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Cut It Out: the beauty and difficulty of using collage in brand design

When we were briefed to create a label for House of Brown, the client wanted to capture the welcoming attitude of their winery and the diversity of their consumers and the community. At the House of Brown, everyone is, and is made to feel, welcome. Our client wanted to reflect this diverse humanity on their label – and what better way to do it than by creating a collage.

To many, perhaps, collage is unsophisticated as they associate it with their early childhood: safety scissors, coloured paper and glue are often a child’s introduction to making things. However, Matisse used these simple elements and created masterpieces. The thing that is wonderful about collage is the medium itself: a combination of elements that can turn the ordinary into the extraordinary. It has the ability to be both complex and singular at the same time, particularly photographic collages. Early works by Man Ray, or Peter Blake’s iconic Sergeant Pepper’s album cover for The Beatles, to David Hockney’s polaroid collages are still as powerful as when they were created.

For a brand, collage allows you to add texture and layering, tell nearly any story in an intriguing and engaging way. The faces we created for House of Brown are made up of different ethnicities and genders and it took many hours to get them right. There was a fine line between creating a beautiful multi-layered face and something that looked like an identikit image. It took quite a long time of trying different eye, mouth and nose shapes, what part of the face remained recognisable and what created both difference and yet at the same time harmony. Starting with a base image, the trick was working out what to overlay and what to hide, what to add and where. The final images showcase the beauty of collage at its best: they are multi-layered, beautiful and very powerful.

Finally, the thought process of collage - the cutting things up and reassembling them with other elements - has influenced so many other creative categories. Music’s club and dub mixes, film using animation/live action mixes, theatre using a combination of real and digital sets- and even fashion’s current ‘mash up’ look between brands such as Adidas and Gucci all comes back to the principle of collage and its endless and exciting possibilities.


Margaret Nolan is the Global Creative Director at Denomination. At Denomination, they help their clients by creating original and successful drinks brands. Their designs work in the market: consumers love them. They offer the complete package: not just labels but naming, strategy, gifting, point of sale, brand movies, the list goes on. Whilst they work for many wine and drinks brands, no two are the same. The breadth and diversity of their work is what sets them apart. Denomination: the origin of great brands.

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