The designers in this case did not print the brand name backwards. They die-cut it as a window. When consumers look at the bottle from the other side, they see the right-reading (no longer backwards) “Back Label” brand name.
Customers drinking a bottle of their white wine could clearly read the brand name. They saw an enlarged logo, due to the bottle’s lens-like magnification, that gradually diminished as the wine was consumed. When they drank a bottle of red wine, however, they couldn’t see the brand name at all. As they emptied the bottle, they would see the brand’s logo emerge with the words revealed as a slow strip tease.
Why the “back” label is really the “front”
Finally, what we like about Back Label’s label is how it seems to play with a funny regulatory loophole.
The TTB (Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau), for example, requires wine producers to put information such as alcohol content, country of origin, etc. on the main front (“brand”) label, rather than on the so-called “back label.” A common industry workaround has been simply to call the back label the “front” and vice versa.
More about Back Label’s backwards branding, after the fold.
From TTB’s Advertising, Labeling and Formulation Division “Sample Wine labels” booklet
Front or Back?
How can a round bottle have a front or a back? It’s the label, obviously, that determines which way the wine merchant will display wine on the shelf.
But sometimes, in the wacky world of wine regulations, what you and I would call the back label is legally the front.
From the standpoint of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), which recently assumed regulatory authority over wine labels, both domestic and imported, from the old Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF), the label that contains required legal information about a wine – the region of origin, the grape variety where required, the percentage of alcohol and so forth – is the “front” label. Logos, decorations and art are irrelevant to the regulators, who don’t really mind which label is turned forward on the shelf. (Similar regulations apply in just about every wine-producing nation.)
The Wine Lover’s Page, 2006
We like the way Voice’s design seems to have exploited this Alice-in-Wonderland ambiguity in which the words “front” and “back” can mean just what they choose it to mean.
Back Label only gave their bottles one label — the official “front label” (with the backwards brand name “Back Label”). They don’t really even have a back label! Just an ephemeral shadow that happens to be more legible than the front.
In Australia, cleanskin is a term for bottled wine that doesn’t carry a label or any other identifying marks. Cleanskin wines are sold in sealed cartons of six or twelve bottles, and the carton must display a label that meets the minimum legal requirements as defined by Australian law.
… Wineries will sell “clearskins” to dump excess or unwanted wine stocks and do so to avoid the negative consequences of discounting their existing brands. This form of dumping often has very little to do with the quality of the wine. In 2009, Back Label commissioned Voice to design a label for its cleanskin.
… “Typically, there is no budget,” explains [Scott] Carslake. “Labels are generally printed on an inhouse laser printer at each winery, labeled, packed, and sent to retail stores. With Back Label, the client wanted to see what we could do for a minimal fee, but they were not expecting anything of real value.”
The resultant graphics are visually arresting and took the idea of a cleanskin label to a new place.
Terry Lee Stone, 2010
Managing the Design Process—Implementing Design:
An Essential Manual for the Working Designer
It was not easy finding additional photos of these bottles online. This tells me that the die-cut labels were not in use for very long. The photo of Back Label’s Viognier (above right) came from a 2014 column of wine recommendations in The Irish Times. I found the photos below on Vivino.
Judging from label on the far right, the company must have abandoned the “backwards branding” by 2011. I wonder why. Maybe the little islands created in the centers of the die-cut A’s and B’s were too difficult or time-consuming to position correctly when adhering the labels?