Crit* Contrabando

Contrabando is a new rum from Grupo Caballero made in the Dominican Republic and exported to Spain. Taking its cues from the rum’s Caribbean roots, multidisciplinary design agency Tres Tipos Graficos created a packaging solution that contrasts contemporary sans serif typography and traditional hand drawn and etched illustrative imagery alongside a stamp and postal-based utility to convey provenance and the exported authenticity of the product.

“The goal was to emphasize the product's caribbean roots by stamping its name "Contrabando" (meaning smuggling in spanish) forcefully over the traditional graphic imagery, as if local customs had busted an original foreign product.” 

- Tres Tipos Graficos


As a content heavy piece with layers of narrative/copy the label for Ron Contrabando it is pretty well formatted with a solid mix of heavy, fine, broad, tall and slender characters cohesively bound by well executed uppercase, sans-serif typographical choices delivered across the full width and height of the label's surface with good eye for space.

The almost newspaper-like union of headline - drawing enquiry - left aligned columns of type and a flag waving, nationalistic combination of colour and iconography - perhaps reflecting a turbulent political history and a period of dictatorship - neatly forms the narrative foundation for the contraband theme. This is appropriately emphasised by the bold and contrasting weight, tilt, heavy ink, over-print treatment and stamp-based authority of a bold logo-type set across the typography.


Rather than the individualised, tactile aesthetic of postage stamp and frank, a tool occassionally utilised across high-value exported spirit packaging there is more of a utility in the 'this way up' iconography and Fragile notice that while far less premium fits the theme of bootlegging and unmarked crates quite well.


The flat and geometric fills of the typography are neatly set around the texture and fine organic detail of the illustrations. Whether contemporary or a period appropriation - these appear really well rendered with an aged, monochromatic sensibility that clearly builds on the provenance of the rum through the themes of regional wildlife, plant-life, a topographical map of the island and - across the website - the traditional tools for distillation.


The print treatment and material choices feel distinctly layered, placing an aged, cream, uncoated substrate at the base and adding to it an economical two-colour type combination - reinforcing the nationalistic element - the etched woodblock-like faded black print of the images and finished with a thick, black contraband ink.


The fictional contraband theme is a smart device that manages to deliver distinctive personality - suggestive of a flavour worth running a risk for - but also manages to convey a genuine exported nature. The typography feels contemporary and expressive while the illustrative detail tempers this with the high quality associated with having regional authenticity and heritage. It is this unusual contrast that delivers both a communicative richness and original brand character.


Richard Baird

Richard is a British freelance design consultant and writer who specialises in logos, branding and packaging. He has written for Brand New and Design Week, featured in Computer Arts magazine, Logology, Los Logos, Logolounge, The Big Book of Packaging and runs the blogs BP&O and Design Survival.


Blog: BP&O

In-DepthRichard Baird