From the Design Desk: Critter Culture

Get designers near bottles of wine and inevitably the conversation turns to the design of them. We all like a pretty label, but also want to know more about the fonts and the printing methods in play. The other day, in one such passionate discussion, someone mentioned that “critter wine” is doing quite well right now. Apparently that’s wine industry speak for wines that have animals on their label. I loved hearing this. I love animals. But the critter trend is nothing new. We all witnessed the saturation of the flora-and-fauna craze. Birds of any kind are still popular, from Urban Outfitter’s fashions to indie rock album covers.

In an era when pooches are more fashionable than ever, and kittens are considered sanctioned subjects of art, it’s not hard to look around and see animals graphically reproduced in motifs, mascots, decorations, tattoos, stationery, fashion, and the old standard, clouds, of course. I’m not sure why, but the design department at Chronicle definitely seems to have caught the bug, or should I say, the critter, itch.

The compendium of animals you can find by walking from design desk to design desk reveals a diaspora of critters almost as rich and diverse (and weird) as a segment of Planet Earth.

I’m not sure what these little creatures say about us, but they say something, and they seem unique to each one of us, in a sort of creative animal spirit way, for the visually inclined.

I decided to continue my critter tracking in our book room. There I found a lot more kittens and puppies compared to what I saw on the design desks, but my hunt stopped short when I picked up a copy of Wet Cats. I know we have lots of neat books on birds, and beautiful cards with all kinds of animals, but Wet Cats captured me and I couldn’t let go, sending me twittering all the way back to my desk.

The Fairest Fowl: Portraits of Championship Chickens remains a longtime favorite of mine. And my personal Noah’s ark of books continues to grow: Creature, Softies, Peeps, Backyard Bird Songs. I’m not sure if I’m the only designer who feels this way, but if I ever saw a wine label with a cute little blue alien leaning on a cow, trendy or not, I’d buy it in a second.

Suzanne LaGasa

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  • LorraineDesign July 21, 2008 at 2:59 pm

    Ha! I like that the pantone swatch just happens to match the alien in the background. I love the bird prints in the top group of pictures: where can I find some?


  • chris July 22, 2008 at 9:27 am

    Is there a favorite doggy breed amongst the staffers at Chronicle? I notice two Bostons in the pics above… But where are the long haired chihauhaus? Get one of those wet, and I’ll give you a book-


  • aya July 23, 2008 at 7:58 am

    Hi Lorraine,

    The pink birdie card I have at my desk is a handmade. My friend, Vanessa, made to wish happy holidays (it was given with homemade hot chocolate mix and marshmallow!). I believe that art is borrowed from Charley Harper. The bird below is also Charley's. Vanessa printed it out to decorate her desk. You'd love his book, Charley Harper: An Illustrated Life, if you don't already have it.


  • LorraineDesign July 24, 2008 at 11:30 am

    Thanks for the info Aya! Pass on my compliments to Vanessa, and I’ll keep an eye out for the book. 😀


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