Cachaça and Design in the History of Brazil - Mapa da Cachaça
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Cachaça and Design in the History of Brazil

08 de 01 de 2014

Mariana Jorge is a designer passionate for all elements and items that involve and surround the “popular culture” and philosophy of Brazil. This passion, is of course deepened and related to cachaça – the guts of the old and the new Brazil, and a key philosophic element interweaving this fascinating country. After a visit to the well-known restaurant called [restaurante id=”3358″] Mocotó [/restaurante] in São Paulo, she developed a deepening fascination with cachaça labels and their meaning within Brazilian culture. What stories did they tell about people? Who were these popular designers that made these designs and labels at the end of the 19th century? Has their been a recent change in techniques or concepts when talking about design and cachaça? Discuss!

Cachaça Labels

When did you start to become interested in cachaça labels?

I am a designer and I am interested in how we package things as people because it tells me about people! I began to deepen my interest in these labels of cachaça after I was reawakened to the diversity and profundity of the spirit, which began about three years ago when I visited the restaurant Mocoto.

What is vernacular design?

The expression “Vernacular Design” is frequently used to describe a non-academical way of designing. Their projects are executed with local materials from daily life and indicate a strong connection with the local culture.

Redenção - Cachaça Lebels

Why is cachaça an important element of the vernacular design of Brazil?

Cachaça holds a particular fascination within the vernacular universe: there are thousands of marks of cachaça produced within Brazil and, for the most part, produced in family-owned small stills, or alembics. These are businesses without a “professional” structure. This means that these creations are made by members of the family or regional designers of graphics.

Rótulos engraçados de cachaça

Cachaça is a spirit produced since 1530. Do you know when, probably, was created the first cachaça label? What was the technique used to make it?

Even though cachaça is such an old product, I believe that the first labels as we know them were created in the beginning of the first lithography offices of the 19th century. This technique of printing guaranteed the possibility of combining text with images with a number of solid colors. This versatility we see as responding to commercial demands.

According to the historian Rafael Cardoso, in his book “Design before Design”, it was a moment in which the fine arts were first introduced to commerce: the classical [mitos/methods], the urban neoclassical architecture, academic painting, greek and roman gods, religious personages . . . All of them played a part in the visual and cultural repertory of the market and Brazilian consumers of the 19th century.

In the case of cachaça design they were not produced on a large scale, from this time period, there was probably little time to create these labels, so they might be borrowed from another designer, from a lithographic plate or a nother producer.

Cachaça Coqueiro - Label

Is there a difference between the design of cachaça and of other spirits?

Yes, there is a great and fascinating particularity of cachaça in relation to other spirits: the creative and thematic liberty used in these production is immense! Even though the such an old product when it was born, it was furthermore open to the creation of an identity of product channeling what is to be said about our national identity: open, creative, and diverse.

There are many different bottles. Could this be categorized as a unique characteristic of cachaça? This incredible breadth of bottles?

In my opinion, this is a question that merits more attention from producers, because it reflects a total lack of articulation between them, perhaps because of lack of incentive or attention of the public. Most types of drinks posess a strong identity in relation to design in the form of the bottles. This difference helps the consumer to understand what kind of drink he or she is buying. In the case of cachaca,  there exists, for the most part, a bottle which is amply endowed with pictures of stills, but the manufacturing doesn’t always guarantee the constancy of production. For this reason, many producers are stopping by abandoning the firm of bottling in beer bottles.

Guarany - Cachaça Labels

Some themes seem to repeat in cachaça labels: women, Brazilian Indians, country side, humor. In a certain way, it represents an interesting view of our people, of our flora and fauna and beyond that of our customs. Why do you think there is a necessity of repeating these themes? This informality in creation of labels is stopping a great variety and ecosystem

This informality and variety are linked to what we spoke about with the vernacular design, about what stills/alembics are, a family business, spread out over all of Brazil. Each region possesses a group of common themes, in relation to its culture. We can observe differences in cachacas produced in the South, in the Northeast, in the Center-West, etc.

We are beginning to perceive a recent professionalization of the sector. This influence in what form could it be related between design and cachaca?

We are seeing many brands contracting designers for the creation of their labels. Many of these professionals utilize as their reference points historical themes from cachaca giving them a contemporaneous aspect. In my opinion, we are seeing born a very interesting language in recent labels, which drinks from the fountain of Brazilian popular culture, but offering an ear to the modern world.

This content was translated with the help of Nathan Whitehouse – Nate is an American that is passionate about high-quality cachaça, and along with his team, helped introduce [cachaca id=”22799″] Cachaça Avuá [/cachaca] and is working to help elevate and highlight Brazilian gastronomy in New York.

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