging Masters 2015

A plethora of brands shone through at the 2015 Global Design Masters, demonstrating how adept they – and their design agencies – are at achieving every company’s vision: a cleverly executed combination of authenticity, provenance and, above all, personality.

“It’s so important to stand out in the market, to have a strong brand identity and to make it clear,” said Mike Axford, one quarter of our judging panel and designer at “It’s in their interest – brands that do invest in design and packaging see a return in sales.”

Joining Axford was Christian Huynen, director of Cartils design agency, who chaired the panel; Wendy Tsui, buying merchandiser at; and Kristiane Sherry, editor of The Spirits Business.

Entries were assessed on the efforts exercised in shelf visibility, branding and character, finish and overall impression, and our judges were carefully selected as experts in identifying and assessing these specific qualities.

The first brands to find themselves in the hot seat were from the Rum category, which produced a Master medallist straight off the bat in the form of Don Papa’s 10 Year Old expression. Huynen observed: “This rum has really unique brand heritage and great storytelling. There’s a real sense that it’s from the Philippines.

“In this category particularly, the part of storytelling and demonstrating heritage is key. It’s all about the brand, the brand’s story and how you bring that to life.”

Of the remaining rums, which spanned a wide range of price brackets, Brugal 1888 scored a Gold medal and Ron Contrabando a Silver.

Axford commented: “It seems the traditional brands have something to learn from the newer brands – they’re missing a trick.” Sherry added: “Consumers are, in general, a lot more sophisticated now. They want to know what they’re drinking and it’s important this comes across in the packaging – particularly in a category like rum, which has such a rich heritage. It doesn’t have to be overstated – and, in fact, it shouldn’t be – but it needs to be there.”

Entries for the Design & Packaging Masters came from all categories
Entries for the Design & Packaging Masters came from all categories

The Gin entries fared very well, with two Master medals and five Silvers bestowed. City of London’s Christopher Wren Gin particularly shone through, praised for its “unique shape”, imitative of the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral, and traditional brand story. Tsui remarked: “It’s really nice aesthetically – completely different to all the others out there because of the dome. The message is consistently clear and you’re instantly drawn to the branding. In my opinion, this is one of the best bottles to come out this year.”

Thanks to the craft boom, a deluge of new distilleries, brands and styles have descended upon the category, pushing forward in terms of design in a bid to set themselves apart from the rest – ATOM Brands Ltd’s 1897 Quinine Gin is one example.

“It really is an exciting change of pace,” said Axford. “There’s a whole new raft of artisan craft brands coming through, bringing new ideas.” Huynen agreed: “They’re driving innovation and it’s great to see. I really hope it will inspire the other categories as well.” Tsui added: “It’s definitely a very interesting category. Brands are thinking, how can we make a point of difference? How can we highlight the different botanicals? I keep hearing people saying gin is dying down, but it doesn’t look like it – it still feels dynamic and exciting.”

The largest and most awarded category of the day was Scotch, which contained a few surprises – most notably Master medal winner Generations Mortlach 75 Years Old, a £20,000 offering by Gordon & MacPhail which arrived packaged in a luxury Aniline leather travel bag. Dewar’s Highlander Honey and Scratched Cask 12 Year Old also scooped Master accolades, prompting high praise from the judges with their “consistent identity”.

Huynen said: “They clearly communicate the brand: who they are, what they stand for and their production values, almost effortlessly telling their whole story.” Five Gold medals were also awarded, along with two Silver, proving the category is a cut above the rest when it comes to consumer engagement.

“It’s a very classic category, and it’s classic for a reason,” said Tsui. “Consumers look for what they know and love – brands are iconic in that sense. There’s always room for innovation, but people like heritage and provenance when it comes to Scotch so it’s important to keep that. All the brands that came out on top with Master medals kept it classic – except for Gordon & MacPhail, but that was in a league of its own.”

Debate was fierce throughout the judging session
Debate was fierce throughout the judging session

Pressing on, judges dutifully assessed the smallest category of the day, World Whisky, which arrived in the form of The Whisky Advent Calendar 2015. Judges lauded the concept, awarding a Silver medal, but felt the simplicity of the illustration could be improved upon.

Following this festive foray, the panel took to the Brandy category, where Metaxa Angel’s Treasure by Rémy Cointreau attracted a Gold medal. Huynen admired the foiling: “It’s difficult to work with in this level of detail. It’s very impressive.” “All the fixtures are just superb,” added Axford. Of the category, Huynen observed: “It’s a tricky one, with a lot of dynamics. There’s not a particular category code. It can be very, very varied and get quite crazy. Ultimately, they’re all trying to be part of the luxury market.”

The most disappointing category of the day came next: Vodka. Despite an impressive number of entries, an absence of diversity and innovation plagued the flight, with vodka accused of “sitting back on its laurels”. Huynen said: “It seems like vodka brands are all out of ideas. The designs are tired and lacking in innovation. There’s a huge opportunity for them to look around and see how the trends from other categories can be used to their advantage. From a consumer perspective it’s hard to differentiate between the different types of vodka, but from a brand’s perspective it’s hard to push your unique selling point.”

“I agree,” said Tsui. “There’s just nothing new here. It’s lacking passion. There’s so much more going on in other categories. It’s like vodka is an afterthought – which is such a shame.” Despite such damning comments, certain brands were well received by the panel – in particular Gold medallists Purity Vodka and D1 Potato Vodka, which stood out. Huynen observed: “D1 Potato Vodka was particularly interesting. It had no vodka cues on it and wasn’t strongly branded despite the size of the name, which sets it apart, and quite intentionally, too. They’re trying to do something different and it’s very interesting for the consumer.”

Left to right: Mike Axford, Christian Huynen, Wendy Tsui and Kristiane Sherry
Left to right: Mike Axford, Christian Huynen, Wendy Tsui and Kristiane Sherry

Our final round of the day was Liqueurs – a category where the design is very much orchestrated around taste expectation. “You have to design the bottle in such a way that it creates a very distinct idea of what the product will taste like,” said Huynen. Sherry agreed: “Communication is so important. There’s so much variation in the market you have to create your own identity.” With this in mind, judges found a model student on which to base their claims in the form of Master medallist Mr Black Cold Press Coffee Liqueur. Judges cherished the “quality of the illustration”, the “phenomenal detailing” on the label, and, of course, the “discovery element” of the owl image which is slowly revealed as the bottle empties. Tsui said: “Mr Black is setting a pace that the others need to follow. They need to be using design and branding to up their game.”

Reflecting on the entries, judges praised brands that had taken the time to communicate their identity and story to the consumer, and ultimately acknowledged the importance and power of the correct design and packaging. “It was great to see such a large amount of companies interested in entering the Global Design Masters and the level shown today is definitely higher than in previous years. The Master medal winners – those who are clearly investing constantly in image – are typically brands doing well, which demonstrates just how important brand image is.”

Tsui agreed: “Online it’s even more important. You only have a split second to grab that customer’s attention, to make them want to read more about the brand and ultimately buy the product.”

Click through to the following page for the complete list of medal winners from The Design & Packaging Masters 2015.

Company Brand Medal
Stranger & Stranger Don Papa Rum 10 Year Old Master
Edrington Brugal 1888 Gold
Grupo Caballero Ron Contrabando Silver
Company Brand Medal
City of London Distillery Christopher Wren Gin Master
ATOM Brands Ltd 1897 Quinine Gin Master
Dunnet Bay Distillers Ltd Rock Rose Gin Silver
Stranger & Stranger East London Liquor Company Gin Silver
De Kuyper Royal Distillers Rutte Dry Gin Celery Silver
De Kuyper Royal Distillers Rutte Dry Gin Silver
De Kuyper Royal Distillers Rutte Old Simon Silver
Gillemore Gillemore Gin Silver
Company Brand Medal
Gordon & MacPhail Generations Mortlach 75 Years Old Master
Stranger & Stranger Dewar’s Highlander Honey Master
Stranger & Stranger Dewar’s Scratched Cask 12 Year Old Master
Burn Stewart Distillers Scottish Leader Blended Scotch Whisky Gold
Stranger & Stranger Compass Box Whisky Co – The Lost Blend Gold
Stranger & Stranger Royal Brackla 12 Year Old Gold
Stranger & Stranger Royal Brackla 16 Year Old Gold
Stranger & Stranger Royal Brackla 21 Year Old Gold
Stranger & Stranger The Deveron 10 Year Old Silver
Inver House Distillers/JDO Catto’s Rare Old Scottish Blended Scotch Whisky Silver
Stranger & Stranger Compass Box Whisky Co – Hedonism Quindecimus Silver
Company Brand Medal
World Whisky
ATOM Brands Ltd The Whisky Advent Calender 2015 Silver
Company Brand Medal
Rémy Cointreau Metaxa Angels’ Treasure Gold
Company Brand Medal
Purity Vodka Purity Vodka Gold
DJ Limbrey Distilling Company Ltd D1 Potato Vodka Gold
Ossau Vins & Spiritueux Ltd Sauvelle Vodka Silver
De Kuyper Royal Distillers Rutte Vodka Silver
Company Brand Medal
Love Drinks Mr Black Cold Press Coffee Liqueur Master
Falcon International Ltd Magnum Scotch Malt Whisky Cream Liqueur Silver
Boutique Brands Ltd Sette Vie Limoncello Silver


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